Teeth Grinding: The tale of financial aid woes

Ashley Westbrook is a junior journalism major at Webster University

When heading to the financial aid office, the mission is clear: get in and get out. Students don’t want to think about how many times they’ve been to the office or steam might come out of their ears.  The main thought is that this time, things will be better and this time, it will be effortless. That’s when the ball drops.

During the fall semester of 2009, a friend and I made routine visits to the financial aid office to glare at the desk attendant or adamantly discuss our financial situation and how it needed to be fixed.

So, we walked in with determination and asked for our financial aid officer after the desk attendant couldn’t help. We would not give up and wait for paperwork to go through. The desk attendant went to the back and miraculously found the person behind closed doors.

We were told to wait a couple minutes because they were handling an important phone conversation. During our wait, another person that sits behind the desk walked in and asked if we needed assistance.

We simply responded that we were waiting for our financial aid officer and as soon as we put a period on that sentence, the attendant had a response. We were served with the good ol’ “I’m sorry, but they’re not in the office right now,” bit.

Not in the office? How exactly did this person, who just walked into the office and take a seat, without any investigation, know that they’re not in the office? My only logical explanation: it’s a pre-recorded response. My friend just laughed and shook her head while the person sitting next to the human recorder informed them that they already knew we were waiting and would be with them soon.

That’s when we were served a second dose of “Okay, then they will be right with you,” and the considerate and respectful smile.

There are countless incidents I’ve had with the financial aid office that’s made me want to turn into a Tasmanian devil. I’ve sent emails to my officer and just received an automated response that doesn’t even hide the fact that it’sa script. I’ve called in from home to speak with someone and, after I’ve gotten through the maze of pressing numbers to finally hear a “voice,” — I’m subjected to an answering machine to leave a calm message. The other alternative the office offers its students is going through a list of objectives they should’ve already completed, but beware: the list is neverending.

The emotional roller coaster the financial aid office puts students on sells way too many tickets for the ride and does not provide enough customer complaint forms. To walk into an office with a decent mood and walk out completely frustrated and angry for the rest of the day speaks volumes. Visiting an office four times in three days without much accomplishment amazes me.

Maybe if  there were a warning on the outside of financial aid telling students of the series of unfortunate events that are about to occur, it might make things easy.

A nice stretch or a refreshing jog around the building to prep you for what’s behind the door would take the edge off the frustration that’s bound to happen if you’re dealing with state funds, student loans and/or scholarships.

For a split-second I figured they would be tired of seeing my face or receiving my emails that they would efficiently get me taken care of so I wouldn’t have to complain about what they’ve failed to do yet again.

Every year, my main motivator is that things will get better and the office will become smoother. It’s a good thing I haven’t held my breath. For those have never had any financial aid office issues, I envy you.


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