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Financial Aid to Launch Sessions to Ease Students’ Frustration

by Tiffany Baskerville

Students wait in line to be seen by Financial Aid Advisor insde College Hall.
Tiffany Baskerville | The Montclarion

The Office of Financial Aid has started new preparations in resolving student billing and assisting with student deregistration as of the current fall 2017 semester. The department is launching learning sessions so that students will be more aware of upcoming deadlines surrounding these issues.

Each year the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of Student Accounts collaborate to streamline and improve the payment process for students at the university. Financial aid works to assist students in obtaining the funds they are eligible to receive to avoid deregistration and the deactivation of Canvas.

Posted on the university’s website and sent through student emails is the 2018-2019 FAFSA for financial aid, which is now available. This was introduced last year to make students proactive about financial aid.

Associate Director of Student Financial Aid Lucy Candal-Fernandez has worked in the financial aid office for Montclair State University for over 20 years. She has seen the countless struggles students experience this time of year and noted there are many ways to help alleviate some of the stress involving student billing.

“We are pushing for better communication among the students,” Fernandez said. “The financial office is launching lawn signs, posting information in the Red Hawk News, taking advantage of the new School of Communication by using TVs and online media to appeal to students.”

Fernandez said the Office of Financial Aid still struggles toward the beginning of the year despite new innovative ideas emerging to assist students regarding billing and deregistration.

“There is a high volume of students and parents who reach out to our office,” Fernandez said. “It tends to be difficult because you have a large portion of students all experiencing similar issues wanting immediate solutions for their financial aid issues.”

Instead of using a bill estimator, which is provided to the students via web, Fernandez said that students wait until they are actually billed. This is why there are a lot of students needing assistance in the beginning of the year.

Montclair State students were emailed important notices to their university emails regarding their account balance, as posted on Montclair State’s website on Sept. 14. The emailed notice included two clear bolded words, “Deactivation and Deregistration.” The email, issued by the Office of Student Accounts, was a final notice to alert students of possible account deregistration.

Just eight days into the new academic school year, students packed into the financial aid and student accounts offices. Frustrated students filled the hallway, waiting in line to be seen by a financial aid advisor.

”Every year this happens,” said junior nursing student, Kenz Moore. “We come straight from summer vacation, and we are slapped with financial notices. The school does not give us time to prepare ourselves.”

Moore felt that many students who were emailed the final notices believe the school and financial aid departments overlook this issue with their lack of involvement. Students anxious over the sudden notices anticipate how they will resolve such financial issues with the upcoming deadlines closely approaching.

Students are shown the upcoming deadlines and policy regulations that come with failed student payment on the university’s website. According to the policy of Montclair State, if undergraduate students with a remaining balance on their student account fail to pay the account balance, then the first penalty – effective on Sept. 20 – is deactivation from Canvas. This means all activity of submitting assignments in addition to student-teacher interaction is deactivated.

Following the deactivation from Canvas, students are subjected to deregistration from fall 2017 courses on Sept. 27. With these pending deadlines, students find it troublesome to keep up with the financial notifications. This causes long lines and stress. Fernandez said the school offers many resources to help resolve aid issues and it is the student’s responsibility to make deadlines.

“Students in general, not just Montclair State students, tend to procrastinate and wait until they are billed, because they want to know what they owe in its entirety,” Fernandez said.

Parth Patel and Usman Bashiru, both juniors and information technology students at Montclair State, expressed their desire for a reformed communication system that reaches students more for billing.

“I wish the university had a better system in assisting students regarding student deregistration and financial aid,” Patel said.

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