The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Financial aid refund change frustrates some

By Kirsten Mahon/tr news editor

A miscommunication between students and administration caused widespread confusion, where students were unsure of how and when they would receive financial aid checks.

TCC used its social media to alleviate concerns but also propelled them when the term “technical difficulty” was mentioned on Facebook.

Students were emailed Dec. 28 with a schedule explaining the new disbursement process for the following semester.

Denisha North, a first-year TR student, was among many other students believing the refunds this semester were delayed.

“I was supposed to receive them [the refund] on the fifth,” she said. “But I received them on the ninth.”

The email stated that though tuition would be paid on Jan. 5, funds would not be delivered to student spending accounts until Jan. 9. The email was the first to be sent regarding personal refunds after the Higher One switch.

“I think we actually beat the ninth,” said Bill McMullen, TR director of financial aid. “Most students who opted to receive their refund via the Higher One card received funds the night of the eighth.”

Still, some students were not pleased.

“It was confusing because I did an ACH (automated clearing house) form,” said student Audrey Rainey, who said she faxed her form to Higher One, but the company did not receive it. “I was supposed to get the money on the fifth, but I didn’t get it until the 10th.”

On Jan. 7, Facebook lit up on Tarrant County College’s page with hundreds of students posting comments wondering where their money was, complaining, demanding answers and some threatening to attend a different college next semester. TCC’s web communications department stayed online as late as 8 p.m. posting responses about every 10 minutes.

“We understand that you are concerned about Financial Aid awards as well as any refunds you may receive,” the department posted early that afternoon. “Unforeseen technical difficulties with our data systems today have delayed the process a bit. We have kept, and will continue to keep, administrators informed of your

comments regarding HigherOne. … Please know we are not purposefully giving misinformation.”

Susan Ragland, interim web communications manager, said the top priority during any confusion like this was to make sure students felt heard and understood that though there may not be instant solutions, there was someone looking for answers.

“I think students are going to try to find ways to connect with us, no matter what,” Ragland said. “It’s a matter of us making sure we are available where the students are connecting … Students get on Facebook to fulfill a need.”

However, because the money was delivered on schedule, there appeared to be no technical difficulty and no cause for alarm.

According to Rita Parson, TCC coordinator of public information services, the only difficulty was running the information, which contained thousands of files to HigherOne. This was a first-time experience for TCC, but there were no kinks in the process that delayed sending the files. 

“Keep in mind we have 26,000 students alone on financial aid,” McMullen said.

Web communications at TCC handles the main web-facing site, according to Ragland. This also includes Facebook, Twitter and YouTube but does not include myTCC, WebAdvisor or emails. Any emails are generated by their corresponding department.

“I would like to get more employees involved with social media,” Ragland said. “Our mission is to make sure students feel heard. Even if we don’t have an answer, we try to find answers.”

McMullen said, “Email is old,” and wished there was a better way to directly communicate with students to avoid misunderstandings like these.

According to McMullen, banks do their business in the evenings, so any tuition processed on the fifth, wouldn’t have been processed and posted until the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 8. Most students received funds that afternoon.

“There were no delays,” McMullen said. “There was no ball dropped. It was exactly the way we said it would be.”



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