I feel a rant coming on...

I'm a proud alumni of a thriving University.  I heart it so much, I sent my oldest daughter there too.  She just began her Sophomore year.

As all parents try to do, we scrimped and saved a college fund for her.  And in one (literal) day, wiped out the account paying for Peyton's radiation.  These things happen.  This rant isn't about being broke (although, that's tempting).

No...this rant is about Financial Aid.  A beast I never intended to face since my husband and I were hoping to pay for our children's education ourselves.  You know who is a bigger beast than Financial Aid?  The Financial Aid office at my daughter's school.

I consider myself to be of average intelligence (Higher intelligence in spelling, how to drive properly, politeness and making great coffee.  Below average in hand-eye coordination, Guitar Hero and working a weed eater.  That averages out to average intelligence, no?)  Anyway, I thought an average person could navigate something like Financial Aid.  I think I'm wrong.  I'm pretty sure it's run by the same people who write the IRS codes.  But, I read, I fill out, I double check my work, and I get it done.  It's the only shred of Type A in me, but it's fierce. 

My daughter's Freshman year, I could see how establishing a new Financial Aid account was going to require me to jump through various hoops, and trust me, I did.  But I expected this year to be smoother (note: smoother, not smooth).  I. Was. Wrong.

I filled out all the loan apps for the 2010-2011 year in May.  I was given a verbal gold star by the Financial Aid mouth breathers staff for getting the paperwork in early and completely.  Yay.

Yesterday, I called to see why her loan money had not been dispersed so she could purchase her books.  They said, "what loan"?  Hmmm.

I give moron staff member # 1 (all told, I would talk to 4 before the day was out) the loan number, daughter's name and social security number. 

Staff 1: "Nope, we have no record of a loan.  Will you be paying her tuition by check or credit card.  It's overdue now you know". 

Me: "What do you mean there is no loan? I'm on the financial aid section of your website, logged in and I can see it.

Staff 1: "Well, okay.  There is a loan, but you haven't signed the MPN (Master Promissory Note).  Log in, digitally sign in and call us back {click}.

So I log in.  MPN is signed already (Type A).  Duh.  I call back.

Me:  "Hi. I was just talking to someone about my daughter's financial aid and was told the MPN wasn't signed.  Then I was (AHEM) disconnected.  I logged in.  It's signed.  Can you tell me the hold up in disbursing the loan?"

Staff 2: "We have no record of a loan for that student"

Me: Facepalm.  Twice. 

I essentially have the same conversation with her.  I hang up and call the loan originator.  They tell me beloved school is crazy.  Loan has been signed off on since May and is ready to be disbursed.  They even give me detailed directions to give the staff on how to find the loan on their system. 

I call Financial Aid office again:

Staff 3: "Well the loan is here.  We can see it.  It's been signed, but your daughter didn't mail in her letter.  We're about to drop her schedule, so you need to take care of that."

Me:  "Yes she did.  I stood over her while she wrote it and I mailed it myself.  I even sent it certified mail and had you sign for it.  And you did."

Staff 3: "Oh.  Well she didn't sign her contract.  That's the holdup"

Me: Head hitting the desk "YES SHE DID.  I mailed that too.  And had you sign for it.  And you did"

Staff 3: "Oh.  Hang on a minute" {click}

I call back.  Now I have a headache from clinching my teeth.  I have pits in my palms from digging my fingernails into them. 

Staff 4: "Is your daughter on campus right now Mrs. White?"

Me: "Yes, unless you kick her out" and then I laughed weakly to show I still can be charming.  She didn't notice.

Staff 4: "I show she signed the contract and we received it, but it's missing.  Would she mind coming down and signing it again and then I promise we'll disburse the money.  I apologize for this.  Really".

Me: "She'll be there in 30 seconds.  Maybe sooner.  Thank you so much for your willingness to help me and knowing how to get this solved.  You are my island of competency is a sea of stupidity.  Where can I send your fruitbasket to?

Staff 4: SNORT!  (She honestly snorted when she laughed).

(Here's my rant to my formerly beloved University.  Brace yourself).

Do you have any idea how hard it is for a parent to let their child move out of the safety of the home and off to a college campus?  We are trusting you with a child.  Not an account number, a CHILD.  Do you have any idea how much debt we're putting ourselves in to pay for college?  Do you think when a parent calls and needs your guidance, you can pretend to care and be competent and help?
I looked you all up on the school website.  You are adults, not student workers.  Some of you have been there for more than 15 years.  Are you still training for your job or have you simply forgotten you should still be in the business of customer service?

I can imagine how many hostile people you deal with in a day.  I imagine the phone ringing off the hook makes you want to update your resume and head for the hills.  BUT.  I did my part correctly and before the deadline.  I'm handing over my baby and thousands and thousands of dollars.  As a trade to that, couldn't you just key in information quickly and correctly as it came in?  And when you can't, can you take the time to stay on the phone with me until we are both satisfied our issue is fixed?  Do you realize you created this same angst-ridden situation last semester and the semester before that?  At what point can I decide you know what you're doing and will do it?

Next semester, I'm ready.  I'm going down there in person, and I'm taking my friend Candy with me.  Her motto is: They eventually figure it out, but need to demonstrate incompetence first. Ugh.  Spoken like a true veteran.  Plus, she's a nurse, so she can administer CPR to me when they nearly give me a coronary incident.

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Helen said...

Take me along, too. Then instead of needing to give you CPR, she can administer first aid to the incompetent goofs we encounter. Really. You learned your lesson and sent everything certified. You'd think they'd realize that they had to handle those with care because there is a record of who goofs up then.

katdish said...

Oooo! (raises hand and waves wildly) I'll go! I'll go!

I'll be real nice...(you know me)

Richard Mabry said...

So sorry for the circumstances that made all this necessary in the first place, as well as your experience with your (formerly) beloved university. If there's anything to the theory of natural selection, the human race is in dire straits because this is the best we can produce.
Hope the rant was therapeutic, and that things get better from here on out.

Kelli said...

I have no idea where we're going, but I want in on the action to. Maybe you bring so many people with you, that they hand the check over when they see us walk in the door. They y'all can return the favor for me in a few years.

This really stinks, but it looks like it's working out. I didn't realize Candy was so handy to keep around. I need to make a note of that ;)!

Candy said...

"You are my island of competence in a sea of stupidity." Can you stitch that on a pillow for me? These stories are SO much funnier when they happen to someone else.

Sure, I'll do CPR on you, Marns. But Helen, there's a clause in section 32.46b(182) that says nobody is obliged to give first aid to the consciously incompetent. We just stand & watch; some even mock.

Glad it all worked out for you, Marns. As much as I was willing to sell a kidney for you, I'm kind of busy right now.

Marni said...

I'm so happy about the crowd I'm taking with me next semester! The spring session starts on January 24th, so get your torches and pitchforks purchased before the Christmas rush.

Also, they still haven't disbursed the loan. Yeah.

jasonS said...

If you all are going to show up at this college next semester, I think there should definitely be some sort of warning system in place (as in hurricane or tornado). I have no doubt you all will take care of business! HA!

Oh and by the way, sorry for all that frustration. I know it's a pain. I'll pray that God restores the blood vessels that ruptured in your brain... :)

Annie K said...

And take me. Because Hungarians are always more intimidating in pairs and it's like the mafia having your back. Which is good when they're on your side and not so good when they aren't. Isn't that right Helen?