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Student’s financial feud leads to unenrollment

A+student+comes+out+from+the+Fred+H.+Turner+Student+Services+Building+on+Wednesday%2C+Mar+08+2017.+The+Student+Services+building+is+where+most+students+must+go+to+deal+with+financial+aid+issues.+
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Student’s financial feud leads to unenrollment

A student comes out from the Fred H. Turner Student Services Building on Wednesday, Mar 08 2017. The Student Services building is where most students must go to deal with financial aid issues.

A student comes out from the Fred H. Turner Student Services Building on Wednesday, Mar 08 2017. The Student Services building is where most students must go to deal with financial aid issues.

Ryan Fang

A student comes out from the Fred H. Turner Student Services Building on Wednesday, Mar 08 2017. The Student Services building is where most students must go to deal with financial aid issues.

Ryan Fang

Ryan Fang

A student comes out from the Fred H. Turner Student Services Building on Wednesday, Mar 08 2017. The Student Services building is where most students must go to deal with financial aid issues.

By Megan Bradley, Staff writer

Haley Lewis was looking forward to spending four years at the school she loved until her time at the University was cut short by financial issues.

Soon after starting school, the freshman in Media found herself in a battle with the University’s Financial Aid Office that put a halt to Lewis’ plans.

Before coming to the University, Lewis and her family had filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to receive financial aid. Lewis’ financial situation changed when her parents got divorced and her dad’s construction job left him with little to no work during the winter months.

Problems with the initial paperwork were sprung on Lewis when she attempted to register for spring classes. Not only was Lewis unable to register for classes, but she suddenly found herself thousands of dollars in debt.

“Probably the biggest consequence would be the over $20,000 of debt I’m in right now. I mean, obviously, if you don’t have a full ride, you’re going to be in debt later in your life, but I didn’t think that would be right now,” Lewis said.

Financial aid can be hard to maneuver for any student.

Daniel Mann, the director of student financial aid, wrote in an email that financial aid works to help all students receive enough funding to attend school, through packages combining grants, loans and sometimes student work. Problems arise because the funding is limited.

Regardless of the limited funding for students, Lewis said when she tried to work with the Financial Aid Office she felt like she was fighting a never-ending battle. From paperwork to long processing times, Lewis said her situation never seemed to improve.

“Student account balances are expected to be paid in full by the due date. The fall payment due date is Sept. 28 and the spring payment due date is Feb. 28. Students with a past-due account balance of $200 or more are assigned a financial hold, which prevents them from registering for classes, getting a transcript or receiving their diploma,” Mann wrote.

By the time Lewis had realized her financial aid situation, the fall tuition deadline had passed. Lewis did her best to work with the Financial Aid Office.

“They kind of saw it as someone who’s just not trying to pay their dues, which wasn’t true at all,” Lewis said.

Lewis said she turned to her advisor, who assured her that she would be able to come back to school and finish her degree once the situation was resolved.

Because Lewis was not technically a registered student after having dues to pay, she was forced out of her dorm and moved back home.

“One of the hardest things about moving back home was leaving all my friends. All the friends I made on my floor and my sorority sisters went from being a couple minutes away at most to being 2 hours away. It’s weird being in your hometown and having no one to talk to or hang out with on a daily basis,” Lewis said.

Lewis was forced to move out of her dorm, but Mann said the Office of Student Financial Aid does its best to avoid severe consequences for students.

“There are generally no consequences in terms of being able to enroll in classes, but students may be challenged to have funding to buy books, pay for housing and other semester start-up costs,” Mann wrote.

Lewis’ case may be the exception to the rule, as Mann wrote that most students are not forced out of residence halls if bills are not paid — they are just given late fees. But Lewis is not alone in her frustration.

Financial aid undoubtedly provides most students and their families with headaches when trying to pay for college. The paperwork and wait times for the FAFSA to be completed are enough to confuse anyone.

 

Despite the unfortunate circumstances of Lewis’ situation, she is currently at home trying to make what she can of the situation. She is taking classes at community college, working to save money to contribute to her education and opening a credit card to gain good credit and be eligible for loans.

“Even though everything about this situation sucks and it affected me really hard, I’m pulling through and making the best of it,” Lewis said.

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