Damielys Duarte/Contributing Writer
It’s that time of year again: tuition deadline. And for students depending on financial aid, this might be the second most stressful part of college aside from finals week.
But now the issue is actually receiving the money. Having dealt with FIU and their financial aid system, this is the most crucial yet complex part of class enrollment. If things go sour, you could lose your classes for the semester, or be forced to pay in order to keep them.
Unfortunately, FIU’s financial aid system is subpar at best.
During my first semester as a freshman, my roommates and I received an email confirming our “partial” enrollment even though we were all full time students. Some phone calls later, a new email notified us it was a mistake and no one’s full time status was affected. This only proves the lack of detail paid to something as monumental as educational funding.
Then there was the lack of clarity when it came to my financial account and award status. I would receive an email detailing my cost of tuition and housing and my available aid. But when the semester was already in progress, I saw a hold on my account due to an unpaid $100 balance and an additional $100 late fee for housing.
After some investigation, it turns out financial aid made a change to my award, leaving me $100 underpaid. I was never notified either, so the housing payment deadline had passed. Luckily I was able to remove the late fee since I was never notified of the change. Still, it was a shock to cash out an extra $100 right after spending $300 on books out of pocket.
Then there are book advances – what even are those? I’ve spoken to multiple people at OneStop and financial aid in order to understand what I’m signing up for. After weeks of clueless wondering, I got the gist at least; it’s a temporary loan from FIU for purchasing textbooks. But when I asked whether the loan was taken from my own financial aid or if I’d have to pay it back, no one gave me a clear-cut answer. I preferred paying out of pocket; then I found out months later I had another hold on my account.
The worst part of financial aid has to be the ideology: “pay up first, refund after.” Tuition and housing payments are due weeks before financial aid gets disbursed, and many people are left scrambling to find the necessary funds.
Then there’s the time between disbursements and refunds. For students depending on refunds to pay outside housing or simply personal expenses, they get their aid in chunks with weeks in between.
There’s also a lack of detail in the email send list and in the actual funds. Over the summer, I got paid an additional $300 for the Bright Future book stipend, only for it to be removed since it’s reserved for Fall and Spring. Shouldn’t the office dedicated to the facilitation of government assistance to low income students be aware of those rules?
The financial aid system in FIU executes the bare minimum of meeting students’ monetary needs, often requiring them to stay on top of their accounts to not be dropped from classes. My advice: keep an eye on your aid and be vocal with discrepancies. The sooner you take care of this, the sooner you can focus on your studies – which is the whole point of attending FIU anyway.
Featured photo by Margi Rentis on FIU Flickr.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.