Due to a June audit by the Department of Education, MSU Denver’s financial aid department changed its dispersal policy from a complete distribution before the semester starts to a policy of partial dispersals three weeks apart.
The change left some students unable to purchase textbooks in time for their first class of the semester. The second disbursement will be on Sept. 6.
Junior Merna Mongelli was able to buy her books, but she still feels that the new dispersal is a bad idea that has been hard on everyone.
“It made it more difficult for the financial aid department,” Mongelli said. “They had to do temporary loans. No one could buy their books. It wasn’t a very good deal.”
The audit was not a result of any wrongdoing but because the school had never faced an audit before. Changes were recommended to help increase the department’s efficiency, according to Cynthia Hejl, director of financial aid and scholarships.
“They told me that nothing prompted the audit as it has with other schools,” she said.
Traditionally, the university had dispersed financial aid about 10 days before the beginning of the semester so students had the money to buy books and school supplies. The new policy is also kinder to first-time borrowers.
“It eliminated the single semester loans to be disbursed before the semester and then mid-way through the semester,” Hejl said. “So these students actually receive their funds earlier.”
Hejl said that complaints coming into the financial aid counter tended to be less about the students’ inability to purchase books, and more about how late the email was sent out.
“Unfortunately, we had such little time to research solutions and implement the change on [MSU Denver] Banner that we did not install the new changes until the beginning of August,” she said.
As a first time borrower for the summer semester, freshman Brian Moore knew that he would be getting his financial aid halfway through the summer. He received it just a little over a week before his first fall dispersal, making him one of the few financial aid students not adversely affected by the change in policy.
He is confused by the change, though, saying that he felt that financial aid department seemed to be “shrouded in secrecy.”
“No one at the financial aid desk seems to be able to give me a straight answer,” he said. “I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on with these changes.”
Hejl said that other options included waiting until after the census date for dispersal like many other schools do, or even charging by the credit hour. She said that both of these ideas were scrapped because they would “hurt students more.” She also suggested that the new dispersal method might be a learning experience for students.
“It can help with financial literacy since many students receive large checks at the beginning of the school year and then the students are in our office two to three weeks later upset that they have spent the refund and need more money,” she said.
The new policy will be reviewed at the end of the spring semester to determine how well it has worked for everyone involved.