Campus failures exemplified by financial aid mishaps

This is an article for all of the struggling students on campus. If you are like me, you have done it all at some point during your college career: work, go to school full-time, face internal strife at home and overextend yourself to strengthen your curriculum vitae.

My family falls on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, and due to this I received a number of grants and scholarships. Even though I have worked steadily since November of my freshman year, I relied on that money to survive, and I am eternally grateful for the support the system has given me.

Before this academic year, I took the initiative to apply for about two dozen scholarships, so I could take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and apply to graduate school, which would cost upward of $1,000.

I felt that I was a competitive candidate for many scholarships.

I am a first-generation college student. My overall GPA is about a 3.6, and my major GPA is upwards of a 3.8. I worked my way up to assistant manager at Target, and during that time I was taking 17 units, volunteering on a research team and working 36 hours a week. Despite being worn thin, I got a 4.0.

I left Target to coordinate a wellness volunteer group — the Peer Ambassadors of Wellness (PAWs) — on campus through the Student Health Center.

I helped implement events like Suicide Prevention Week and Depression and Anxiety Screening Day.

Now, I am a tutor for children with autism and conducting my own experiment in the psychophysiology lab for the Psychology Honors Program.

I felt proud of my achievements, bragged like crazy in my personal statements and sent all my applications in on time.

Then, the financial aid office requested some extra paperwork from me, which I also filled out and sent in on time.

Within two weeks of the tuition deadline I had not heard anything from financial aid. I waited in line and was told that it still had not completed my paperwork. During the week of the tuition deadline, I waited in line again.

There was still no progress on my paperwork, but I was encouraged to come in again the day before tuition was due. So I waited in line a third time, only to be told that my paperwork was finally completed and that I should see my fee deferment information the following day on my portal.

Finally, I found some short-lived peace on the day tuition was due, but I did not receive any of the two dozen scholarships for which I had applied.

My parents had to pull money from their retirement last year, and, as a result, I didn’t qualify for any of the grants I normally receive. I didn’t see a penny of their retirement: not because they didn’t want to give it to me. They really could not and I didn’t really need it at the time.

Now in order to supplement my income, I have taken out every loan available to me.

I am officially out of that money, and it’s not even November.

Recently, I have tried figuring out why I did not receive any of that scholarship money. Was my personal statement flawed? Did the boards and committees for those scholarships think that one working parent in a family of five would be enough to sustain the next steps in my academic career? Were my extracurricular activities not enough for these scholarships?

After further speculation, I thought these possibilities to be unlikely.

Scholarship foundations need financial information long before tuition is due so students can use it to pay for tuition.

I gave the office all the paperwork it needed on time, and yet, none of it was filed until the day before tuition was due. Therefore, all the scholarships I applied for did not receive my financial information in time.

Now, after all of the hard work I put in to make myself a strong candidate for graduate programs, I am stranded because someone, or a long string of people, twiddled their thumbs.

This is, quite literally, the worst thing that has ever happened in my academic career, and it isn’t even my fault.

Being forced to put my dreams and goals on hold isn’t even the worst of it all. The worst thing, I think, was the look on my parents’ faces when I told them I can’t afford to take the GRE or apply for graduate school. They know how hard I’ve worked and that they cannot help pay for it, either.

This campus promotes academic enlightenment and growth. We are supposed to be a school of diversity, discovery and distinction, yet the only diversity I see are the sad stories of struggling students on campus who can’t finish in time because classes or funds are cut.

The only discoveries I have made are the flaws within our system and that student voices are completely ignored.

The only distinction I see about the formal education I’ve acquired is that it has caused more stress in my life than an education I could have received on my own.

It’s time we start demanding more of our administration and getting our money’s worth for our education.

This campus should strive to cultivate successful, flourishing lives, not forsake them from the start.

I wish I could look back on my time as a Bulldog with pride, but, instead, I am left brokenhearted.

  • Joanna Crumrine

    I have always raised my daughter to use her words to express her feelings. It was heartbreaking to listen to her tell me that the dreams and goals she has worked so hard for were vanishing before our eyes. And this entire situation frustrates and saddens me. I am very proud that Chelsey has the ability to outline her truth. I am now hoping that this will shed light on the situation. And that the FSU administration will take some sort of action. This needs to be rectified.

  • Anon

    More workload for less workers is the world we live in today. Businesses (including Universities which are businesses) have to look at the bottom line. Without the supplement income they use to receive from the state, which I know you are aware of the budget cuts that happened post 2008, they are forced to make budget cuts in the classroom and in the administration offices. While that is a cop out answer, it is the truth. Demanding more and shaking your fist in the air won’t solve anything. If the money isn’t there for the school it simply isn’t there.

    If you want change you look at the source of the issue which is the government funding to supplement the increase cost Universities incur every year. We see the tuition prices going up every semester but fail to realize we are already being subsidize. If you take away money from one department to fund another, are you really solving the problem? For that matter can the government really afford to subsidize more of Universities expenses simply to allow more students to attend?

    Well that’s why we vote. If you believe that everything should fly smoothly and State be properly staffed then pay more tuition or demand the government to push money from one sector to the education sector. If you believe that more people are entitled to a higher education regardless of economic status (including your grants/scholarships that you received during undergraduate years) then some things will have to be sacrificed.

    Or all of that could mean nothing and you simply weren’t chosen for the scholarships…

  • Jennnn

    It is astonishing how many students have a sense of entitlement when it comes to scholarships. No one is guaranteed a scholarship; they are incredibly competitive.

    As for your complaints about Financial Aid, Anon’s comments are right on. Lack of funding for courses and staff is a real problem, but that’s a complaint for our state representatives, not your front line staff members.

    Overall, the tone in your article leaves me very little room to have any sympathy for you. If you would open your eyes to see how much better you have it than many of your fellow students, you might show a little more gratitude. So you have to delay graduate school – it happens. Take some time off, pay off your debt and adjust your attitude.

  • Chelsey Crumrine

    This article was not comprised for sympathy; it was simply a route to express a fundamental flaw in the system. When I do business with the university, I expect results as great as my academic record, and that wasn’t what I received. I somewhat agree with Jennnn and Anon’s views on changing the system, but I don’t think it is as simple as allotting money through different venues. Rather, we should look into an entirely new system that won’t make mistakes.

    As far as my sense of entitlement, if you don’t think I have worked hard enough to earn scholarship money (though I have received some in the past), then that is your judgment. However, I don’t think it’s astonishing that someone should feel entitled to something when they have worked hard for it. In fact, I find that it’s very natural to feel that way. There is a chance that I wasn’t qualified for those scholarships, but the point of this article was that I don’t think the scholarships even knew that I applied.

    I have it better off than some, not many, of my fellow students because I work hard to preserve the life I have made here, and I expressed my gratitude for the help I have received in one of my first sentences. I am sorry if my tone offended you, but I refuse to take this quietly and don’t believe I need an attitude adjustment. I can’t be the only one this has happened to, and that, my readers, is a problem.