USF has unfair financial expectations

By Lindsey Voltoline
On August 31, 2011

USF doesn't seem to care that its students are broke.

The first week of school, students are expected to have all required materials for their classes, as well as a parking permit to attend their first classes or else risk getting dropped. Many would want to buy these items with help from their financial aid. However, that is not available until the second week of school.

About 65 percent of undergraduate students in the U.S. receive and use some kind of financial aid, according to a 2007-08 National Post-Secondary Student Aid Study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

That percentage is even higher at USF, where about 73 percent of students receive aid, according to USF Financial Aid Director Billie Jo Hamilton.

"Students can add (or) drop classes until the end of the first week of class," Hamilton said of the delayed financial aid disbursements in an email to The Oracle. "Since financial aid eligibility is based on hours enrolled, we pay after a student's enrollment is final."

However, this clearly affects students who heavily depend on aid for things other than class tuition. Students are required to live on campus for their freshman year of school, meaning they are required to pay, at minimum, $4,272 rent per semester, as well as a meal plan that could cost anywhere from $650 to $1,900 per semester, according to the Dining and Housing websites.

Surviving, of course, is first priority, but students are then expected to have all of their books and either an $87 or $108 parking pass for the first week of classes.

Should students find a part-time job to take care of the extra expenses? With a part time job at minimum wage of $7.31 an hour, working less than 35 hours a week would only provide a little more than $12,000 a year.

Not only does USF expect you have the money, but they want you to spend it at USF.

If students receive money from the Book Advance Purchase Plan, they are required to use that money to buy books at the campus bookstore, which is more expensive than many other retailers. If you do not use this money at the bookstore, you then have to wait until you receive your financial aid check to be reimbursed.

According to Hamilton, the only way to get aid before the second week of school is with deferments, which exempt "eligible" students from paying "their USF bill until their aid pays."

The only way for students to be eligible is by having "a FAFSA on file at least two weeks before the start of the semester, be enrolled at least half time and meet satisfactory academic progress standards," Hamilton said. "Also, students with other types of aid that will pay at the end of add/drop will qualify."

While it is understood that Florida legislators set many of the costs for college expenses, USF does little to prevent students from spending money they don't have. The University should either give students their aid in time to pay for expenses or ease up on first week requirements.

Lindsey Voltoline is a senior majoring in mass communications.

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