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The Office of Financial Aid is working to improve its counselor availability after respondents to a student survey reported its services as unsatisfactory.

The Office of Financial Aid employs eight full-time undergraduate financial aid academic advisors. It distributed $136 million in aid for the 2011-12 school year. Seventy-five percent of the undergraduate body receives institutional aid at an average of $28,000, and 39 percent of undergraduates receive an federal aid at an average of $7,500.

The Student Satisfaction with Customer Service survey was completed in fall 2011 to gauge the opinions of Tulane students concerning financial aid. The Associated Student Body commissioned the survey because it had heard reports of poor customer service.

Nearly 1,100 students took the survey, and about half were undergraduate students.

Undergraduate response to the survey were neutral. Of the 12 questions on satisfaction, a majority of students replied “neither agree nor disagree.”

Students, however, mentioned a lack of available counselors and the difficulty in contacting their counselors.

“Financial aid is different from academic advising,” said Sam Stone, undergraduate student government vice president for student life. “Every Tulane student must take classes, but not everyone needs or chooses to come into the financial aid office. Since it’s already an inconvenience, we need to make their experience more efficient and enjoyable.”

A committee to address these concerns formed April 16. The committee includes a chief of staff from the Office of Financial Aid, the ASB student president, three senators from USG, three representatives from the Graduate and Professional Students Association and one member of the School of Continuing Studies.

“The Office of Financial Aid was really responsive to our committee,” ASB president Eli Anders said.

The Office of Financial Aid created cross-training programs so that financial aid counselors can fill in for one another when needed. It added new software that allows counselors to take notes during students’ meetings so that another counselor can read the notes and be able to assist those students at a later meeting. It also revamped its website, adding color, updating the interface and making online maneuvering more intuitive.

“We want to create better customer service,” Financial Aid Chief of Staff Maggie Ehrenreich said. “We want to make the process as easy as possible.”

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