November 26, 2020

Financial Aid grants work-study appeals

The financial aid office reinstated work-study awards cut at the beginning of the semester. Students who appealed the loss of their work-study awards were given their positions back on Oct. 6, said Liz Condon-Oakberg, student employment coordinator. Budget cuts, missed deadlines and overlooked paperwork were some of the biggest contributors to the temporary work-study cuts. Many students, however, are saying more communication from the financial aid office would have greatly alleviated the issue.
Condon-Oakberg said this is the first semester Webster enforced the March 1 deadline for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Instead of its previous practice of “rolling over” funds to meet the needs of students who applied late, regardless of what they had left in their budget, the financial aid office greatly diminished the awards granted to students who applied late this semester.
“Yes, it’s not so savory that you lost your work-study due to you turning your FAFSA in late,” Nell Fogg, a sophomore anthropology major said. “But (the financial aid office) needs to communicate these things, so that people don’t have to scramble last minute to figure it out.”
Student who lost their work-study were given the option to appeal. Once the appeal forms were filled out and handed into the financial aid office, students were told to wait to hear back about their appeals.
“Two weeks ago they said, ‘Oh they’re meeting about it, you should know by tomorrow’,” Andrea Pepper, a junior audio major said. “And I‘ve had no email, no anything.”
A few days before the semester began, Pepper noticed there was a hold on her account. The business office told her she needed to complete a verification form for her tax information. Pepper said she didn’t know the form was needed, and the business office had not processed her financial aid paperwork because of it—it cost her her work-study job in the audio department’s Studio B.
“That’s why I lost my work study,” Pepper said.  “Because no one had told me that I had to fill out one singular form that had to do with my tax stuff, I lost my work-study even though I had been doing the same position consecutively for four semesters.”
Pepper was re-awarded her work-study last week, but the award was reduced from $2,000 a year to $1,750. She won’t be able to accept her work-study job, however, because her position in Studio B was given to another student.
“Because of how late it is in the semester, I am not going to be able to find a job that suits my time frame and my schedule, because my schedule is so hectic,” Pepper said. “It was really nice to have the studio-monitor job, which fit my schedule. Now, I’m going to spend my time racing, trying to frantically find a work-study job that I’ve lost about seven weeks to do. I won’t be able to do that.”
Condon-Oakberg said she has been working with students who lost their work-study to find them positions at local businesses.
“When (local businesses) do have an opening and they can hire someone part time, we’re trying to make sure that it’s a Webster student,” Condon-Oakberg said. “You have to sort of roll with the punches. We’re not going to leave anyone out in the cold, but (students) need to make sure that they’re thinking outside the box.”
Fogg was told she lost her work-study at the beginning of the semester. She found a job at nearby restaurant Cyrano’s while she waited on the appeals list. Last week she got her award back. Her $2,300 award was also reduced to $1,750. Fogg said she will go back to her work-study job at Scholar Shop, and continue to work at Cyrano’s.
Debra Carpenter, School of Communications dean (SOC), first learned there was a work-study problem at a dean’s meeting before this semester began.
“I think things were addressed proactively,” she said.
After the meeting, Carpenter met with managers of the IT Center — who employ more work-study students in the Media Center than anywhere else in the SOC — and advocated for their work-study students, so workflow of the Media Center would not be affected. Because she addressed the issue early, the Media Center’s extended hours were not decreased during the work-study cuts.
Peter Sargent, dean of the College of Fine Arts, has positions in the schools of art, music and theater he can’t fill. Sargent said there is a “Bermuda Triangle” of communication between students and financial aid.
“There’s just a gap of perceived communication,” Sargent said. “And, I think that’s the biggest issue that we need to solve for next year. To ensure that these communication lines are open.”

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