Students Shuffled Between Finance Offices

Photo: A UC Berkeley student waits outside the financial aid office in Sproul Hall. The Billing and Payment Services office is a 20-minute walk away.
Shirin Ghaffary/Photo
A UC Berkeley student waits outside the financial aid office in Sproul Hall. The Billing and Payment Services office is a 20-minute walk away.

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UC Berkeley senior Jannet Torres was tired of walking from the campus financial aid office in Sproul Hall to the Billing and Payment Services office on Oxford and Addison streets trying to find someone who could answer her financial aid inquiries.

The trek, a 20-minute walk, became pointless for Torres when she realized she was just being redirected back to the office she just came from.

"I just decided to start calling the offices because there was no point going there," she said. "It is a waste of time. They would just tell me to go back (to the other office)."

Other students have also complained about having to go back and forth between the two offices located across the campus from each other. As a result, the offices have begun encouraging students to start utilizing the MyFinAid website.

The four-year-old website allows students to view their aid packages and track their funds each semester. Cheryl Resh, assistant vice chancellor and director of financial aid, said the website should be able to tell students everything they need to know, including what funds they will receive and how their packages will be allocated.

"Students should not have to know or care which office is handling which part of the delivery process, and we are always working to make this more seamless," she said in an e-mail. "When the Financial Aid Office states that an award is paid, it means that within a day these funds will appear ... That aid is applied to current term charges."

Joyce Sturm, campus director of billing and payment services, said she hopes more students will turn to MyFinAid to answer questions rather than having to travel between the offices.

She added that the offices recognize the geographical separation could be a problem for students, but in truth the offices are purposefully separated and UC Berkeley tends to share similar organizational structuring with other campuses across the country, including Ivy League schools like the University of Pennsylvania. However, she added that organization may be altered in the future through changes by Operational Excellence - a campus initiative aimed to save a total of $75 million through various cost-cutting projects.

"Is our organization effective for the future? We don't know," she said. "But I don't know that students want to talk to us all that much. If they can do it themselves, I think they might like that it's more convenient."

While the billing and payment office reports to the campus Controller's Office and the financial aid office reports to the Division of Student Affairs, Resh and Sturm stated that through Operational Excellence's organizational simplification initiative, office structures may change to improve communication with students.

But last week, when UC Berkeley senior Hilary Hyatt visited the financial aid office to ask about her aid, she was given a slip of paper with the MyFinAid website address and told to use the site to monitor her aid transactions before being told there was nothing more she could do. Hyatt, who has tuition fees due Nov. 15, said she wished someone from one of the offices could have guided her through the process of receiving her aid on time.

"I heard them talking about creating my aid package while I was sitting right there in the office before they said to just go to the MyFinAid website to see what is happening with my money," she said. "Should I be scared?


Katie Nelson is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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