Loan Applications Flood the Financial Aid Office

By Brandon Mazzei

It has been no secret that enrollment at Suffolk County Community
College has been on the rise in recent years. Each semester the human
traffic at Suffolk seems to rise substantially, continuously testing
the effectiveness of Suffolk’s resources. While it appears to be
business as usual for most, many students have discovered the horrors
of an institution not prepared to shoulder the excessive workload.

Suffolk’s Financial Aid office has been the subject of much scrutiny
from students lately, as excessive waits have interfered with
students’ ability to effectively secure information regarding
Financial Aid applications, as well as the approval of student loans.
Long lines, even longer waits to have a loan application evaluated,
and the office’s inability to release personal information over the
phone have hindered the progress of the Financial Aid program in
recent months.

“We’ve seen a very large increase in student aid applicants during the
past two academic years” notes Katie Briscoe, the Director of
Financial Aid. “Among those applicants, many require special handling
due to a change in their family’s financial circumstances, i.e.,
parent loss of earnings, etc.”

Recent economic decay has further complicated the process, forcing
those who work in the Financial Aid office to further evaluate
applications that previously would not have been accepted, with a
parental loss of earnings being the most common reason for such
extensive handling. Indeed, the dwindling economy has funneled
prospective students into community colleges at an astonishing rate.

According to Suffolk’s Official Enrollment Comparison Report, the
Ammerman campus at Suffolk alone has noted an increase of roughly 450
students from the fall 2009 semester to the fall 2010 semester. These
new students have done little to ease the congestion of the Financial
Aid office, bringing with them an entirely new set of issues and
applications that must be sorted through.

Student loans, which are often the lifeblood of students struggling to
make ends meet while pursuing a higher education, have taken on
average 3-4 weeks to complete in the past. This year, the wait has
increased to 5-6 weeks on average, with some loans requiring over two
months for processing. This has thrown a wrench in the collective
plans of students looking for monetary relief during the Fall Semester
at Suffolk.

“The increase in student enrollment has had a direct impact on the
number of loan requests” explained Briscoe. “During peak periods,
upwards of 30-40 per day were received.”

Receiving an upwards of 30 loan applications a day during a time of
increased traffic at the Financial Aid office has provided a daunting
task for its employees. Fortunately, Suffolk is constantly looking for
solutions to the challenges that plague students, and have hired
additional help to shoulder the excessive workload and provide relief
for overworked Financial Aid representatives.

“Fortunately, we were given a new counseling line in September and our
new counselor has been “learning the ropes” in order to assist the
other four full-time professionals” explained Briscoe.

Students are hoping that appointment of an additional Financial Aid
representative will ease both waits to speak with members of the
office, as well as shorten the time in which loan requests are
processed. While many students were forced to endure college life
without the assistance of a student loan for the first couple of
months at Suffolk, most are hopeful that next semester order will be
restored and all will be well.

That is, if recent trends regarding the inverse relationship between a
failing economy and a growing community college don’t persist.

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