Some Berkeley City College Students Receive Overdue Financial Aid

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Correction Appended

After a long and frustrating delay, some students at Berkeley City College will finally be able to receive their federal financial aid checks now that a troublesome computer system has become functional.

Students had yet to receive their Pell Grants, causing some to face financial hardships or forgo buying their books.

According to state data, in the 2006-07 school year, approximately 1,000 students at the college received more than $2,000,000 in Pell Grants. Data for the current school year is not available.

All four colleges in the Peralta Community College District were unable to distribute the grants-which are financed by the federal government-because of a problem with a newly implemented district-wide computer system, said Gordon Poon, the interim vice president of student services at Berkeley City College.

However, Jeff Heyman, executive director for marketing and communications at the district office, said the financial checks were printed last night and will be sent to students shortly.

"We apologize for any inconvenience," Heyman said. "We are trying to move things forward, but we want to make sure we have up-to-date software for the students."

The new software is designed to streamline student services, but technicians have been struggling to successfully implement the system since it was purchased in April.

Betty Inclan, the president of Berkeley City College, said the school is "working diligently on the problem," but still has some work to do regarding the processing of financial aid checks, primarily because of staffing shortages.

The combined effect of the state budget impasse, coordinating a new computer system and difficulties staffing the financial aid office has been difficult for the college, Poon said.

"We are switching the system and freezing the staff at the same time," he said. "All we can do is rely on the dollars and the staff that we have."

While students will now be able to receive their federal aid, they are still unable to receive Cal Grants-a form of state financial aid-because the state government has yet to approve a budget.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced yesterday that he planned to veto a budget proposal that was presented to him by the legislature.

Poon said the delay of the potentially tight state budget, which included massive cuts to community colleges, has made it impossible for the college to hire staff.

The college has seen a rapid growth in their student population over the past year, Inclan said. She estimates that they have taken on almost 50 percent more students since 2007.

"What do we do in an urban community that has grown a lot but still does not have a state budget to accommodate that growth?" Inclan said.


Correction: Tuesday, October 14, 2008
An earlier version of this article misspelled Jeff Heyman's name.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Anna Widdowson at [email protected]

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