Filed under Opinion

Tuition Woes: Who’s to Blame?

Every semester many students end up with inaccuracies in their billing statements. Is anybody at fault? What should you do when faced with something like this?

Seeing fellow Alverno student Michelle Hardy on January 11 on Fox News Contact 6 regarding a tuition miscommunication definitely caught my attention because I have experienced miscommunication with Alverno’s billing in the past.

The first incident occured in 2007 when I was given the wrong amount for a loan I needed to stay in school. This resulted in a financial leave of absence. The second incident was this January 19, the day before payments were due. From January 13 to January 18, my tuition statement reflected a refund of $649.50. As of January 19, my statement showed I was billed $2,025.50. I immediately called the financial aid office and got their voice mail. After five hours went by without a call back, I decided to visit the financial aid office.

I was told nobody was available to meet with me, I was not eligible for any additional aid and I could go to the Business Office to make payment arrangements. Immediately I tried to find ways to pay my tuition. I am currently working a part time job, so that just didn’t seem possible. Taking another financial leave of absence was not an option for me because I had already taken one and this is my final semester. Imagining the moment I have waited 4.5 years for being pushed back with less than four months away was too much to bear. My back against the wall I did the only thing I felt could be done before calling Contact 6, which was email the college President Mary Meehan’s office.

A few hours later the President’s office sent an email asking me to contact Marlene Neises of Academic Services. Before I could read the email, Neises contacted me. She asked me for an overview of the situation and offered an opportunity to place a three-way call to the Business Office. While speaking to the Business Office I was offered other arrangements to make the amount more affordable, which I was not offered the first time. Prior to those options I was set up with a payment plan consisting of four equal payments of $519 a month.

Being able to make more affordable payments was good but still didn’t explain why my billing changed. Especially since I spoke with the Financial Aid Office about a month before while waiting for a class to be added to my schedule to figure out what kind of balances I would be faced with. They told me I would only owe $1,000. Neises offered a three-way call with the Financial Aid office and we left a message. This time they returned my call and with great news.

The Alverno Grant which I receive annually and was told previously couldn’t be applied had been recovered. The representative was not sure why it had been removed, but she assured me that it would not happen again.

My issue was resolved because I tracked my statements and aid from the time the fall semester ended. These issues may arise for different reasons but we can find common solutions.

1) Keep track of your Financial Aid and Business Office statements.

2) Have a financial back-up plan. Perhaps working for an employer that offers extra hours may be beneficial in scenarios such as this.

3) Save your money while working extra hours during school breaks.

Speaking with Katie Urbanek of the Business Office, I asked her why do you think billing conflicts happen to so many students every semester and what advice do you have for students facing these troubles? Katie replied, “Each student has a very unique, and often complex, billing situation, impacted by modifications to schedules, financial aid, and payments”.

Urbanek encourages students to:

– Apply for the FAFSA early – estimate, don’t be late!  Some students run into billing issues because they have either not filed the FAFSA or have filed it very late. Contact the Financial Aid office with questions related to the FAFSA.

– Read all materials provided to you. If the Business Office sends you materials, please take the time to read them.  We are providing you with this information so that you can be well informed about issues affecting your student account.

– Check your Alverno email regularly. The Business Office (and other campus offices) do attempt to contact students with outstanding issues.

– Last, but not least, please contact the Business Office with any questions regarding your account. The Business Office is located in LA224 and can be reached via phone (414-382-6122) or email (business.office@alverno.edu).

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