Financial aid office to assign advisers, launch advisory council

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Officials are taking the first steps to overhaul the financial aid office, starting with launching a new student advisory council this semester and assigning each student a financial aid adviser in the fall.

Every student will have access to a financial aid counselor this fall as officials take the first steps to overhaul the Office of Student Financial Assistance.

In addition to assigning each student a counselor next academic year, officials are also launching the Financial Aid Student Advisory Council this semester to give students the opportunity to provide feedback about their experiences with financial aid. The move follows a “comprehensive assessment” of the office’s operations from interviews with students and more than 30 campus stakeholders who produced recommendations to improve the office’s communication and organization, according to a University release Tuesday.

“We recognize financial aid is complex and want to make it as easy as possible for students and their families, while communicating with them every step of the way,” Laurie Koehler, the senior vice provost for enrollment and the student experience, said in the release.

The changes also follow a wave of student concerns about the University’s financial aid processes. A student alleged in the Facebook group “Overheard at GW” earlier this month that more than 60 students were still waiting for the financial aid office to process their aid packages at the start of the semester, delaying some students in registering for classes.

The advisory council will give students an opportunity to air concerns, like “confusing language” on websites, related to their financial aid. Officials will solicit feedback from the advisory council to strategize how the office can better communicate with students and families about their financial aid, according to the release.

Starting in the fall, students and their families will also have access to a 24/7 online service where a “chatbox” can answer financial aid-related questions. Students have an option to receive a call from staff if their question or issue has not been resolved, the release states.

Officials also plan to automate “as many manual and technical processes as possible” and work with Colonial Student Services staff to boost their knowledge and improve service, according to the release.

Michelle Arcieri, the executive director of the financial aid office, will collaborate with the staff to oversee the office’s changes.

“We are committed to doing better, especially when it comes to proactively and personally communicating with students and families about their financial aid files and how we are actively working to address any concerns,” Arcieri said in the release.

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