Last semester, in late October, I received a letter telling me because my grades were so good I was entitled to a "waiver" of my out of state student tuition - effectively they would only charge me in-state tuition for the fall semester of 2006.
This was a yay. I was excited.
Since I'd already paid those fees (you kind of have to do that before you get to take classes - funny system that way), they told me that I'd be getting a refund of the money.
I thought, "BONUS!" (especially since it was about $4000 - a huge chunk of money in my book).
After calling the Financial Aid office a couple of times, I found out that they weren't going to reimburse me directly, they were actually going to pay down part of the private loans I'd had to take out for the last semester. This was still a yay in my book, trust me, but not quite as fun as having the cash in hand. Still, every little bit helps.
Then, right as registration for Spring was beginning in Nov, I checked my accounts online to find I was barred from registering. Now the University said I owed them money -- about $4000. And since I owed them money I wasn't allowed to register for spring, or see any of my other financial records! ALSO, the money I'd been told I was going to receive as a scholarship from my department for the Spring semester can't even be processed until the bar is cleared.
This was on the same Thursday (I like to call it Black Thursday) that I found out we couldn't do a Graduate Journal for our department, the same day that my professor told me she was expecting a significant translation component in my final paper, the day that I confessed to my other professor that I couldn't find the movie I was looking for to write a paper on ... basically a SHIT day.
Me being me, I called the damn financial aid office. And the general gist of what they told me was: "Oh, that's showing up as a bar for you just because the funds haven't been released from another department (the special tuition department, if you must know). Don't worry, the funds are expected to process through by next Thursday, because that's when we do our consolidating run, and that bar will fall off and you'll be fine."
I thought: great, I don't have to do anything and it'll fix itself.
What happened next Thursday? You guessed it! NOTHING. Nothing changed. Bar still there. I called them back. They said, "OH, that process doesn't run until Fridays. It should go through next Friday. Call us back if it hasn't."
I thought: well, damn. another week. I hope it goes through.
Guess what happened??? Another week passed. I checked. No joy. Bar is still there. So I call again. And again. And am given the same exact spiel every time -- even when I ask to talk to a supervisor. They tell me the supervisor isn't there, but they've noted it in my file, and the money will go through. Then I go on vacation to Sacramento. Then I come back for Christmas. Then their offices are closed. Then we go on vacation to Vegas. Their offices are STILL closed. Then I get back to Austin. Their offices are STILL closed.
Finally, this morning, I called again and they were open. They had me on hold for 20 minutes, and then dropped the call. SO, my SECOND set of holding on line, I finally got through to a person. He tells me AGAIN that this mythical "consolidation process" has to run and then I'll be just fine. I tell him that I've heard way to much about this magical mystery "process" that will fix all my problems, and that lie just doesn't hold water anymore. He goes and talks to his supervisor. He comes back. He tells me I just need to wait. I tell him that he's crazy. He tells me that there's nothing he can do since it's not the Office of Financial Services that has the money - it's the Special Tuition Office of the Cashier that has to release the funds. He gives me their number.
I call them. THEY tell me that tuition wavers come from my Department, and I have to get my department to notify their offices.
I call my Department. They tell me that 1) they don't make those kind of decisions AND 2) even if they did they don't have any money left to do so for fall 2006 AND 3) that the people I need to talk to are the ones who sent me the original notification of the waiver (those people happen to be THE OFFICE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES).
AHHHHHHHH!! (can you tell I was pulling my hair out at this point? Trust me, I was)
SO. I call the thwackheads at Financial Services AGAIN. I tell the nice young woman (who tries to get away with telling me that I'd just have to wait until that magical sexy fix all your problems process runs again to find out anything) that there's NO way I'm gonna sit around. Not when I've been directed in a goddamn circle. She tells me that she'll leave a note for her supervisor to call me back, because of course the bastard is out to lunch. I concede because their powers of bureaucracy are stronger than my angry student powers (at least over the phone). How can I compete with out to lunch?
On the off chance that I might get something done, I call the Special Tuition Office back and tell them that the Department told me that it was the Office of Financial Services that had to send a notification of the waiver. They tell me they don't have anything on file, but then give the the kriptonite that will break the back of the Office of Financial Services: A DIRECT DIAL NUMBER to the Supervisor - and his name. Yep, it's my secret weapon in this war. Because the poor schmoes at the Office of Financial Services can't give out direct dial numbers of their own supervisors - but people in other offices are certainly happy to do so if it'll get freaky students like me off their back.
So I wait half an hour (to give the Supervisor enough time to call me back from Financial Services - see, I was trying to be fair) before I call him. And HE PICKS UP!
*cue light streaming through the clouds and angles beginning to sing*
This man has a sense of humor. This man sounds like he's actually NOT a student. This man has power. This is the Office of Financial Services man who can fill out the form that the Special Tuition Office needs in order to release the money the University owes itself to the Office of Financial Services.
Confused yet? Yeah, me too. That really is what they told me I needed, though.
This man says that, instead of relying on those wacky computers and their processes (once I laughed hysterically - seriously, i was unhinged and giddy at that point- when he suggested I wait again for the magical process to do it's work), he's going to give me a PAPER FORM, filled out, signed and sealed, and I can walk the form from the Office of Financial Aid to the Special Tuition Office and take care of it. He can't guarantee how long it'll take for them to process the form and the money, but we'll circumvent all those nasty computers.
I say I don't care what the hell I have to do as long as I get this thing taken care of.
So I drive up to school, head to the Office of Financial Aid, wait my turn, pull up to the counter, get my little letter, walk it to the Special Tuition Office, hand it to their clerk, and ask "about how long will this take to process?" (thinking they'll give me the 'ole "wait til friday" answer again) and she says:
"just a sec and I'll do it right now"
8 words I never expected to hear.
Then she turns to a computer in back, types some things in, and in less than five minutes comes back to the counter and says, "It's done."
And just like that, it's done. Just a simple delivery of one damn form to the right office - something that I hear can often be achieved with things like interoffice mail (or intercampus mail) and it's done. My bar is gone. I can register. My scholarship money can be processed. I am a student in good standing again.
god i hate financial aid.