Just days before fall classes begin at Georgia Regents University, thousands of students are without financial aid disbursements to pay for tuition and books because of a technical glitch caused by consolidation.
Although the consolidation of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities became official in January, the new institution did not receive approval from the U.S. Department of Education to participate in the federal financial aid program as GRU until July 2.
That is weeks behind when the university normally begins prepossessing financial aid for the fall term, leaving students without money and unable to pay for their tuition, which is due Friday, according to Director of Financial Aid Cynthia Parks.
“Needless to say it has been stressful, but me and my staff are working hard to get students processed in time,” Parks said.
Parks said no student will be dropped or penalized for lack of payment and all of them should report to the first day of classes Monday even if they have not received financial aid.
The financial aid office expects to have all aid processed by the weekend.
As of Wednesday, 6,000 students had received funds out of the estimated 9,000 expected for fall, however not all of the remaining 3,000 necessarily applied for aid, Parks said.
On Wednesday, incoming freshman Chad George and his mother, Donza Ivey, visited the financial aid office for the sixth time in two weeks to inquire about George’s Pell Grant.
George, 18, said he has submitted all required forms and has been told by financial aid officers to “keep waiting.”
Ivey said she was worried about having to pay for George’s tuition on her credit card if they didn’t receive the aid by Friday. After leaving the financial aid office Wednesday, Ivey said a financial aid student assistant told her to check her son’s account later that night but did not give her any information about reporting to class Monday.
Incoming freshman Jade Kaawa also said she was not told she could report to class even if she had not received her Pell Grant and was under the impression she’d have to pay out of pocket or not show up.
“I can’t afford to shell out all the cash myself,” Kaawa said. “We were here yesterday and the week before that and the week before that. I’m supposed to go to college. I’ve been preparing for this all summer. School is all I have, so I have to go.”
Parks said when filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, students were instructed to enter both institution codes for Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities on the application rather than the new code for GRU.
“Because of consolidation, it’s best to use both school codes just to prevent any issues,” she said.
If students only entered one of those codes or entered the new GRU code instead, they might see delays. Parks also said students must make sure they have completed all paperwork and submitted all required forms in order to be processed.
When that is done, they have to “accept” the aid on their online student POUNCE accounts to receive the funds.
GRU kinesiology senior Greg Kuchenbecker visited the financial aid office Wednesday to check on his status but left to make his shift at work when he saw a line of students cramming the waiting room.
On Wednesday, he checked his online account, and seeing no financial aid funds, his heart sank.
“If I don’t have the money, I can’t afford to go,” he said.