Letter to the Editor: Corrections from financial aid
When the Towerlight requested an interview about the financial aid process, I hoped that the article would provide an opportunity to share aid information with the students that we both serve. During the interview, I shared information about our aid application process and the federal loan counseling process. I explained that we receive very few requests for in-person loan counseling, but that students could schedule appointments for additional individual counseling.
When I read the article, I was very surprised to see that it consisted of several critical comments about the Financial Aid Office and our loan counseling process, and several inaccurate quotes. This reporter never asked me any critical questions about these issues, which denied me any opportunity to respond to her concerns.
The article’s starting point was a recent national survey that explored weaknesses in the national student loan counseling process. (For the full report, visit: www.nera.com/nera-files/PUB_Student_Loan_Borrowers_1012.pdf). The national report alleges that some schools are not complying with loan counseling requirements and the Towerlight article raised unjustified questions about TU’s compliance.
The facts: The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) enforces the loan counseling regulations and they encourage schools to fulfill these requirements by using DOE’s online counseling sessions at studentloans.gov. TU requires every single Federal Direct Student Loan applicant to complete a DOE Entrance Counseling session before any loan funds can be disbursed. When students leave TU, we also notify all borrowers that they are required to complete online or paper loan exit counseling.
DOE’s online counseling is not perfect, but it does guarantee that every applicant will consistently receive the same complete counseling module from a neutral third party. Students who seek additional guidance can schedule appointments with their Financial Aid Advisers.
• The article stated that “most students are eligible for aid no matter their annual income.” Most students are eligible for federal student loans regardless of their current income.
• The article confuses the required online loan counseling sessions with general financial aid inquiries. Only borrowers must complete loan counseling.
• We tell all aid recipients that they are required to read our Financial Aid Notification Guide (www.towson.edu/aidguide). It explains the terms and conditions of our aid programs. I asked the reporter to include this information and to highlight several common aid problems that are fully explained in the guide. The article did not mention the guide and suggested that we only provided highlights/teasers of the common problems rather than full explanations.
I have worked in several aid offices and aid staff work hard to provide accurate information and complete service to students. Federal and state regulations have created a complicated aid process, and we all try hard to help students to successfully navigate through the process. Despite those efforts, students often get frustrated by the many complicated forms and steps.
We regret that the students quoted in the article had frustrating aid experiences, but we also regularly receive complimentary feedback from many of our customers and positive ratings from our customer service surveys. Our role is to serve students by equitably distributing available aid funds while complying with the many relevant regulations.
We offer services via our website, publications, phone, email, front counter and appointments with our Financial Aid Advisers. For more information including contact information, please visit: towson.edu/aid.