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2009 January 13 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Tulsa CC Takes Steps To Unravel Severe Financial Aid Delays

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Problems at Tulsa Community College left as many as 1,500 students without their financial aid last semester. In response, TCC hired an external financial aid company to look at the college’s operation and help process the aid.

The difficulties occurred because the college is switching to a new computer system for tracking and processing student data and staff members had to be trained on the new software. The creation of a financial aid call center also caused confusion, and high enrollment added to the difficulties.

“There were changes that we planned and anticipated, and then there were changes that we did not,” said Jan Clayton, acting associate vice president for student affairs. “It took a little longer than I would like for me to realize that.”

Leah Price didn’t get her financial aid until halfway through November, she said, and when she protested to the college’s provost, she said she didn’t get any response.

When the check finally came, it was for less than $5 because of late fees charged to her account.

“I didn’t get any money to buy books or anything,” Price said.

Since the problems emerged, TCC has spent $31,000 to assess its practices, and the contract for additional processing will be $15,000 or less. In the meantime, holds on the accounts were lifted so students could begin enrollment.

The college began the process of becoming a direct lender earlier this year, when traditional lenders began notifying TCC they would not be making loans to students. About 70 percent of the financial institutions TCC has used in the past stopped making loans to college students. The demand for aid also increased by nearly 15 percent, Clayton said.

“That, combined with this bubble of enrollment, just really overwhelmed our staff and resources,” she said. 

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