I am at a loss... (paying for school)

<p>I'm going to lay out the basics. Please keep judgements to yourself if you don't have any real advice to give. I am absolutely going crazy right now.</p>

<p>I'm currently in Pennsylvania, planning to attend school in New York at the University at Buffalo. Classes start at the end of the month and I'm scheduled to move in to my apartment, for which I've already signed a 12-month lease, on the 27th.</p>

<p>My school gave me the run-around for nearly three months with my financial aid. For nearly two months, no one from the financial aid department would even speak to me. Finally, a friend offered to act as my attorney and miraculously someone at the school found time to chat with me, though the situation only got worse from there. About a week ago I finally received the number that my school would certify for a private student loan. I've received 15,700 in federal aid, and the school has certified up to 18,490, which includes the cost of a computer and mandatory health insurance since I currently do not have coverage.</p>

<p>I am 24, returning to school after an unsuccessful attempt at The Art Institute a few years ago. As an independent student, my parents have no obligation to help me, but my mother and father have both co-signed different loan applications for me and we've been denied. I've applied at SallieMae, Chase, and Citi. My stepfather, who makes about 80,000/year will not co-sign and says I have to move out at the end of the month whether I go to school or not.</p>

<p>I drive, but I do not have a car of my own. I've signed a lease for an apartment in a student-housing complex off campus, and have already signed the promissory note to accept my federal aid. I don't know what to do. I don't know how I'm going to get the money I need, because I really want to go to school. And if I can't go, I don't know if it's too late to cancel my federal aid. And then there's the issue of my apartment. I could start applying for jobs, but my stepdad wouldn't let me drive the car to Buffalo if I even managed to get an interview.</p>

<p>I'm sorry if there appears to be no order at all to this. I just can't focus on anything right now because I'm so worried that everything I've worked for this past year is just vanishing and I feel powerless. I never thought I'd have this much trouble. If the school had helped me back in May when I contacted them, I could have avoided signing the lease until I knew whether or not I'd get the loans I need.</p>

<p>What is your total shortfall of money after counting all verified aid, loans, your own cash, etc?</p>

<p>If it is the case you can not afford this college, stop delaying and get your enrollment and year lease cancelled now while you still can. If you can't manage via phone and email (though you should--ask your friend again if needed) then take a bus or beg a ride from a friend and do it all in person. Delay could leave you on hook with it all.</p>

<p>You may have to regroup this year and move out to an affordable town and replan your college path.</p>

<p>As miserable as you feel right now, please know that dropping U Buffalo now may keep you from 4 times as much heartache. That the fin aid people wouldn't talk to you is a huge red flag. It is their JOB to help students navigate financial aid. </p>

<p>So you could then look forward to several more years of horrible stress as these layabouts continue to not do their job any better. Ugh. </p>

<p>So, here's the sequence I would go for:
1) gallop to the nearest colleges to where you physically reside right now and walk into the admissions office. Take a folder of your data with you (transcript from high school, resume, letter of federal aid, any letters of reference) and say you were to attend U Buffalo but the money didn't work out (you may make ONE unkind reference to the tardiness of their staff but don't dwell on it). Ask Admissions if they could find a spot for you this fall. Rinse and repeat until you find at least one college or community college that will take you. </p>

<p>2)Inform the student-housing right away that your money stream failed and you will not be attending U Buffalo this fall. They may keep your deposit (but the sooner you act, the better your chances of getting your money back). Trust me, they have all sorts of adventures every year of this sort. If they get nasty about the contract, get to an attorney but chances are they won't. </p>

<p>3) See this as your chance to demonstrate resilience. We don't develop certain skills unless we have opportunities to practice. This is yours. You are overwhelmed at the moment, but you are a worthwhile human being. You are going to side step the quagmire of U Buffalo for the moment and regroup closer to home. You are not going to be hateful (because, among other things, you might want to transfer to U Buffalo next term or next fall). </p>

<p>4) Once you are in classes and your life isn't so nuts, take a moment and do a professional email to the U Buffalo president saying how sad you are not to be there this fall but that the hurdles with fin aid office kept you from enrolling. He/she needs to know. </p>

<p>I was once "left at the altar". I cried for three days. I never knew a person could cry so much. I went back to work, then later back to school, where I met a tall, fun PhD candidate. I went from Loser 1.0 to Darling Hubby 10.0. </p>

<p>So you are being jerked around by a Loser Fin Aid department. Have a cry and then take your business elsewhere. Good luck!</p>

<p>PS My son was an RA for student housing one year. One of his residents didn't show up -- the young woman had eloped to South America! Believe me, having students cancel spaces happens all the time.</p>

<p>Olymom gives you great advice. My son's roommate never showed up last year, the one that moved into the room in October, didn't come back for second semester. It happens.</p>

<p>Is the housing lease that you signed with a private company or the university? It sounds like you have a lease with a private company that is operating student apartments near the university.</p>

<p>If so, that may be your biggest headache/problem. At this point, it may be harder to get out of that lease without some large money obligation....especially if the management doesn't think it can find someone else to lease it.</p>

<p>I don't know if you can sub-let it...that might be a possibility if you're held to that lease. </p>

<p>If it is school operated, then you might have an easier time getting out of the lease...especially if they have a waiting list for those apts.</p>

<p>Once you get this all settled, look to to go to school in your own state. You can avoid OOS costs and may get better FA. NY publics aren't likely going to be that helpful to an OOS student anyway.</p>

<p>Take this year to get your finances in order....get a car...get some savings.</p>

<p>Jorjor, I have a junior at UB so know a bit about the background and current problems the FA department is experiencing...they are affecting returning students like mine as well! First, it is NOT impossible to get a FA advisor on the phone and I've managed to speak with them every time I've called with no attorney intervention necessary! Suggest you start with the SRC (yes, there will likely be a wait...just be patient as they handle calls fairly quickly) and ask to speak with a supervisor and they WILL transfer you to financial aid. I have found John Smith and Roseanne D'Arata to be quite helpful IF it's something that they can actually help with...but it does pay to start early and be persistent. If your question can be answered by email, that can be another route to take.</p>

<p>UB implemented a new financial aid/billing system in May, which delayed the processing of many awards for summer and for returning students (my D still hasn't been packaged for fall). I have not heard of this affecting incoming students who filed FAFSA by the priority deadline....were you late in getting your FAFSA to them? Anyway, it's unfortunate, but it's what it is and they did not/will not impose late charges for fall due to late FA issues caused by the new system. It is not too late to have them cancel your aid and loans for fall, just email or call them!</p>

<p>Right now, it sounds like your main problem is that you haven't been able to secure the additional loans that you need, right? And you've signed a lease for off-campus, student housing at a place like Sweethome that is not affiliated with UB, correct? They are often able to fill spots, since they're basically renting by the bedroom within each apartment, but definitely notify them immediately if you need to get out of the lease! Fwiw, while they are convenient, I think their apartments are quite overpriced and there are lower cost alternatives within walking distance. As far as jobs go, Buffalo does have public transportation and there are quite a few on-campus, non-workstudy positions as well. But your best bet would be to bring a car to Buffalo.</p>

<p>I agree with M2CK that you probably need to regroup and look for a school in PA that is more affordable, although the SUNYs tend to be more generous with OOS than instate kids! Our governor just signed a 5-year tuition increase yesterday which will raise OOS tuition by 10% and I'm pretty sure that UB is the priciest of the SUNYs due to higher comprehensive fees and medical insurance costs.</p>

<p>How about calling up UB, asking if you can defer for one year. DO NOT TAKE ANY CLASSES. Live in the apartment. Work After one year I think you will qualify for instate tuition.</p>

<p>OP, looking at your comments on the UB forum, it seems like you weren't accepted until the end of April so I'd say you did fairly well in getting packaged within 3 months. If you think about it, students accepted in December/January don't receive their FA awards until March-April! Anyway, good luck and try not to be bitter...a window will open somewhere and kayf's suggestion is a good one too!</p>

<p>Olymom, I'm not sure how familiar you are with UB, but packaging 28,000 students every year while holding walk-in hours daily and fielding phone calls and emails is a pretty huge task. I think you're a bit harsh in describing them as "layabouts", though it sure does seem that way when everyone is clamoring for attention and there's not enough bodies to go around! My kid flat out refuses to go sit in the FA office unless she has 2 hours and a good book to read.</p>

<p>You are correct that I was harsh -- perhaps undeservedly so. The OP indicated that she couldn't get someone to speak to her about her case. If she was being reasonable (calling at an appropriate time, being polite, trying to ascertain basic information) then it is not ok for her to be unable to learn about her file. </p>

<p>However, details matter. If her application was late or incomplete, then it may have been impossible for a staff member to answer questions or to move the file forward to resolution. </p>

<p>I do know that all colleges are strapped right now -- but adequately staffing the financial aid office is an imperative for a college to function. When the money is unclear, students have to bail out (as OP may have to do), which hurts both college and students. The college president and deans have to know that they had 28,000 students last year and will have about that this year -- and should staff accordingly! </p>

<p>Most colleges give extra time to the incoming freshmen/first year students as they are aware that this group is learning the process. If OP is a first year applicant and can't get informed in a timely manner, then that really doesn't bode well for subsequent years. </p>

<p>OP seems to have disappeared -- let's all wish her luck and hope that everyone's fin aid packages unfold well this fall. . .</p>

<p>
[quote]
Most colleges give extra time to the incoming freshmen/first year students as they are aware that this group is learning the process. If OP is a first year applicant and can't get informed in a timely manner, then that really doesn't bode well for subsequent years. </p>

<p>

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Actually OP is a transfer student</p>

<p>I'm curious....do most/many colleges have fully staffed FA offices 12 months a year or do some/many of the staff only work 10 months a year?</p>

<p>I think it varies by size of campus. There are some colleges that are teeny. Deep Springs College might not have a financial aid office at all as I believe they do not charge tuition.
But most big schools have year around staff -- and year around students.</p>

<p>Mom2, I don't know about most/many but UB's FA office always seems to be fully staffed through the summer. Several weeks ago they told me that the processing unit was/is working 7 days a week to get everyone caught up.</p>

<p>I do know that all colleges are strapped right now -- but adequately staffing the financial aid office is an imperative for a college to function. </p>

<hr>

<p>From your mouth to the administration's ears ... </p>

<p>In my experience, the aid office is viewed as expendable by many school administrators. They don't understand the work required to process aid. It's part of why I left the field. My school had been extraordinarily far behind in processing when I began working there (3 hour waits at the start of the term). We got fully staffed, fully trained ... began to turn things around ... and then they began to cut back again. The straw that broke the camel's back came recently when the powers that be demonstrated how little they thought of the aid officers (not worth going into). Suffice it to say that aid officers are often buried in work ... they want to help, but there are only so many hours in a day.</p>

<p>OP, how much money do you need for the year? What is your class standing (year in school)? How much were you offered in Pell, SEOG, sub & unsub Stafford loans?</p>

<p>But adequately staffing the university administration never seems to be a problem ... very frustrating for students, workers, payers, and all of society.</p>

<p>Kelsmom....didn't know that you had left your FA job. Sorry to hear that it didn't work out. Hope you've landed in a better place.</p>

<p>:)</p>

<p>I left at the end of June & have been working in my now job for a little more than a month. I miss financial aid ... I truly enjoyed helping students and families, and I really liked the work itself. However, there is so much I do not miss, and my new employer is wonderful. It was a good move for me. Unfortunately, since financial aid is a field with many regulations that change often, my days as an "expert" on CC are drawing to a close. :(</p>