The Financial Aid Office is here to answer all of your questions

By Portia Kerr-Newman

The Office of Student Financial Aid serves as resource for students who need assistance with the financial process. But some students feel financial aid does not do its job in assisting or providing adequate information.

I began to wonder why so many students, including myself, have many horror stories about experiences with the office. I met with Jane Jordan, associate director of Student Financial Aid, to find out things students should know about financial aid and affording school. Jordan said the majority of students pay for college with government assistance.

“The fundamental thing every student should do if they can’t pay out of pocket or doesn’t want to pay out of pocket for school…is the FAFSA form,” she said. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid gives students who are eligible a chance to apply for state and institutional funding.

“One of the reasons why some students can’t afford college is because they don’t apply for their FAFSA on time,” Jordan said. She advised students to apply before March 1 so they’ll have the best chance at getting the best aid package.

Students often do not know they can start their FAFSA early, even if they have gotten there income tax returns.

“Some families miss the deadlines for the FAFSA because [of] when they file taxes, but FAFSA allows you to estimate your tax returns, then you can go back in and bump up your numbers,” Jordan said.

NIU offers several options to pay for school tuition, Jordan said, including scholarships, work study and loans.

“There are a lot of students that are only offered loans,” Jordan said. “That’s a challenge for those students.”

Jordan believes planning ahead for college could help students in the long run.

She said things like meeting with an advisor each semester to keep students on track, working and putting money towards tuition and checking NIU e-mail accounts regularly are things some students take for granted.

The Office of Student Financial Aid has been taking steps to get students more involved in the financial process.

“We are trying to reach students in several ways, we completely revamped orientation for students, speak to classes and hold events catered to financial aid, have employees call student and parents regarding tuition from the admissions call center, hired student peer advisors and scholarship staff and hold FAFSA Fridays every year,” she said.

Students often feel the financial aid office could work better with students.

Senior psychology major Jasmine Thorn said, “Some of the workers get attitudes, their customer service needs improvement and a better system of keeping up with files.”

Linda Davis, graduate student of higher education said, “I feel like they need more people as far as answering the phones. It seems like they are low in staff.”

Jordan knows about the doubts students have about the office, which is why Student Financial Aid is helpful to students.

“Financial aid can be overwhelming, dealing with the federal government, the state of Illinois and a large state institution,” Jordan said. “I think it gets confusing which is why we are so welcome to students coming in.”