Sergio Almodovar

The enrollment office

Financial Unaid

January 13, 2015

Good news: you haven’t paid off your tuition from last semester, but you can still register for classes. Bad news: you mistakenly registered for a class you don’t need and now you can’t change it because there is a hold on your account.

So there you are at the cashier’s office, begging for the hold to be lifted for just a few minutes so that you can correct your error, but they’re not going to sympathize with you. You’re in the cashier’s office – the only way things get done there is with signatures and money.

These holds can be lifted through a payment plan, but it isn’t really a payment plan because you’re expected to pay a third of the debt upfront. And the next two thirds within the following months.

As a financial aid recipient and dependent student, you can most assuredly conclude that the student will not have $1,000 plus lying around. Even with a smaller debt, $300 is a lot to ask for from someone who is counting on financial aid to cover their bill.

Though, as mentioned earlier, debts aren’t looked at case-by-case. Even with your financial aid ready to be processed anytime now, there is nothing you can do about the hold on your account unless you have the money.
The enrollment office’s processes should examine the individual and NEIU should be able to provide a realistic payment plan rather than the same fixed amount for all. What this lack of care leads to is frustration, stress and possibly even depression.

This financial stress then impedes on a student’s academic success. Now the student with a hold must ask the professor whose class they mistakenly registered for not to be dropped so they may keep their full-time status. They must also convince another professor to be a part of their class even though they can’t officially register.

And all because of what? They owe money to the school which is definitively going to be paid by financial aid. They have all the green check marks, the office says they’re good to go, and it’s only a matter of time before it comes through. NEIU, you will have your money, let the student switch their class.

What is the hold even supposed to prove? Is this some kind of Freudian negative reinforcement trick? If a student doesn’t have the money to pay the school at the moment, a hold is not going to help them get the money it may even hinder the student from finding a solution for the stress it causes.

Of course there have to be consequences for students not paying off tuition, otherwise the school would never receive the money it needs in a timely manner. However, when a school fails to look at a student’s situation and resolve the issue in a plausible manner, it is only creating more problems and producing at times, failing students.

It doesn’t end there, however, because now the student must cover a deferred payment fee for not having the money in time. Right, add more debt. That will surely make the student cough up the tuition and fees.

You might be thinking that it’s the student’s fault for not having all the paperwork done in a timely manner in order to meet their financial aid requirements. In which case I would refer you to the audit report of NEIU’s 2013 fiscal year, done by CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, which stated NEIU’S significant deficiency to be, “Failure to Identify and Refund Title IV Aid in a Timely Manner.”

While this scrutiny is not directly linked to when financial aid for a student is processed, it speaks upon on the mismanagement and delayed action that comes from NEIU’s financial department.

NEIU is a wonderful university. It is home to amazing professors, staff and faculty who create a diverse and culturally rich community. A community that is truly unique in that the community is so interconnected and active. So when these types of problems occur, students tell themselves, “There’s got to be a better way. I know the school is better than this.”

Come on NEIU, you’re slacking.

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