Thursday, March 19, 2009

Almost Worse Than Scholarships

Today I discovered something just as onerous as scholarship applications. Financial aid. Foolishly I imagined that once we turned filled out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which was pages of personal financial information and needs to done for each college student you have and for each school they apply to—at any rate, I thought we were done once we finished the FAFSAs. Guess what? I was wrong.

Instead, the school (University of Tennessee, Chattanooga) emails the student at an account they set up for the student to let them know that they need more information. This assumes, of course, that your child actually followed through in accessing that account (inputing all the new privacy numbers that they’ve been assigned—all of which came on separate papers) and checking it on a regular basis. Luke, who inherited his Luddite tendencies from me, didn’t bother to access and finish setting up the account since the system wouldn’t accept his numbers. He figured once he was registered he’d be able to do it. Thankfully, Ariel loves computers and eventually found the emails from Financial Aid. They were requesting multiple documents with which I was unfamiliar. So, I thought, “Hey, I’ll just call them and ask questions.” The solution seemed so simple. Having gone to a public university, I should have known better. But, I called anyway--you have to start somewhere.

Me: Good morning, my daughter received some emails about more paperwork that needs to be filed for her financial aid, but I’m not sure what I need to do.

Financial Aid person: I’m sorry but I can’t discuss your daughter’s financial paperwork with you.

Me, perplexed—clearly I’ve misunderstood something: What?

Finanical Aid Person: I can’t talk to you about your daughter’s financial aid situation—she has a financial privacy right.

Me (obviously she thinks my daughter is much older): My daughter is 16 years old. She’s a financial dependent. And this is my financial information I’m asking about.

FAP: I can’t talk to you about your daughter’s financial aid because of her right to financial privacy.

Me: (I think, “My daughter has no finances—how can they be private? Especially, when it’s my finances we’re talking about!!") But because I’ve done this whole bureaucracy thing before, I yell, “Ariel!!”

Ariel comes.: What?

Me: This financial aid lady won’t talk to me—she can only talk to you. So, you get on the phone. I’ll tell you the questions I need to know the answers to. You ask her, and then tell me what she says.

You can imagine how ludicrous this was. I sat next to Ariel and told her what to ask. She asked. Then she told me the answer. And we did this over and over with each question—not to mention the clarification that went on with each question. I'm glad it's over—at least until the next thing. Right now, I'm waiting for the math department to return my calls. They don't pick up the phone, so every day leave another message on their answering machine. I'm hoping that like the unjust judge, they will finally tire of my messages and return my call.

Guess what? The math department finally called back. They have all the information for the scholarships. Next thing I’m waiting to hear about is Housing exemption (i.e., authorization to live at home). Luke got his exemption weeks ago. But Ariel hasn’t gotten hers yet. Ariel called them the other day (I didn’t call because I was sure she had a privacy right-to-not-let-your-parents-know-where-you-will-be-living-next-year). They rudely told her they’d email her eventually and hung up the phone.

And we still haven’t heard from the Orientation people on which week they’re going to assign Luke and Ariel. Heavy sigh.

I was shocked and appalled when I first read that wealthy parents actually hire individuals to do the whole application/scholarship/financial aid thing for them and their kids. I’m not shocked anymore. Is it any wonder that poor kids without aggressive parents don’t get scholarships and financial aid?


  1. Hey, I was the one who mentioned the housing exemption forms to you in the first place. And I did call them multiple times because they were apparently on coffee break from 2:30-3:00 in the afternoon. And, yeah, she did hang up on me--needed to go finish her coffee.

  2. Hohum. Now I fear college even more...

  3. I've done FAFSE for 3 kids now...handed it over to Alan this time as I mistakenly listed Kay as having 500,000 in income!!!!!! Changes had to be made, I got more confused and listed her as "Married". Alan took over and Kay is finally broke and single and he and I are married and broke. It's a royal pain and I am thinking of hiring someone next time! It'd be worth my meager sugar making earnings to NOT deal with it!

  4. I think my mother is either a saint or a genius (or both) because I've never heard her complain one bit.

  5. After you get the financial aid there are more forms. Sallie Mae. Never never never procrastinate on the sallie mae. Get it done early. Check or call often, Sallie mae is the black hole of "We still need info, without notifying you" If it's ever appearing to slow in progression CALL
    And with most of the universities we had better luck contacting depts. via email