Financial aid is a concern for many UR families. Indeed, this is one of the most difficult times in UR history for families who want to send children to college. We’ve reached a critical point, and University administration and students are seizing the opportunity to improve the current system.
Families often do not know how they will be able to pay for college, and many students see changes in their financial aid packages that affect their ability to remain at the University. Students and families have difficulty contacting and meeting with their assigned Financial Aid (FA) office counselors and subsequently are unable to discuss any changes to their aid.
These problems are being addressed through discussions between Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick, a few Students’ Association (SA) senators and representatives from the leadership of “The Peaceful Protest of U of R’s FA System,” a student-organized Facebook group. Senate and “Peaceful Protest” representatives met with Burdick on Friday, April 3, and the outcome of the meeting appears to be positive.
Substantive changes that have been agreed upon by Dean Burdick and the students include additional communication in students’ aid appeals processes, an increased social media presence by the FA office, a way for students to reflect upon their experiences with their counselors, a scholarship for students who receive cuts in their financial aid, relocation of the financial aid desk in Wallis Hall to the same floor as admissions and a Financial Aid College Committee (FACC), which, according to sophomore Senator Adrian Petrou, would be “the place for discussion about problems that come up throughout the year, and a way for student concerns to be directly addressed, and consequently [for] correct information to be relayed back to students.”
We would like to comment on these many changes and how they affect the student body.
First, we’d like to applaud the student body, SA Senate and Dean Burdick for understanding that these are problems that need addressing. Communication breakdowns are infuriating, especially when they affect a student’s ability to continue attending UR, and it is commendable that many of the approved changes directly address communication. According to Petrou, the reason communication between the FA office and SA is so important is “…because we can learn why certain things haven’t happened, and there is usually good reason for [them not happening].” It seems like both parties recognize that lack of communication was impeding progress; now, there is movement forward.
Dean Burdick supported a few laudable suggestions at the meeting that cannot, for various reasons, be implemented next year. These include a tracking system for the progress of aid appeals as they move through the review process, four-year aid planning for students to more prepare for changes in aid and an early-spring notification system for those who have received cuts in their package, allowing for more time to plan. We share Petrou’s and others’ hope that these changes can be made n the future.
One positive adjustment is slated to take place this fall: a new director will be appointed within the FA office, along with a performance management consultant. The hope is that these administrators will deal effectively with internal FA office issues that have been ongoing problems and have, as a result, affected the office’s work.
The FACC will be a crucial liaison between the FA office and the student body. With that comes a responsibility to students and families. We look forward to seeing what changes they effect, and we wholeheartedly support their efforts to improve the current FA system.