In the article “Do Advice and Money Mix?” posted on March 1, District shared student reactions regarding the merger between student success advising and student financial services.
Within hours of the initial posting, District received feedback from the dean of students and the director of student success and advising, wanting to clear up a number of misconceptions and possible points of confusion.
In a recent email from the Director of Student Success, Laura Kennedy, District was informed of some of the specifics of the merger, including the university’s role in the disbursement of federal aid, the collection of payments and the process of setting institutional policies regarding financial matters.
“The issues cited by students in your article are not issues that our office makes decisions on,” Kennedy wrote. “Enrollment requirements are set by the federal and state government. Charges, refunds, and late fees are posted by student accounts. Billing due dates are set by the executive administration. Scholarships are managed by the financial aid office. It is our role to help students understand these financial policies and processes.”
As with any university, every student joins with a unique financial background. Student success and student financial services are responsible for ensuring that every student they serve receive relevant, helpful information from every interaction. Assisting parents and juggling requirements set by the federal and state government are also on the list of their primary concerns.
“Students cited that they were frustrated that they were encouraged to enroll full-time to receive their aid,” writes Kennedy. “Having an adviser understand these issues and to be able to proactively advise on how course loads affect aid is a tremendous advantage to the student.”
During the research and collection stages of the original post, District focused on how students would categorize their interactions with student success and student financial services. Emphasis was placed on the merger which occurred last June. After polling 25 students from different majors and a range of financial backgrounds, District ascertained that 44 percent of students were neutral in their response; a portion of them unaware of the fact that a merger had ever taken place.
The 24 percent of students who were entirely satisfied with their experience mentioned that having one person to speak to, rather than having to visit other individuals or offices during registration, was the most positive aspect of the merger. Student success and student financial services have encountered the same type of positive feedback.
“Most of the feedback we’ve received has been positive, especially when students understand how much information we can now provide them. They like having one individual that can see and evaluate the whole picture of their student experience,” wrote Kennedy in her email correspondence.
After speaking with students, and faculty from student success advising, it appears that there is a tangible disconnect between the two. It isn’t overwhelming and it has an attainable solution, but to achieve it will take some, for lack of a better term, advising.
The students represented in last week’s article who were unsatisfied with their experience cited the merger between the two departments as part of their cause. It appears that their only grounds in doing so lies in the fact that the exact role of the departments is unknown to them. Hence student’s surprise to hear that a merger even occurred.
Truth of the matter is, many students just didn’t know. And it seems that they still don’t.
Therefore students aren’t playing the Blame Game as it may be assumed, they’re simply stuck in a rut of 20 Questions, trying not to make their pursuit’s trivial.
Kennedy and other faculty in the student success advising are aware of this disconnect, and have made it a part of their push for student awareness.
“While the advisers are feeling very positive about the type of advising they are now able to provide they still have the worry that students associate the policies of financial aid and students accounts with the
quality and satisfaction of their advising experience.”
Kennedy encourages those students who feel confused or discouraged to contact her or their adviser, and to stay up-to-date on the changes or occurrences within the departments. Even if they don’t always walk away with the answers that they want.
“Money is such a sensitive topic and unfortunately, sometimes the answers aren’t what students want to hear.”