Raymond Tsway / The Daily Evergreen
Jeff Tietjen is not a student. He’s not a faculty member. In fact, he has no ties to the university. But he’s seeing the impact of the financial aid delays.
Tietjen, assistant manager for family development at the Community Action Center (CAC) on Southeast Fairmont Road, has seen more students than usual visit the food bank in the last two weeks.
“There have been a lot of people who haven’t had food because of the financial aid delays,” Tietjen said.
The number of patrons has tripled for Mondays and Thursdays - typically the slowest days for the food bank.
One graduate student at the center chose to cut back on food expenses to save money for textbooks.
“Every day he’s further behind,” Tietjen said.
Students have also requested assistance with rent, but after massive budget cuts to the center, the employees can barely afford to help.
LaShonda Crutchfield, who works at the CAC as an intake specialist, said three students visited the food bank in the span of an hour Wednesday.
Crutchfield has witnessed more students using the food bank in the last week and a half than she would normally see there in a month. There is no question that financial aid is a contributing factor, Crutchfield said, but she was unsure of the exact percentage of students collecting food because of it.
About 12,400 students have received their financial aid, but more than 1,500 are still waiting for their loans, grants or scholarships, WSU spokesman Darin Watkins said. Nearly $74 million has been distributed.
“I sound like a broken record, but there’s a difference between a problem and an issue,” Watkins said. “A problem would be if kids couldn’t go to school, if kids couldn’t eat... Those are problems. The issue is financial aid. And that issue is rapidly resolving.”
Watkins said he had not heard of students using the food bank yet.
“That’s a problem,” he said when asked about it. “If that’s what’s actually happening, that’s a problem.”
Additional staff members have been temporarily assigned to speed up financial aid processing, Watkins said, and he encourages students who need money to take out the $2,000 emergency loans available for those eligible for financial aid.
The loans accrue interest, however, at a rate of one half of 1 percent per month.
In the meantime, the CAC distributes food from 9-11 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays and from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesdays. Pullman Child Welfare, the other food bank in town, is open from 9-11 a.m. on Saturdays.
“A lot of students’ families aren’t in a position to help them financially, and we’re one of those resources,” Tietjen said.