With three weeks left to go in the fall semester, Long Beach City College’s Financial Aid office has made it through almost 5,000 appeals and requests for extensions of federal financial help — getting up to forms filed through Aug. 26.
That has put some students in a bind, according to student Stephanie Lloyd, because they don’t have money to buy textbooks and are in danger of losing percentages of grades due to failure to pay for classes.
Mark Taylor, LBCC’s director of public affairs, said students including Lloyd had waited too long to file for their extensions, putting themselves in the bad spot. Add a staff down to one financial aid counselor to hand-review all applications, and it’s impressive the office has gotten through as much as it has, he added.
“We’re talking about the cases that have gone beyond the regular time financial aid is allowed,” Taylor said. “Those have to be hand-reviewed, and they are very labor intensive. It’s not just a matter of putting a stamp on it.
“They are working through the backlog in the order received, and in fact the application in question should be reviewed in the next week.”
Taylor said LBCC has seen a huge increase in applications for financial aid, with more than 13,000 students receiving more than $19 million this year. That means nearly half of those attending LBCC this year are receiving financial aid.
All those applications run through an office that has two full-time counselors — and one of those counselors has been out on medical leave for the last six weeks, Taylor said. Counselors from other departments have attempted to help, but the reviews of extension requests and appeals of denials are particularly time consuming, he added.
“They have to go through the course work to see what qualifies,” Taylor said. “It’s very tedious, and labor-intensive.”
Lloyd said she has been taking classes off and on since 1995 at LBCC. Working in accounting, she said she lost her job in 2008 and decided to return to school fulltime.
“I am currently 60 years old and a minority,” Lloyd wrote. “I have applied for financial Aid through the proper channels of applications, Promissory notes, and entrance and exit exams to qualify for this program. I was approved for financial aid in 2009; in 2011 I received direct loans to supplement my education and to continue in school.”
She said she was told she had to resubmit her application for an extension, and got the paperwork in on Aug. 30 this year, after the beginning of the fall semester. She said that she has been told that her grade in one class will drop by 5% on Nov. 29 if her fees are not paid.
Taylor reiterated that the Financial Aid Office was working as fast as possible, and said Lloyd’s case would be reviewed before her Nov. 29 deadline. The fall semester ends Dec. 17, when campuses close for the winter recess.