They need to put together functional, professional financial aid departments. They need to hire people who understand the following:
a) This is the greatest financial stress many families will ever undertake, and for many it will require scrambling and hustling. They are, by and large, doing their fucking best.
b) Most undergraduate students aren’t paying their own tuition. You know that those checks come from parents, grandparents, whoever. Those students who aren’t on financial aid aren’t paying out of their own pocket either, so please don’t treat me like I’m not taking my education seriously or am irresponsible because my father sucks at paying bills on time.
c) Academic holds that don’t allow students to pre-register for the classes they need if their bill hasn’t been paid are classist. Obviously you can’t take classes without paying for them, but NO ONE has paid for the classes they’re signing up for, because they happen NEXT SEMESTER.
d) The more difficult dealing with your financial aid system is, including the website and the people in the office, the more alienated those students who are on financial aid feel. You need to devise a communication system that makes sure that students and alumni have all the information they need to be able to successfully apply for, accept, and pay off student loans. Of course, there are always going to be students who fail to do these things, who default on their loans or don’t fill out the forms or otherwise neglect these responsibilities for any number of reasons, understandable or not. And in that case, loans go to collection, warnings get sent out, holds get put on accounts, etc. But for fuck’s sake, make sure you’re giving people as many opportunities as possible to get it right! Caesar’s wife must be above reproach.
This rant is brought to you by an email I just received from my alma mater, in which a “student loan coordinator” told me that a loan I have was three months overdue and going to collections. This is the first communication I have gotten about this loan, via phone or email. It’s not that much money, actually, and luckily very easy for me to take care of this month. But this is the second time that this individual person has sent me emails threatening punitive action regarding something that had never been brought to my attention in the first place. The first time it was an “exit counseling” exercise and she threatened to not let me graduate, only that was the first I’d heard of it.
FedLoan servicing is the literal devil, and they still manage to communicate better than you, Frogandtoad’s Alma Mater!