UC Berkeley is working to improve financial aid services

Willow Yang/File

I am writing in response to the Sept.13 “Off the Beat” column, “Hung up on financial aid.”

While the financial aid office cannot discuss individual cases because of student privacy policies and laws, I’d like to express how, as financial aid director and former low-income student who relied on financial aid while here at Berkeley, it was painful and embarrassing to read the experience described. I’m sure that other student service professionals here felt the same way. Hanging up on a student seeking assistance is not acceptable, and when matters of inappropriate conduct are brought to our attention, the personnel matter is dealt with appropriately. So, I thank the writer for bringing light to this issue and strive to improve the way students experience financial aid and scholarship services.

Regarding the broader concerns raised about delays in getting through to the Financial Aid & Scholarships Office via Cal Student Central, we acknowledge that students may face slower than normal service, particularly at the start of the semester, and we apologize for the delays. We are attempting to make improvements. Specifically, we are working on technological and resource improvements to reduce delay. For example, students can now submit a Cost of Attendance Adjustment Request Form on a mobile device. Through a phone, tablet or computer, students can now submit necessary documents and electronically sign the request. We hope to introduce more mobile and personalized processes like this to make navigating financial aid easier.

While the majority of students on financial aid will receive their disbursements without major problems, there will be cases when a number of issues can cause complications and/or delays, depending on the type of aid and issue. One example is students being selected by federal authorities to have their application information audited. An increasing number of students fall into this category now because of policy changes at the federal level. When financial aid complications arise that threaten students’ ability to make necessary payments, we encourage them to obtain an emergency loan for which fee waivers are available for qualifying students.

Navigating the process of obtaining financial aid can be challenging. We understand that our role is to guide students and assist them in every way that we can, and we take that role seriously.

 

Cruz Grimaldo is the Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Financial Aid & Scholarships Office.