By Zeynab Day
The Eastern student financial aid refund policy has been changed, delaying refunds until after the add-drop period. The announcement prompted an online petition with nearly 400 signatures on Monday.
Evan Dehamer, 34, wildlife management major and transfer student from Boise State, had discussed the changes with other students and started a petition on SignOn.org and a link made available through EKU Students Today.
“The EKU student body was notified by email of a financial aid refund policy change on 31 October, 2012. This change proposes to begin distributing financial aid refunds at least a full 14 days later in the semester than they have in the past,” reported the petition.
DeHamer said he understood the change to begin the Spring 2013 semester with a two-week delay when drawing the petition. After further research, however, the delay for the Spring 2013 semester is total of five days with refunds being sent on Jan. 16. For the Fall 2013 semester, the delay of funds will be 11 days, Tuesday Aug. 27 instead of Friday Aug. 16.
When asked how this clarification would alter the petition. DeHamer said he would change the wording of the petition to include the clarification but felt the main focus of the petition was still a prominent issue.
DeHamer said he felt student accounting services could have communicated the change more clearly and should have offered an opportunity to gather student feedback prior to implementing policy changes.
“I felt that it didn’t give us any opportunity for input as a student body,” Dehamar said. “No input from us is not really fair.”
Rochelle Seals, director of student accounting services, said the changes were implemented to prevent students from accruing additional billing fees. These can include housing fees, meal plans, online class fees and fees because of schedule change potentially resulting in registration holds, which prevent or stall future registration.
“It’s a multitude of problems, but what we see are students coming in very frustrated,” Seals said. “We have students lining up after we place registration holds.”
Seals said the change to refund policy being dispersed prior to the add-drop period is an industry standard in Kentucky in order to curb student retention issues.
“We want help students stay in school and one of the best ways to do that is to prevent registration holds when we can,” Seals said.
DeHamer said he understood there were reasons for implementing the policy changes that may not be outwardly apparent.
“There’s a lot of things that they have to take into consideration that they might know about,” DeHamer said. “I understand that…If they could address these concerns some other way,” DeHamer said.
DeHamer said the situation with student retention could be helped through clearer communication concerning financial responsibility in orientation.
“A withholding penalty placed on all students for a minority that may spend their money too quickly or irresponsibly should not be implemented, but it is clear that policy has moved in that direction,” the petition argued.
Seals said a variety of students have issues with registration holds due to billings from housing changes, meal plans, class changes and other assorted fees that may be added prior to the add-drop period. The policy change was implemented to prevent such holds from affecting future registration.
“It’s not necessarily the irresponsible student,” said Seals.
Nichole Arbino, vice president of Student Government Assoication (SGA), said she met with a number of school officials including Rochelle Seals on Friday Nov. 16 about student concerns regarding the refund policy change and DeHamer’s petition.
“What I figured out was that the policy itself is not really that big of a change because it only affects the people that get their refund on the Friday before classes to the Wednesday of classes,” Arbino said. “It’s only five days in the spring semester and the only people that are affected in the fall semester are the people that get their refunds that Friday and the Tuesday after the first week.”
Arbino said she agreed with DeHamer regarding students being informed of policy changes before they are implemented and student feedback gathered to assess opinions of the student majority.
“I think the biggest issue was the way they released the announcement,” Arbino said.
According to the student account services website, students refunds will be made available on the day they are processed for students who use the OneAccount Easy refund option and two-three business days for those receiving refunds in their bank account.