Some Georgia State students have reportedly been dropped from their classes because their financial aid information was not updated on time.
Based on data from the University System of Georgia, between 20,000 and 30,000 students are dropped from rolls throughout all of Georgia’s public universities as a result of unpaid of tuition and fees every year. State officials and community organizers are considering ways to help these students remain enrolled and earn their degrees.
Quin Parham, a Georgia State freshman said he experienced difficulties and said financial aid was only able to help him after his classes were already dropped.
“It took months for my FAFSA to be processed. I went to financial aid at least seven times and they still were not telling me when my forms would go through or if I would be dropped from my classes.”
After trying and failing to learn more about his status, Parham waited until financial aid could tell him anything useful. Early in September, after the final drop deadline had passed, Parham was eventually given guidance as to what needed to be done in order to ensure his status as a student at Georgia State.
“They told me this after my classes were dropped, so I had to go back individually to add them which cost hundreds of dollars, around $300 per class, because they had to add them manually. So my student account balance went from around $1,500 to $2,800.”
The Signal reached out to the university’s financial department director, Louis Scott, but he did not respond to questions.
On Sept. 7, students enrolled in Georgia State’s freshman orientation course, GSU 1010, were given a presentation on financial literacy as a part of the mandatory class. The presentation was a part of Georgia State’s Financial Literacy Program, an initiative launched by the Office of Student Financial Aid in 2012. The main speaking points focused on Georgia State and students’ financial futures here.
According to the presentation, students would be charged a fee after they added their dropped classes back onto their schedules.
Parham was one of the students in attendance. By the time the presentation was given, he had already paid the mandatory fees because the staff had to add his classes back to his schedule manually.
Looking for solutions
Getting dropped from classes isn’t a problem that only Georgia State students face.
Lesley Grady, a Georgia State alum and the senior vice president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta said a priority is raising awareness about the number of students being dropped from their classes each year across the state. She said that the organization helps bring people together to campaign for a solution in order to decrease the number of Georgia public university students that are being dropped.
“The next step will be working all across the state and in Atlanta to provide this information on a local level. So that community members are aware, so that the schools themselves will look internally to create programs,” she said.
The community foundation’s main goal is to build awareness to campaign as well to create a team to begin lobbying to Georgia legislators to provide public funding to create a need-based scholarship.
Grady said that if legislation was passed for this cause, some the funding would be coming from the same state budget that helps with public school education and people with disabilities.
“[The] Hope [scholarship] is all about merit – which is very important,” Grady said. “But what do you do with the kids with a B- average who have a need and want to be educated but still cannot afford it?”
Grady said that many community members have so far supported the organization.
“Everyone has said ‘how do you lose that many students who want to make more of their lives and get their education for a small amount of money that we know we can raise?’ whether it’s a CEO, a mother, or a non-profit, everybody has been very shocked and warm to the idea of let’s do something.”
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s plan is targeting students who cannot afford to remain in their classes, but other students claimed they were dropped because of the university’s failure to process their financial information before deadlines, much like Parham.
In preparation for the school year, some Georgia State students spent hours on hold while attempting to speak with a financial aid representative. Over the summer, students began voicing their concerns in the Facebook group “GSU Book Exchange” as well as the “GSU Class of 2020” page and have continued to do so.
According to Georgia State students’ posts, it was a grueling process getting in touch with financial aid, that had some major consequences on students’ classes.
Damini Adelaja, a Georgia State student, said she felt uncertain about her financial aid status even though she had already received scholarships to help cover her costs.
“It was showing that I had a pending balance even though my scholarships were supposed to cover it, and I kept getting emails saying that if I didn’t pay I would be dropped from my classes. I kept calling and no one would answer and sometimes they hung up once they did answer,” Adelaja said.
Adelaja said she felt Georgia State’s financial aid department was unorganized and unable to cope with the university’s recent consolidation numbers.
“It made me feel like they were disorganized, and I feel like they didn’t care,” she said. “And of course I’m considering the fact that there’s thousands of students, but it still just didn’t look good on their part.”
But Adelaja is not alone. Students also complained about the long hold times with the financial aid office and the long lines to be seen in person at the Sparks Hall location.
Janellya Duffy said that she felt under pressure to get her financial aid in order before classes began, as she would be informed about paperwork deadlines by the university just a few days before they were about to pass.
“They took forever to process my information. They were asking too much about my mother’s marriage and that slowed down the process. You could tell they had an attitude whenever they picked up the phone,” she said.
Duffy was not notified that her financial information was updated until the end of September and her loans were not processed until October. After being dropped from her classes for 22 days, a fee was added to her student account.
Duffy was later told by the enrollment center to notify her professors and have them temporarily add her back into their classes until she could pay off the remaining balances. Her payment deadline was extended until Oct. 6.