Financial Aid Office Works To Fix Errors In Software

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Analysis: Financial Aid Struggle Part 2

Lead Academics and Administrations reporter, Katie Nelson, speaks with James Zhao about the updates with regards to financial aid's new funding allocation system, ProSAM.


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Despite meticulous plans for its funding and deployment, UC Berkeley's implementation of a new financial aid management software system meant to replace an older system has been riddled with unresolved glitches and unexpected costs, issues that the financial aid office is still working to amend.

Since the campus started using ProSAM - the campus's student aid management software developed over three years by an outside vendor - last semester to prepare financial aid packages this semester, system errors caused the financial aid office to spend months attempting to distribute aid packages properly. Hundreds of students either did not receive their aid on time or were asked to return money.

After working continuously to fix the errors, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Financial Aid Cheryl Resh said the office was able to resolve two important issues within ProSAM as of last Wednesday, and as of Monday, more than 15,000 students had their financial aid repackaged and received more money.

"Maybe 100 students were affected by remaining systems issues that we were actively working on," she said in an e-mail. "The students affected by this issue have all now been paid and most have their refunds in their bank accounts."

Though some problems have been resolved, Information Services and Technology and the system's creator will continue to work with the financial aid office to fix any further issues with ProSAM, according to IST Deputy Chief Information Officer Michael Mundrane.

But because the process has taken so long, many students were unable to pay for expenses such as tuition and rent months into the semester.

UC Berkeley junior James Nagy, who applied for and accepted his 2010-11 aid package in August, had not received any aid as of last Tuesday.

"While I want to think better of them, it really does seem that the Financial Aid Office is dragging its feet," he said in an e-mail.

ProSAM was developed as part of the Student Systems 2012 Initiative - an eight- to 10-year program focused on improving student services through a partnership between the Division of Student Affairs and IST that is expected to cost between $15 million and $20 million.

Though ProSAM is supposed to be more cost-effective, according to a July 2010 budget update report it is expected to cost $2.89 million - $259,048 more than the funding allocated for the project.

Additionally, a majority of the project's funding comes from the IT Bank, a separate account intended to finance information technology projects focused on innovation.

The system was tested for errors starting in August 2008 until its implementation last semester, according to the Student Affairs Fiscal Year 2009-10 Budget Submission, but unresolved glitches and project delays were prevalent throughout its development. A status report from March stated the software "may not be ready when the ProSAM service ismade available to students on March 25, 2010."

"People don't understand how dynamic financial aid is," Resh said in the e-mail. "We had to prioritize and work on the many remaining processes and reports. All spring and summer we were getting the myriad of processes in place for disbursing the aid."

Though students this semester seeking financial aid have had a hard time receiving their funds, the system prepared aid packages for freshmen and graduate students in March and April more successfully.

Resh said the system's web interface was an improvement because of the ease of use and speed compared with the old implementation. A May ProSAM project update stated that in March, "students were repackaged in MyFinAid within 15 seconds of making changes ... a process which used to take weeks of manual effort."

"Everyone in the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office has a strong commitment to our student clients," Resh in an e-mail. "My very committed staff have worked up to seven days a week for over a year now trying to put in the aid system of the future for this campus and we have succeeded."

Tags: UC BERKELEY FINANCIAL AID OFFICE, PROSAM


Contact Katie Nelson and James Zhao at [email protected]



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