Financial aid concerns, paper check requests lead to long first-day waits at Cal Student Central

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Priyanka Karthikeyan/Staff

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On the first day of instruction, students waited in lines nearly reaching the second floor of Sproul Hall caused by the high volume of paper check requests and financial aid-related inquiries arising at the start of the new semester.

On Tuesday, Cal Student Central, an information services website designed for students to solve their administrative, financial and billing concerns, served nearly 2,500 students at their office and over the phone. Due to the high estimated wait times in proportion to the number of students in line, the office could not cater to all those waiting.

“Sometimes, the wait times are really high, and if it is like 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. and we have 60 people, then we just do not have the volume to see everybody, realistically,” said Carmen Ortiz, director of CSC.

Students have previously felt growing pressure about having their financial aid needs met following the cancel for nonpayment policy, which requires students to pay 20 percent of their tuition fees by the Friday before the first day of instruction or else risk the cancellation of their enrollment. The policy carried into the spring semester after it was first introduced in July and met with opposition from students.

Campus senior Ace Hao returned to the CSC office Wednesday after choosing not to wait in long lines Tuesday. Hao wanted to meet with a financial adviser to inquire about how withdrawing from the spring semester would impact his financial aid.

“I was here at 9:20 a.m. and I saw the line, and I left, and then I came back after lunch, and it had closed,” Hao said. “Overall, I think they are doing a great job, considering how many undergraduate students we have here at Berkeley —  but hiring more staff will definitely help the situation.”

On Wednesday, campus senior Krishna Parashar made a third visit to the CSC. Parashar intended to meet with an adviser regarding his financial block and inability to drop or enroll in classes without exceeding the unit cap — despite only having 16 units. Both Hao and Parashar received appointments to meet their respective advisers at the CSC on Wednesday.

When asked for ways to reduce student time in lines, Ortiz said those students who come to the office to pick up checks may want to sign up for the Electronic Funds Transfer through their CalCentral portal. The EFT allows funds to go directly into students’ accounts without requiring them to wait in long lines, according to Ortiz.

“We see a lot of students, but (for us), every student — their issue — is the most important thing, so we treat everybody that way,” Ortiz said. “We do our best. … We know what it’s like to be a student.”

Parth Vohra covers student life. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @ParthVohra622.