With rent to pay, students report issues with refund checks
Returning MSU students are frustrated at the beginning of the fall semester as their rent bills pile up and their refund checks still haven't reached their bank accounts.
Journalism junior Chelsea Henry said it all started in April of 2017 when MSU’s Office of Financial Aid told her she needed to turn some paperwork in for the following semester.
Since April, she has been sending the office a different form of document each month at their request in order to receive the funds she’s been expecting.
“I’m counting on my refund from Spartan Advantage to pay my rent and get everything for my apartment,” Henry said.
According to Henry, she was told by an employee in the Office of Financial Aid at the beginning of August that the paperwork would take one to two weeks to be reviewed, only to find out from a different official that it would take four to six weeks instead.
“They told me there was no reason that I would not get Spartan Advantage,” she said. “So here we are, August 31st, and I don't have my refund.”
Henry said she had no other option than to take out her maximum summer loan to pay the first month’s rent for her apartment. She lives in University Village and says “it is not cheap.”
Executive Director of Financial Aid Rick Shipman said it’s true that their office may miss things and when that happens “we’ll take responsibility for it.”
During the summer the office hires about 25 temporary employees, who are mostly students, to answer the phones, but right before school starts they have to cut back to about eight employees. That’s when students flood the phone lines.
English senior Ariana Eggleston said she's had similar issues, and this will be the second year she has had a problem with financial aid.
Last year, Eggleston received an email from the Office of Financial Aid that said she owed $1,700. The email did not explain why or how, but Eggleston said it was clear that she "wasn’t allowed to come back on campus until (she) paid it.”
Eggleston again owes the university $1,700 for a reason she can’t explain. She's unable to pay her rent this month because the university sent her refund check to the wrong bank account.
“I know it’s the beginning of the year, but this is whether or not I continue my senior year of school, not just me worried about paying money,” Eggleston said.
Henry said that these problems are "messing with people’s money, people’s homes, people’s books.”
Eggleston is now depending on her roommate to help pay for her $472 rent that she’ll sooner or later have to return.
Since Jan. 1, MSU’s Office of Financial Aid has answered 66,189 incoming phone calls and spoken to 16,315 students and parents in person. More than 4,000 of those incoming calls were made in the last two weeks.
Henry commented that she’s already had to call the office several times this semester.
“I’m surprised they’re not in my favorites,” Henry said.
According to Shipman, the office is trying to identify and help students who are in a difficult situation.
“We have been working with the student success team on campus now," Shipman said. "We’re working with them to try to make sure that we’re aware of students who are struggling."