Changes to refund system push back disbursement

Samantha Wright

Changes to the way refunds of federal and state grants and loans are disbursed mean that now, students will not receive their money until after the 100% drop/add period. 

This change is effective starting with the 2016 spring semester, and it will apply to every semester afterwards. 

Cindy Burnette, the director of the Student Financial Assistance office, said the change was made because the 100% drop/add period often made the original amount of aid students received inaccurate, and they lost money as a result. 

Formerly, disbursement occurred ten days prior to the start of the semester, and residuals were released on the Friday before the Monday when classes started. 

The first week of school is the 100% drop/add period, and when students drop and add classes, it changes the amount of hours in which they are enrolled. This can affect the amount of aid they receive.

“We were seeing such an increase in the number of students that received residual funds prior to the start of the semester and [who] changed their enrollment during that week … we had to take a lot of funds back that had already been disbursed,” Burnette said.

Discussing changes to the system, she said student input was also used. 

She said students who had changed enrollment were surveyed and asked whether they would prefer to receive their money immediately or wait until after the 100% drop/add period, and the package was finalized.

“When you give and you take away, students are not very happy about that, and so we looked at the percentage that that was impacting and evaluated what would be the best practice,” Burnette said. 

This change was first discussed last spring and was originally slated to start in the fall semester, but Burnette said they pushed it back to allow students time to plan. 

“We wanted to warn the students early enough in the fall so they could plan ahead,” she said. 

Alex Rusher, a sophomore from Madisonville, said that while she understands the changes will be beneficial by preventing people from obtaining money and then dropping out, her initial reaction was negative.

“My initial reaction at first was like, ‘Oh wait, that sucks. I have to wait for my money now,’” Rusher said. 

She said she will have to make some changes to how she pays for expenses and that she will need to let her landlord know she is going to be a little later on her rent than expected. 

She said most of the people she has talked to understand why the change was necessary, but are not happy about it. 

“I think people are going to have a lot of problems with it because people only pay their rent up until [the money] is ready to come around next time, or they’ll pay their insurance up, and a lot of times, landlords aren’t going to take any excuse,” she said. 

Rusher said despite her opinion, she believes the new model will ultimately be a good thing.

“I think it’s going to be hard at first, but I think once they get over that hump, it’ll be easier,” she said.