Katy Snyder/The Daily Evergreen
Thousands of students are still waiting to get their financial aid midway through the first week of the semester.
Two-thirds of WSU students rely on financial aid to pay their way through school. By this point last year, the university had disbursed financial aid to more than 12,000 students.
But as of Tuesday night, only about 10,200 had received their funds, according to an email from John Fraire, the vice president of student affairs and enrollment. The administration projects roughly 14,000 will have their financial aid by the weekend.
“We’re hoping by the end of the week most of the aid will be pushed through,” Fraire said. “Some of it is just navigating on Zzusis.”
The crisis has created a sense of panic for students without other sources of income, leaving many to wonder whether they will be able to pay their bills on time, buy groceries or even stay in school this fall.
An anonymous source with close connections to the Office of Financial Aid said eight people have already dropped out of school due to the delayed disbursements. Administrators could neither confirm nor deny the reported dropouts.
The source said financial aid counselors are receiving more than 800 calls a day.
Hundreds of students rushed to the Lighty Student Services building Tuesday to share their concerns with financial aid counselors, forming a line that stretched all the way to the French Administration entrance.
Married couple Molly Erven and Austin Majors stood about a third of the way into the line. They said they’d been there for about half an hour.
“In the past years, I haven’t had a problem,” said Majors, a senior psychology major. “I went in here like once to ask a quick question, no big deal. This is the first year it’s actually been a problem.”
Erven, a senior studying agricultural education, said her financial aid has come in, but she’s still waiting on loans. Majors is waiting for his entire financial aid package.
Erven said she is “extremely frustrated,” and just wanted some answers.
“I’d rather have an answer like ‘Oh, it’s going to be about a week,’ and give me an honest answer instead of someone who got put onto a phone line to help control this flow and doesn’t know how to answer my question,” she said.
The couple is turning to money Majors saved over the summer and from selling his car to cover rent and other bills.
Administrators say the problem is a general unfamiliarity with Zzusis. Students, parents and university staff are still getting to know the new student information system, slowing down the disbursement process, said Casey Hanson, the director of new media and communication for Information Services.
"With any new system, (there is a) big learning curve for anybody," Hanson said.
Administrators had discussions months ago about the potential for financial aid problems with the launch of the new student information system. Even so, they didn’t expect so many issues to arise, Hanson said.
More training may have helped, but it may not have prevented the delays, she said.
“You can’t train too early, because if you don’t touch the actual stuff you’re training on for three or four months, you forget everything you were trained on,” Hanson said.
This semester is a test phase for how financial aid can function through Zzusis, Fraire said. The university launched the system on an austere budget and administrators anticipated some problems.
“We knew there would be difficulties in the implementation,” he said. “It’s much deeper this year because of the level of implementation.”
Majors said he understands the problems with the new system, but that administrators could have done more planning to manage them.
“Right now is the rush,” he said. “Everyone’s going in. Why would right now be the time to try to work out something new?”