Software system continues to hinder loan disbursement

by Travis Reed

Students looking for tuition bills or financial aid in the mail have been left high and dry as the University struggles to implement a new software system.
Mailing of bills and financial aid is more than one month behind schedule, and University officials don’t expect aid to be disbursed until later this month. Regular tuition billing will not take place until early November.
Problems with PeopleSoft, the University’s new information-management software system, have plagued the financial aid system here and at several other institutions nationwide.
“All of the Big 10 universities are having problems similar to ours,” said Nancy Sinsabaugh, interim director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. “The software wasn’t ready.”
As a result, University financial aid was tangled up, and PeopleSoft had to increase their support staff by 30 percent to solve the problem.
In the meantime, students were left to wonder about the fate of their scholarships, loans and grants.
To serve students who needed immediate help to cover living expenses, the University gave nearly $13 million in interest-free loans to 6,766 students. A total of 37,000 University students receive scholarships or financial assistance.
According to the revised implementation schedule, students expecting loans will be sent a promissory note on Oct. 25, which they are urged to sign and return as soon as possible so they can finally receive their funds.
“Students must return the notes before we disburse funds,” Sinsabaugh said. “If they do not, their tuition bill will not reflect the aid that they should receive.”
Sinsabaugh said that signing and returning the notes is especially important to students who did receive cost-of-living advances and have loans.
The loans will be used to pay off the advance. But if students don’t return the note, the aid won’t be applied to their account, and they will be charged for the advance.
Students should expect to see their tuition bills around Nov. 11. Because of the late billing, they will only have a short time to pay the balance, either all at once or split into two payments. If they split it, 50 percent of the account balance will be due on Dec. 9 with the other half by Jan. 13.
Students who choose the two-payment option might strain their bank accounts to meet the University’s schedule because billing for spring semester will begin in early February, two weeks after the last fall semester payment.
Officials expect bugs in PeopleSoft software will be worked out by the new year and that spring semester’s financial aid will be processed without a hitch. At that time, the University will offer a three-payment option.

Travis Reed covers environment and transportation and welcomes comments at [email protected]