UC Davis is two months behind on processing financial aid and scholarships and may have to issue short-term loans to students so they can pay for books, food and rent when school begins Sept. 19, according to campus officials.
The university told students in a recent letter from Deborah Agee, director of financial aid and scholarships, that the school expected to process only 50 percent of the applications by Aug. 22 – the fall billing date – instead of the 90 percent typically completed by then.
On Friday, university spokeswoman Kimberly Hale revised that figure, saying about 70 percent had been completely processed.
Students usually have until Sept. 15 to pay their tuition, but this year will be able to pay whenever their financial aid package comes in, Hale said. She said students will be able to apply for a 30-day, no-interest loan to cover books and living expenses until their financial aid comes in.
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“It is unusual,” Hale said. “But, the bottom line is that students won’t be affected. Late fees will be waived and temporary loans will be put in place. Students will be taken care of.”
The delays are due to a technology glitch that requires more information than usual be put into the system manually and limited staffing, according to Hale. The letter also says that fewer than half of eligible students have turned in all their required documents.
The financial aid department has instituted mandatory overtime, temporary hires and is seeking assistance from other units in the university “to mitigate the delay,” according to the letter.
Hale said the problem wasn’t due to a staff shortage. The office gears up with extra staff and additional overtime during the period each year between when applications are received and financial aid packages are processed, she said. She said staffing is limited in that temporary staffers work limited hours.
Increased enrollment at the university may have contributed to the backlog, Hale said. The university expects approximately 700 more freshmen and transfer students for fall 2016, she said. In 2014-15, 75 percent of UC Davis undergraduates received some form of financial aid, according to university data.
UC Davis senior Carli Hambley said she’s concerned the short-term loans won’t be enough.
“I personally have a lot more buffer than a lot of my friends,” Hambley said. “Without aid, they can’t afford their rent or food or school.”
Hambley, who protested against the administration in March, questioned the university’s priorities. “They build a fancy art museum and other construction projects using our tuition as collateral, but we can’t get our tuition disbursed,” Hambley said.
The university is informing students about the delay through email, Twitter and web updates, Hale said. Students who want to apply for a short-term loan must contact the financial aid office. If they have questions, they should go to students.my.ucdavis.edu or financialaid.ucdavis.edu.