Computer glitch holds up financial aid money

November 2, 2008 3:13:59 PM PST
Students at four Bay Area community colleges are concerned about the financial aid they haven't received, but spokesperson Jeff Heymon says the rest of the checks will be printed and available for students who applied for financial aid this monday.

The first batches of checks have already been printed at each of the four colleges and the rest were to be pushed through over the weekend.

In total, over 4,000 checks will be printed.

The four colleges affected include Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, Laney College and Merritt College.

The most affected school is Berkeley City College, where some students have had to drop courses because they can't afford their books.

All together there are 6,000 students who have been affected. The four colleges implemented a new computer software system which was supposed to make things easier and quicker, but it hasn't and students are suffering the consequences.

"You know I've dropped two classes already," said Leslie Reed, a student.

The delay in financial aid is the talk on the Berkeley City College campus. Students were supposed to receive their checks in early September.

"I've had to borrow money from my parents, my parents had to take money out of their retirement fund," said Maya Gamble, a student.

"I've dropped two classes because the books are so expensive for the classes that are required for my degree," said Reed.

Students have been given the runaround by the Financial Aid Office.

"They're having computer problems, they are having problems with their system and that they are having problems sorting out who gets what and when I'm going to get it? They don't know," said Lydia Stevenson, a student.

All four colleges that fall under the Peralta Community College District have been affected.

"The colleges are responsible, their financial aid offices, for entering the applications, for processing the applications, but what has happened is not all of them have been entered because of some of the software glitches," said Jeff Heyman, from the Peralta Community College District.

Maryland-based Regent Education is the company which created the software.

In a statement Catherine Cook, a Regent spokesperson said "As soon as we were made aware of the problem at Peralta, Regent immediately sent out a team."

Regent also blamed Berkeley City College for their staff constraints -- something the district has acknowledged.

Eric Hoffman, a student, is supposed to get between $3,500 and $4,000 worth of financial aid a semester.

"This money is supposed to cover living expenses, school related expenses and help the economically disadvantaged cope and further their education," said Hoffman.

Hoffman was so frustrated he used his camera to record the long lines of students waiting outside the financial aid office. He then put it on YouTube.

"And this week what we are doing is we're pulling out all the stops. We are bringing people together, we are going to write checks manually if we have to get these things out," said Heyman.

The college district previously reported that 2,400 checks had been cut, and 3,600 students thad yet to receive any money. On Friday, the district promised to hand out more checks, but warned most of them will be issued sometime next week.


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