Summer 16 spent on hold with Office of Financial Assistance

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For me, this past summer was defined by two things: my internship in New York and telling people about my internship in New York.

However, the bronze medal would be awarded to the harrowing amount of time I spent calling, checking and applying to the Office of Financial Assistance (OFAS) – also known by its street name, “Campus DMV.”

During my time here at the University of Miami, this department has almost-nobly retained its reputation for slow, dying-sloth-like inefficiency. In fact, I had a friend sophomore year named Philisha who used to carbon copy university vice presidents on all of her emails to OFAS because it was the only way to get a response. It worked every time.

However, this year, OFAS hit a new low when the upcoming year’s financial aid packages were sent out almost a month later than usual because of “a bug in the system,” as someone put it over the phone. I guess this just isn’t Miami’s year for dealing with bugs.

Now, this could have been a totally valid excuse, except the office maintained its usual Aug. 1 deadline for the first half of the tuition/housing/Swoleness Center payments. All of a sudden, families with lower incomes had lost an entire month to gather their savings or find other ways to pay if their financial aid package decreased or vanished. And, in case no one noticed, one year at our school as an on-campus resident costs about $67,000 – or, as us communication majors will soon call it, “three years’ salary.”

Fortunately, the Office of Occasional Financial Assistance allows any dissatisfied customers to fill out a “Request for Review” to nab a second chance at need-based support. In my case, I found out after about four decades of rummaging through CaneLink that I would be receiving the results of this review on Aug. 4.

Wait, hold up. Didn’t I just say that the deadline for half of a $67,000 payment was due Aug. 1? I’m no mathematics major, but I’m pretty sure, statistically, that Aug. 4 usually follows Aug. 1. In fact, the only time four should ever come first is on Halloween: “Oh, I want four Milky Ways … but it says ‘Please take one’ … they could have cameras.”

Somehow, families would have to find a way to pay upward of $30,000 and then wait to see if they’d be getting it back. Even worse, what if you are a student who is paying for college by yourself, and you had to take out a loan to make that first payment? Do you just stroll back into the bank and send the money up one of those – sorry, only know the Latin phrase – windy-tubey-thingies?

Of course, the representatives did tell me over the phone that it took so long because almost 2,000 families applied for the “Request for Review,” but that only further cements my point that the Aug. 1 deadline needed to be pushed back, since it was pretty likely that families would have to take out unnecessary loans.

Now, looking toward next year, it’s obvious that this office needs more staff. If almost 2,000 students are applying for just a review of the main process, then it is clearly affecting an undeniably large chunk of our population. Fortunately, our school just downsized its post office, so there are a few people looking for a job right there. Maybe they can fund a new scholarship with lost birthday checks from grandma.

However, for me, the ironic part is that, if it weren’t for the Office of Financial Assistance, I wouldn’t be able to afford this dream school of ours in the first place. But the thing is, when $67,000 is at risk every year, the bar is set pretty high. Like, Empire State Building high … which I would know about, since … I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this … I interned in New York this summer. Did I not tell you?

Danny New is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The Maturity Column runs alternate Thursdays. For more information about financial aid processing for the 2016-2017 school year, please refer to our accompanying news story.