UC Irvine, Stop Denying Students Timely Financial Aid
UC Irvine, Stop Denying Students Timely Financial Aid
To all reading,
There is now less than a month until tuition fees are due, and a staggering amount of UC Irvine students have no idea what our aid will be and how we will be paying it. We have been subjected to inefficient, unresponsive, and irresponsible treatment from UCI’s Office of Financial Aid.
This includes emails answered weeks after we have sent them (or not answered at all), an unresponsive phone line that leads to a filled voicemail inbox, and late requests for documents that lead to even later assessments of aid. Many of us have come to the financial aid office to inquire in person, only to be given unhelpful service, being told “there is nothing we can do except wait until the end of August or September.” Many others of us cannot even visit because we do not live close to UCI and cannot afford to make multiple trips just to inquire about aid. We have been told that submitting our documents early would give us priority, yet many of us who did still have not had our documents looked at and assessed by Financial Aid representatives.
The final straw occurred when UCI’s financial aid office told several students that our aid packages would not be processed until the end of September, after fees are due. This is preposterous – many low income and financially needy students are not in the position to pay out of pocket and cannot afford to have our financial aid given late. It is ludicrous completing the required documents on time, or only a day late, which we only had three weeks’ notice to submit, could subject us to not receiving aid until after the fee deadline – especially when our documents are not even looked at until months afterward. It is unacceptable that UCI gives us a phone number that leads to a filled voicemail inbox rather than actual representatives to discuss our aid status and expects everyone else to somehow show up at their office no matter how far they live.
These grievances also include lost documents and reduced aid estimates for both incoming and current students. Many students chose UC Irvine specifically because they thought they were able to afford it. It is conniving and unethical to give incoming students a high aid estimate, and then later lower our aid for no reason when return transcripts and verifications are consistent with previous documents.
It is unfair for UC Irvine’s Financial Aid Office to punish their incoming and current students for what is likely the result of subpar planning and understaffing, unethical tactics, and poorly budgeted funds and resources. This is not the treatment that should ever be expected from a top-ranked university or any University of California.
Below are incoming students’ firsthand accounts of the grievances aforementioned:
“I am very disappointed in how irresponsible UCI's Office of Financial Aid has been. They asked me for extra paperwork which I submitted electronically the day after they asked for it. I submitted the physical copy in 2 days. At that time, a financial aid representative informed me that within 2 weeks my paperwork should be processed. It's been far more than 2 weeks and I have not received my financial aid package. I called the office persistently until my call finally went through. The representative who answered seemed rude and it seemed he was putting the blame on me for turning in my paperwork in July, since other students turned theirs in June. No extra paperwork was asked from me until July, so I am not to blame. The representative then informed me my aid would NOT be available until late September, even though fees are due September 15th. I explained this to him and he casually said to pay my fees "out of pocket." As a student who relies financially on the financial aid to afford to attend a UC, I cannot come up with the 5k to pay my fees in less than a month. The representative said he could not help me any further and his only advice was to wait and pay my fees myself if I did not want my classes dropped. This is outrageous. Low income students should not be stressing about finding 5k just because their school is not doing its job properly, especially in a top ranked public university like UC Irvine.” - N.T.
“A friend and I are attending UCI in the Fall, while another friend is attending UCR in the Fall. Although the three of us have very similar financial records, incomes, and tax classifications, my friend going to UCR only took two weeks to submit verification documents, accept awards, notify the UCR Financial Aid Office of mistakes in the FAFSA regarding rollovers and distributions, and accept the new awards. In contrast, my other friend and I waited months for verification, another month for new assessment of FAFSA data, and received far less between the two of us combined than UCR gave just one student. Our awards are still not finalized even though we have accepted three different aid packages since March. I don't understand how re-verification can not only restart the aid process but actually wipe out existing grants. This is unacceptable for a UC school when a very similar school in academic standing and respectability has a far superior, much more efficient financial aid system. When my family's relatively high income and three children entering college makes any sorely needed federal aid virtually impossible going forwards and need-based scholarships difficult to obtain, my UCI grants for the next four years are what will allow me to complete my university education and pursue my career goals.” ~ B.P.
“The level of incompetence currently being displayed by the office of financial aid is unacceptable. I, as well as many others, still have our aid applications under review, despite all of the required documents having been turned in well before the actual deadline. We were promised financial aid under the vow that our education would be "affordable" and tuition costs wouldn't be insuperable. We chose to attend UCI over other prestigious schools, who also offered us generous sums in aid, expecting the school to keep its promise. I myself made the decision to attend UCI over a private school that awarded me over $60,000 in total financial aid, because I believed that money wouldn't be an issue. So why are we having this problem? Why are we, who are already paying fortunes to cover tuition fees, suffering due to those at the office of financial aid, who are apparently being paid to neglect their jobs? Despite all the efforts we put into being accepted, some of us may no longer have the means to afford an education. This treatment is plain insulting “.-C.Y.
“I’m attending this school because I wanted an education. It’s as simple as that. But the only barrier between me and going to school was the cost. I simply could not afford the tuition and the costs of on campus housing. I was relying on financial aid to at least help in the slightest. I was then selected for financial aid verification, and after I submitted my documents at least a month in advance, it took them far longer than they promised to review them. When I finally received news of my aid, it turned out that my grants were taken away from me. When I went into the office in person to talk about my aid, they had informed me that they were still busy reviewing documents that were received in June. Now I’m left with the option of accepting more than $30,000 in loans just for the first year, which would not only be detrimental for me but also my parents. I am tired of calling the office and hearing that their voicemail is full or not having my e-mails responded to. It is not only me who has had this problem but many others have experienced the same. If I had known that UCI would be so irresponsible with their future students’ aid, I would have attended another school.” -S.P
“UCI's office of financial aid and scholarship bestows upon students unfair service. They have no respect in regards to timeliness and punctuality. I, along with many other students, have submitted documents weeks or months prior to the deadline only to still have them under review. E-mailing is useless at this point, and phone calls are almost impossible to connect through the other line due to the "high volume of calls". Students who have been in contact with the office in the past have only received an unhelpful response. Sometimes the OFAS says that the student must wait, and for some, they say their financial aid won't be processed until after the September 15th fee deadline, forcing students to pay $5,000 out of pocket. A $5,000 that most of us do not have. We are at risk of jeopardizing our admission to UCI at this point.” – Danny N
“I picked this school due to a grant I had originally received. Almost two weeks after submitting my SIR, signing a lease to live on campus, and accepting my loans I got an email telling me I had been selected for UCI's Financial Aid Verification. At this point my loans disappeared (along with my grant) and I was given several papers I needed to turn in. I was very timely with all of the paperwork and got everything in a week or so after being asked--almost a month before the deadline. A month later I received yet more paperwork and after turning it in it has sat there "under review," and I have had no contact with any financial aid representatives due to the "high volume of activity." Registration fees and rent are vastly approaching and I am worried that I will have to drop out of UCI and go to my local community college since my award may not be released until after the deadlines. Which is very disappointing considering I had many other options which I turned down to go to UCI.” -Hannah N.
“After filling out the financial aid verification form UCI has decided to COMPLETELY ERASE the $13K in grants they initially awarded me, and left me with just loans as options for payment. Something needs to be done about this type of trickery as it is being used as a bait tactic for enrollment.” - A. B.
“I chose UCI because I felt that I would be able to be in the presence of individuals that would understand the need of education in our society. I chose UCI because I fell in love with the diversity of the campus and the community it fostered. Lastly, I chose UCI because I come from a low-income family and knew that staying in-state, despite being offered a HUGE amount of aid from several different private schools, would be the best option. However, due to the lack of action by the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, I feel threatened, neglected and feel as if my hopes for access to higher education, are diminishing.” ~ J.D.
“UCI must give students an extension to pay fees. Period. We did our part now if you can't do yours, fix it.” -S.E
“I’m coming from a low income family. I am a first generation college student and I must admit I will not be able to attend UCI without financial aid. I turned in all the extra forms way before the due date and the fact that it has been sitting there saying “received-under review” for the last two months is beyond insane. I understand that there are a ton of students but the fact that when we call the number given to us we’re sent to a full voicemail. Somehow the automated voice message can be updated but our own financial aid award can’t? That should be the financial aid’s office MAIN priority especially the fact that they are THE FINANCIAL AID OFFICE. I called the health department recently to contact them if my immunization records were received and a representative picked up on the first ring. I tried to email the financial aid office as well but no reply despite how many emails I sent. It is important for me to see my financial aid award like now this is insane that we’ve been waiting extremely way too long.” - B.T.
We at UC Irvine demand that the Office of Financial Aid and University Administration answer our grievances. We demand to have our concerns addressed and alleviated for both now and for future years. We the incoming students deserve more efficient and more transparent assessment of aid as we come into our first years of college, and we the current students at UCI should not be subjected to such subpar treatment when we are already paying thousands upon thousands for tuition. In the closing, we only ask for the basic expectations upon enrolling or continuing at a university – to have a prepared and responsive financial aid office that will not take months onto months to ineffectively do what takes other universities weeks.
Please sign this petition to let our grievances be known and tell UCI that it is unfair to deny their students timely aid packages for their own office’s errors.
- Written by University of California, Irvine students