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By CINDY SIMPSON
A new software system has contributed to Roane State Community College’s delays in getting students their financial aid.
In an attempt to catch up, Roane State Community College’s financial aid office closed last Thursday and Friday to focus on filing.
To deal with the influx of paperwork, they have worked extra hours and hired four temporary employees, said Joy Goldberg, assistant vice president over the financial aid office.
“Staff have worked nights, weekends and holidays processing,” she said.
“There are so many files,” Goldberg added. “We certainly admit being behind in process-ing; it is not how it should be.”
Goldberg said a new Web-based computer program from the Tennessee Board of Regents is part of the problem.
“This is our first year with the software,” she said.
Work that normally could begin in March and April could not be done until late May this year, Goldberg said.
“The system wasn’t ready to start communicating with students,” she said. As a result, application files were incomplete.
“We did try throughout the summer before July 15 to contact students to get their file complete,” Goldberg said.
Making matters worse, more applicants than usual filed after the July 15 priority deadline, Goldberg said.
“We don’t really know why,” Goldberg said.
Students who filed by July 15 were guaranteed that their money would be available at the start of school, and the college was able to hold to that.
The college and the state push a number of initiatives each year to get students to file as early as possible.
College Goal Sunday, an event scheduled each February, puts college officials together with parents and students to file their financial aid.
“February is good because most people have their tax situation figured out,” Goldberg said.
For students who are concerned about their financial aid, Goldberg said, several options may help.
For example, if students filed late and the department cannot put the money in their ac-counts yet, one option they may benefit from involves deferred payments.
Students may also be able to get loans for tuition and fees.
Goldberg said the Dean of Students office has emergency loan money provided by the Roane State Foundation.
It is “good for tuition and fees only for 30 days,” Goldberg said.
“That buys us 30 days to try and get their financial aid in order,” Goldberg said. “It does not give them any cash, and it does not allow them to charge books.”
Another option is a financial-aid waiver, which is like a 30-day loan.
Goldberg said she had talked to other Tennessee Board of Regents schools and heard of delays elsewhere as well.