Student advisory council for Financial Aid and Scholarships Office convenes for 1st meeting

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A student advisory council for the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office convened for its first meeting Thursday to receive student input.

The Financial Aid and Scholarships Office called for the formation of the Student Advisory Council on Financial Aid and Education to engage student perspectives on issues concerning financial aid, financial literacy and affordability, according to Pedro Vasquez, who will serve as the student liaison for the council.

The council, which will meet four times this semester, is composed of 11 students and five administrators from the financial aid office and is the first completely student-focused financial aid advisory body.

Cruz Grimaldo, associate director of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, said the council was established primarily to create a partnership with students on issues concerning financial aid.

The campus is currently in the process of developing a new online financial aid system and launched several programs to help students manage their money. In light of this, Grimaldo said, the financial aid office wanted to ensure that student perspectives would inform its work.

“We think the best experts are students,” she said.

According to ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Mon-Shane Chou, although the goals of the committee have not officially been set, major topics discussed at the meeting included the method by which student expenses are estimated, the experiences students have had in dealing with financial aid and access to financial literacy resources.

“(The committee) was something that was long overdue because there needs to be a conversation about how students interact with financial aid,” Chou said. “It’s not fair for students to be admitted and not have the tools they need to thrive.”

Chou and other members of the committee said developing more transparency about the financial aid process was a major topic at the meeting, as well as the user friendliness of MyFinaid.

“The Financial Aid and Scholarships Office is personally very invested in improving financial aid and literacy for all students,” Chou said. “They have been incredibly caring and very motivated to change the system that is not currently serving the students at its best.”

Chou said that while committee members discussed how it feels to navigate financial aid, they said many students don’t know about the financial literacy resources available to them.

Vasquez said in an email that he hopes to discuss Bears for Financial Success, a new financial literacy program that covers topics such as creating a spending plan, managing debt, savings and credit cards, in the committee.

The office specifically assembled students who reflected diverse perspectives, Grimaldo said.

Anthony Abril, a council member and campus junior who works in the financial aid division of the ASUC Student Advocate’s Office, said as an independent student, he has a unique experience with financial aid.

He said that financial aid is a component of UC Berkeley that is “so central and pivotal to so many students” and that thus far, the council is one of the first opportunities for the office to engage directly with students. He called the financial aid council his “favorite committee.”

“I don’t know how much we’ll accomplish this semester, but I do have high hopes for the long-term goals of this committee,” Abril said.

 

Suhauna Hussain covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @suhaunah.