Facing Eviction Due to Financial Aid

Photo: Gina Cariveau and her family faced eviction if she could not pay rent due to delays in receiving financial aid. Cariveau is one of many student parents in this situation.
Tim Maloney/Photo
Gina Cariveau and her family faced eviction if she could not pay rent due to delays in receiving financial aid. Cariveau is one of many student parents in this situation.

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On Oct. 19, UC Berkeley senior Gina Cariveau came home around 7 p.m. to find her 18-year-old son sobbing as he was cradled by his 11-year-old brother on the couch of Cariveau's apartment in University Village in Albany.

Cariveau panicked. She could not figure out why her older son was so upset. But then he gave her a piece of paper that stated they would be evicted from their apartment if Cariveau could not pay rent within 60 days.

"All he kept saying was that we're going to get thrown out and that we would have to move," she said. "He asked if he needed to call his dad, who is deployed in the Middle East, or if he needed to quit school and help pay rent. In his mind, that was better than me having to leave school."

Cariveau is one of dozens of student parents facing possible eviction from their campus-owned homes in either the Smyth Fernwald Complex or University Village due to financial aid delays. This year, the campus financial aid office has had record delays due to glitches in its recently installed ProSAM software, implemented to expedite the aid allocation process.

Though rent costs vary depending on where student parents live - a $980 minimum at Smyth Fernwald or a $1,254 minimum at University Village - most rely heavily on aid to help pay rent each month. Eviction notices, at an all-time high compared to previous years, range from five-day notifications to 30- or 60-day notifications.

California Civil Code section 1946.1 states that landlords - in this case the university - are allowed to hand out eviction notices to tenants if they do not pay rent on time. But with current programming issues in the financial aid office, students are not receiving their aid in time to pay for student fees or rent. As a result, they feel eviction notices are premature or unwarranted because the office has not been able to properly allocate aid packages.

Alice Jordan, coordinator of student parent programs and services at the Transfer, Re-entry, and Student Parent Center, sent a letter to Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs for Residential and Student Service Programs LeNorman Strong in early October asking for a moratorium on all eviction notices until the financial aid office is able to process aid packages, including appeal forms, for student parents.

"I don't think it occurred to anyone that this could drag out into November," she said. "Now, because student parents are not able to afford university housing, there has been a growing trend for the housing office to rent spaces in (University Village) to faculty, staff, visiting scholars, etc. Basically anyone who can pay rent or has some affiliation to the university. Those who can pay are put there, not necessarily the student parents who actually need it."

Strong, who is responsible for signing off on eviction notices, said it is "critical" that student parents voice their concerns to bridge an information gap between housing and financial aid. According to Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Financial Aid Cheryl Resh, Cal Housing and the financial aid office are collaborating to try to address students' concerns about financial aid authorizations and housing issues.

"Students should know that the delay is not their fault," Strong said. "The last thing we want to do is add additional stress to lives of students."

Though groups such as the ASUC Renter's Legal Assistance could be of use to students for issues such as rent disputes, Jordan said student parents cannot utilize the organization because it does not have any jurisdiction over university housing, despite the fact that rent money from student parents goes directly back to the campus.

According to senior Melissa Barker, an intern for the association as well as a student parent who lives at Smyth Fernwald, the association can only help students if their housing is not part of the university system. The university oversees its own renters' policy for university housing, whether they are on or off-campus.

Per university rules, student parent housing is considered off-campus and, rather than having money be directly withdrawn from their financial aid to pay for rent - as it is for students who live in the dorms - the monthly payment is processed through the student parents' CARS accounts, making it a "renter-to-landlord" payment process.

"With financial aid holdups, packages aren't being processed and budget appeals are just sitting there and student bills are rising," Barker said. "Student parents are having to rent out rooms for $200 to $300 a month just to survive. It's technically illegal to do that, or so it says in the contract, but what else can they do? It's like a direct marginalization of a specific group of students."

Tags: UC BERKELEY FINANCIAL AID OFFICE, CAL HOUSING, ASUC RENTER'S LEGAL ASSISTANCE


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



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