Financial aid sends out $45M in funds

By Anthony D. Ávila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 22, 2005

Although some students still need their financial aid to buy books or pay for tuition, the Office of Student Financial Aid has reached all of its distribution goals for the first time since implementing a new computer system.

Nearly $50 million in aid has been disbursed within the last 10 days and the distributing process began a day earlier than last year, said John Nametz, Office of Student Financial Aid director.

The office distributed $45.6 million by Wednesday of last week in its third year of using the Matrix computer program, which disburses the funds to students electronically, Nametz said.

Last year, the majority of funds were also distributed on time with $40.3 million posted after one day, but in 2003 there were setbacks because of initial problems with the computer system, according to Wildcat articles.

"This is the first time since we've gone into this new system that we've made all our disbursement goals for the fall semester," Nametz said. "We're in better shape than we were last year. I'm just really pleased."

This is the first year aid was sent out over the weekend a week before classes began. Because of the haste in distributing aid, the office has been receiving fewer phone calls and e-mails, and there have been fewer people waiting in the lobby than usual, Nametz said.

Despite most goals being met, some students haven't received their aid because of reasons ranging from paperwork delays to simply filing late.

Anh Hoang, a computer engineering sophomore, was in the financial aid office Friday waiting to inquire about her financial aid.

Hoang said her money was not going to come in on time because she took too long to apply.

"I was a lazy bum," Hoang said.

Last year, Hoang said her aid covered all of her tuition and on Friday she needed to find out if she could defer payment to avoid late fees.

Andy Diaz, an undeclared freshman, said he came to the financial aid office to find out why he wasn't awarded a grant that he expected to receive.

"As of last week I was fully paid for," Diaz said. "Right now, I'm in a bind."

Diaz said a small change on his FAFSA caused his grants to decrease from $4,500 to $900.

His father, Humberto Diaz, said he assumed the loss of funds was due to state funds and not the UA, but the money situation could influence Diaz' decision to stay.

"We're going to decide whether it's worth it or not for him to attend here," Humberto Diaz said. "We're reviewing our options."

Virginia Callahan, associate director of counseling services, said she understands students are frustrated when they don't receive their money right away, but employees are doing the best they can to get the paperwork processed.

Due to renovation over the summer, the office was moved to another building and was sometimes closed, but Callahan said the move has not affected students.

"That's why we're putting in extra hours, 10 or 12-hour days to compensate for the days we were closed," Callahan said. "We care and we know students are needing this money for classes."

In the meantime, Callahan said students can charge up to $500 on a bursar's account at the UA Bookstore until funds come in.

Nametz said letters were sent out in July to inform students who had a problem with their aid.

Students can become ineligible for aid if their GPA is below a 2.0, they aren't signed up for enough credits, they exceed the maximum number of units allowed or their transcripts from another university haven't been received yet.

Student progress is reviewed each academic year to ensure four requirements are met.

Students who have consortium agreements with the UA and another universities, meaning they earn credit at another university that can be transferred to the UA, can generally expect to wait longer to receive aid, Nametz said.

Nametz said he predicts more aid will be given this year than last year, but that is how it is every year.

"Virtually every year we give out more money because costs for everything go up," Nametz said. "But I don't see any large increases for this year."