UC Berkeley must reduce barriers to student financial stability

CAMPUS ISSUES: Many students have experienced long delays in receiving financial aid disbursements. This is unacceptable.

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Kelly Baird/Staff

More than 2,500 students were chosen at random to resubmit tax documents for IRS verification this year. Some will have waited 10 weeks by the time that their financial aid disbursement comes in, despite having followed this request. This is unacceptable.

The campus is grappling with an expanded volume of students who must undergo the verification process in light of new federal requirements. To its credit, the campus is distributing financial aid faster than last year, with $200 million going out in five days, as opposed to 10 days.

Hundreds of students will still experience weeks or months without their critical financial aid money. Until they get their aid, those students will struggle to feed themselves, let alone pay rent.

In the meantime, the campus is giving students the ludicrous option of filing small emergency loans — with a quick 60-day turnaround for repayment — to pay registration fees or rent that should have been covered by financial aid in the first place. The extra paperwork is burdensome, and the campus does little to relieve the stress vulnerable students face.

If a student receives their disbursement after that 60-day period and incurs a late fee because they aren’t able to pay back the loan on time, it’s on them to get on the phone with the financial aid office to get the fee waived or pay the price.

The Cancel for Non-Payment policy implemented last year, which requires students to pay 20 percent of their tuition or be dropped from their classes, ups the stakes for students who aren’t getting their aid in time.

UC Berkeley junior Jaskirat Gaelan told The Daily Californian she once had to call the office 40 to 50 times before she was able to get directly in contact with a Cal Student Central representative. The financial aid office is clearly understaffed and overworked. Campus needs to designate more resources to the office, or lower-income students will continue to bear the consequences.

Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships Cruz Grimaldo said the campus is working to improve the process next year and has shaved down the response time to about two to three weeks. Campus needs to do so much more.

“It’s frustrating for me to know we spent $600,000 on police measures (at Ben Shapiro’s event) and we can’t afford to pay financial aid,” said ASUC president Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris to The Daily Californian.

UC Berkeley bent over backwards to assemble vast security details to allow Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos to speak in some of the most visible locations on campus. Campus sure seems to mobilize quickly when it is faced with a public relations crisis.

Year after year, students continue to face unnecessary anxiety, and the campus does comparatively little — even as it touts its commitment to being a vehicle for upward mobility and improved livelihoods.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

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