Financial aid assist by appointments, emails


Alex Brendel

Student Kyle Mckeen-Reyes, left, waits as Federick Gil Mejia helps him in the Financial Aid office. Mckeen-Reyes is one of the 13,000 students receiving financial aid and must deal with the new appointment and assistance policy. (Alex Brendel)

Theresa Marie, Sean Wilkey

The Diablo Valley College financial aid office has switched to a combination of email communication and appointments in order to effectively help the more than 13,000 students receiving assistance.

This new process uses the new InSite e-mail accounts to communicate with students regarding their financial aid applications.

“It is designed to make it faster and easier to see a financial aid coordinator and complete the process of applying and receiving financial aid,” said Emily Stone, dean of CalWORKs, EOPS/CARE, financial aid and scholarships.

“We want to streamline this process for students so that there is less of a wait and more efficiency,” Stone said. “By separating the drop-ins from the appointments for more complicated cases, we are creating a sort of triage system.”

All financial aid communications regarding missing documents, payment receipts, reminders, and notifications will be delivered to the InSite e-mail accounts.

Anthropology major Elaine Lam, 19, is a first-time financial aid applicant at DVC. “I see no problems with the online system,” she said. “Everything has been running smoothly.”

Geography major Alex Marcus, 22, has experienced both the old and new systems of applying for financial aid at DVC.

Marcus said he has always had a positive experience with the financial aid office.

Under the previous system, however, he had to return to see a coordinator between three and five times because he was missing documents and was unable to get information about his missing documents over the phone.

“With the new InSite system, I can see a list of what documents I am missing,” Marcus said. “This way, I don’t have to stand in line forever. I can see what I am missing, make my appointment, and get it taken care of … which makes it a lot easier.”

Since financial aid information disclosure over the phone is prohibited, it was previously necessary for students to see a coordinator to discuss issues that could have been addressed shortly.

At the same time, it wasn’t efficient to have students with more complicated issues to be standing in the same lines with the students whose issues could be addressed and taken care of within minutes, said Stone.

She hopes that the new procedures will minimize the time that students wait to receive the help that they are seeking from the financial aid coordinators.

Students who have questions or issues that can be addressed within a few minutes simply check in at the Financial Aid Scholarship Annex, where they will wait to see a drop-in coordinator.

Students who have more complicated issues and special needs students need to make an appointment.

Stone advises students not miss more than two appointments, which will drop them to a lower appointment priority.

Despite the change, some students are having difficulties with the new system.

In the midst of a complicated financial aid case, radiology technician major Trinity Brisson, 23, craves the old procedures.

Her journey with this new system began last June, when she asked to schedule an appointment regarding her financial aid for Fall 2011.

“I’ve been on a waiting list since the end of June. I didn’t get a call back until August 19and school started on August 12,” Brisson said. “Now everything is going to be delayed and I’m stressed out because I won’t be getting my money on time.”

Previously, students with missing documentation could retrieve any necessary paperwork, come back to campus and wait in line.

Brisson said she could have resolved financial aid complications in one day.

However, the new system requires her to make an appointment, which puts her at the mercy of waiting for a call back.

“This is a new system. There might be some bugs in it. But we want to see this through. We are open to suggestions and feedback so that we can make any necessary improvements. We welcome the feedback,” Stone said.