One missing signature: $17,000

by Beacon Staff • September 16, 2009

As we embarked on a new semester this week, some among the flowing throngs on Boylston Street walked with heavier steps than others.

There are the number of returning Emersonians whose financial aid was denied this summer, in one case because of a single missing signature, but more often because of what was reported as communication failures between students' families and the financial aid office.,As we embarked on a new semester this week, some among the flowing throngs on Boylston Street walked with heavier steps than others.

There are the number of returning Emersonians whose financial aid was denied this summer, in one case because of a single missing signature, but more often because of what was reported as communication failures between students' families and the financial aid office. To best serve its students, Emerson should act briskly to help correct these unfortunate mistakes.

A little administrative compassion would go a long way for those who made minor mishaps or no mistake at all.

In some cases the discrepancies carried a massive price tag-one senior lost $17,000-forcing decisions between bad and worse: massive, hastily-acquired loans or leaving Emerson altogether.

Much is unknown about the alleged errors, as most of the losses are anecdotal and involve sensitive, private information.

The college has chosen to remain silent until Vice President of Administration and Finance David Ellis addresses the Student Government Association next week. Why wait? It is their prerogative, no doubt, but it is arbitrary and cruel to leave students hanging with thousands of dollars in the balance and without a proper explanation.

Ellis has a responsibility to serve students. Some have been in limbo since summer, praying that sums larger than their bank accounts will be recovered from the abyss. Telling them to wait for an SGA event is insulting. If you don't know what happened yet, be frank. But don't hem and haw until Tuesday's meeting: affected students' anxiety will only grow.

Yes, the clerical boo-boos, be it an AWOL signature or a flubbed form, are the fault of the students, but the college should be an active safety net, not a bystander. It is their good-faith responsibility to keep students informed during the vital financial aid process.

This is not to assume that the financial fall-out was malicious. On the contrary: extra efforts were made last year to bolster aid in light of widespread economic

distress.

In March, The Beacon reported that financial aid would increase 12.4 percent this academic year over last, and created an additional $1 million fund for upperclassmen in financial need.

Money is tight everywhere, but students were hoping for more fiscally sound semesters. The fact remains that an error of omission, while often not as egregious as an error of commission, can be equally damaging.

Emerson should show they value its students by ensuring a smooth return to school each fall.