On Monday night, the Director of the Office of Financial Aid and the Dean of Enrollment Management came to answer SGA’s questions on financial aid and outline the goals for the office in the future.

My first open meeting! This is so exciting! Welcome one, welcome all to my coverage about SGA’s meeting! Yesterday, March 3rd, I attended the lively open meeting for SGA about everything financial aid. I rolled up in my Phoebe Bridgers t-shirt, my gray sweatpants, slippers, and computer, and was ready to hear about what the Office of Financial Aid had in store for the SGA. Like a little mouse, I sat at the back row and I furiously typed away, ready to report back to all of you. One thing is for certain, SGA is working tirelessly to be the voice of the students for the Office of Financial Aid, and also to relay information from the Office of Financial Aid back to the student body.

The meeting commenced with all of the SGA representatives passing a microphone around for introductions and announcements. Here is a recap:

  • A big thank you to everyone who came to the Barnard SGA Spring formal! (Also give a round of applause to SGA for planning the spring formal!)
  • Come to How-To Senior Thesis Tips and Tricks, Tuesday (today!) March 7th from 6-7pm in Milstein 225. There will be free pizza and refreshments and seniors will be sharing their theses! I repeat, free pizza and refreshments!!
  • Be on the lookout for posters from SGA for events for Ramadan and other upcoming holidays!
  • Also be on the lookout for a fun and festive board outside Liz’s Place for International Women’s Day about a woman that inspires you. I will definitely be writing something for this board!
  • If you are interested in applying to be an orientation leader for the next school year, check the latest SGA emails for more information.

After external announcements, Executive Director of Financial Aid, Dr. C.C. Hodge, and Dean of Enrollment Management, Christina Lopez, introduced themselves and began their presentation on the goals for the Office of Financial Aid. 

Director C.C. Hodge, who recently became Director of Financial Aid in August 2022, began the presentation by listing the three overall goals for the Office of Financial Aid: systems optimization, staff development, and student financial literacy. Here is a breakdown of what the office plans on achieving based on these three goals.

  1. Systems optimization
  • Becoming more efficient in processing timelines on when students are able to receive aid.
  • Collaborating with other offices like Access Barnard, in making the process of financial aid more efficient and easy.
  • Improving system integrations.
  1. Staff Development
  • Focusing on credentialing of staff.
  • Getting the staff to be as knowledgeable as possible about financial aid and helping the students.
  • Developing and setting student service excellence standards.
  1. Student Financial Literacy
  • Creating tools to educate and help students about Financial aid, P&P, and student jobs.
  • Collaborating with Access Barnard to create consistency in communication with students.
  • Making sure information is open and easily accessible to students in spaces that many students access.

Overall what I took away from these goals is that the Office of Financial Aid is working with students and with SGA to create more integrated and accessible tools to help students in their financial aid process. They want to ensure that all students in need of financial aid are getting the help they need, by the most qualified staff possible. In addition, they are hoping to work with more students to gain feedback on their work and if their goals are improving the current system.

Next, the presentation went to statistics about financial aid. Here are a couple of important statistics that the Director Hodge shared:

  • 49% of residential students have financial aid and 44 students who are living off campus have financial aid.
  • First year students pay $11,738 to cover their housing.
  • Upperclassmen pay $11,192 to cover their housing costs.
  • People who live off campus pay $1,800 for room and board.

Here are some goals and other important information that was shared:

  • The office is trying to put metro cards into financial aid for commuter students.
  • Barnard is focused on need blind admissions.
  • There is no reduction in financial aid even with the increased enrollment of students and the financial aid budget will grow to accommodate this increased enrollment.

Director Hodge closes the presentation by explaining that the Office of Financial Aid is on our side! Their main objective is to support students, however they want us to remember that the office is compliance based. This means that they have to comply with federal and state regulations. However, they hear us and are doing their best to work with us and to quote Director Hodge, “trying not to give us PTSD like she had with her financial aid”.

Lastly, we come to the Q&A portion of the meeting. SGA came ready with their questions and to quote Director Hodge once again, she “came ready for a roast”. In light of the Barnard RA protests and previous issues with the Office of Financial Aid, SGA began to ask very pertinent questions. Here are some of the questions and their corresponding answers.

How does becoming an RA affect the financial aid package?

All RAs are paid equitably. However, the office can not overgive to people with financial aid and the office has to be compliant to the federal and state regulations on how much financial aid a student is able to receive. They did not answer this question too in depth because this is an ongoing issue. 

What are the ways the Office of Financial Aid is getting feedback and what are the best ways for a student to do so? Are they anonymous?

The Office of Financial Aid has been doing one-on-one counseling for students and then asking how they can improve their systems. They are also working on a student satisfaction survey for more feedback.

How can students get on campus jobs and work study when there seems to be not enough jobs on campus?

As a short term solution, in the fall the office tried to help by partnering with Access Barnard to provide jobs and give a list of names to be put on the radar for hiring with on campus jobs. To help in the long term they hope to change the culture around student employment for faculty. They hope to create an atmosphere where professors are receptive to posting jobs. They are also focused on centralizing the place to find jobs on campus. Director Hodge also provided some advice to students who have a job award. She said to maintain visibility with hiring managers, send emails to people who have openings, and if there are not any, ask if there is anything on the horizon.

That was it for the Monday night meeting and all things financial aid! Thank you for tuning in! See you all next week for more coverage!

Image via Bwarchives