Editorial: The reality of paying for college
Every year, the new freshman class arrives to campus with jitters about the new environment, being away from home and making new friends. However, they also must navigate a whole new world of loans, which many students rely on to help them pay for college and their living expenses. Within the general category of loans are more confusing subsets like federal direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
To an incoming freshman, these terms may read as a different language and the process of paying for college can seem incredibly stressful and daunting. This is where the university’s Student Financial Services (SFS) comes in to help students… or not.
SFS has both an informational website, a contact email and phone number and a building located on 30 Lovett Avenue with office hours Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some of these resources are much more helpful than others. The website is extensive and provides a lot of information on the different forms of aid students can receive. The website also explains costs and funding for undergraduate, graduate and international students.
While the website may be extensive, students face more difficulty when trying to call for additional help or visit the offices. When calling the SFS help line, the wait time to speak to an actual person can be very high and sometimes exceed 30 minutes depending on the call volume. Additionally, after spending the time waiting to speak with someone, that person often has very basic information about the problem, and directs the student to contact someone else.
If a student decides to visit the offices in person, that too can often be unhelpful and require further inquiries. The office itself resembles a bleak DMV that is uninviting and would deter most students from even stepping foot in there. The slow, unwelcome nature of SFS can be extremely detrimental when it comes to students paying for college and living expenses.
For example, multiple students in our newsroom recounted very unhelpful and tedious experiences with the SFS help line. In some instances, students were only able to receive the answers they needed after having a parent call instead. These slow downs can and have led to students not receiving their loans on time leaving them without the ability to pay for the semester or rent.
Students first learning how to pay for college is an extremely stressful process that continues long after we graduate, so the services and resources in place to help students with finances must be convenient and student-friendly. Many students must pay for college on their own without the help of parent or guardian, so having unhelpful resources can add to the stress and confusion of the process.
Another resource that is deemed by students to be unhelpful is the experimental loan counseling program created by the U.S. Department of Education in 2016. The university was one of the 51 universities chosen for the program that started in the 2017-18 academic year. As a part of this program, students with federal direct loans were randomly selected to have to complete either mandatory loan counseling each year or complete a one-time entrance interview and then exit advising when graduating.
The purpose of this program is to determine if students benefit from more frequent loan counseling. However, students who were chosen for the annual mandatory loan counseling find it to be a nuisance. The chosen students are required to complete the counseling before receiving their loans which leads to rushing through the process. Students can easily complete the counseling by simply guessing until they achieve the correct answer.
The idea of extra loan counseling can be extremely beneficial, but the mandatory nature of the program leads to students viewing the program as an inconvenience rather than a learning experience. The financial services provided by the school need to be easier for students to use and should be providing comprehensive loan counseling to those students who want it. The current system in place to aid students with loans and other financial aspects of college is lacking, and would be greatly improved with shorter wait times, more informed workers and an overall more welcoming and less-stressful experience.
This editorial is written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review staff. This week’s editorial was written by Jessica Leibman, Copy Desk Chief. She may be reached at JLeibman@udel.edu.