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Students Now Have One Place
To Go For Financial Aid Services
September 27, 1999

"My financial aid doesn't cover all my bills. Am I eligible for any scholarships?"

"I have veterans' benefits. Will that affect my financial aid application?"

"I need to get a job on campus. What positions are available?"

Being away from home, often for the first time, college students have many questions. And a lot of them involve money. Students need help applying for financial aid, scholarships, or getting a job to supplement their income. And those with veterans' benefits need help understanding how those benefits affect their eligibility for other types of financial aid.

Now there's one place for them to go - Student Financial Aid Services. Since July, the offices of financial aid, scholarships, student employment and the Veterans' Center have been centralized, with a single front desk to handle students' questions.

Located in the center of campus, in the west wing of the Wilbur Cross Building, the information desk is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with staff trained to answer students' questions in any of those areas.

In most cases, the two front-line office assistants and two counselors are able to handle walk-in inquiries on the spot.

It's a busy office. At the start of a semester, up to 300 students a day stop by, and many other inquiries are handled by phone - as many as 8,000 a month at peak times.

Dee Koppisch, client services office assistant, says most questions are answered in a few minutes. Inquiries that take longer are handled by the counselors.

"Our goal really is to better serve students," says Mona Lucas, director of financial aid services. "We're trying to incorporate all the related services, so this becomes a seamless process. Whether students have questions about veterans' benefits or student financial aid, they can ask the front-line staff. If it's a basic question, we should be able to solve it," Lucas says.

The new arrangement saves students' traipsing from one office to another. "Students' problems are not always clear-cut," says M. Dolan Evanovich, associate provost for enrollment management. "Previously they had to go to different locations to get answers to their questions."

The mergers of the Office of Student Financial Aid/Student Employment with the Veterans' Center, which took place in January, and the Scholarship Programs Office, accomplished in July, represent a step toward the University's goal of providing "one-stop shopping" for students, and toward a more student-oriented campus overall.

The renovations to Wilbur Cross, currently underway, are expected to be finished by the middle of the next academic year.

Once completed, the building will become a service center, where students will be able to conduct all their business matters, from registering for classes to applying for financial aid to ordering phone service for their rooms or apartments.

Services including the registrar, the bursar, and residential life, as well as financial aid, scholarships, and student employment, will be prominently located on the first floor of the renovated Wilbur Cross Building.

For now, centralizing financial aid services is a move in that direction. The benefits of centralized services go beyond answering students' questions. The changes have also had the effect of pooling the financial resources available.

Lucas says the University hopes to be able to offer students more attractive financial aid packages by having all the resources under one office."

If we know a student is needy, we can offer something from this set of resources. If they are meritorious but not needy, we know there are certain other accounts we can tap into and we don't have to send them to a different office," she says. "Resources are resources, whether they're merit-based or need-based."

Evanovich says the centralized services will help the University achieve its service and enrollment goals.

"We've set up a system to disburse money more effectively to students," says Evanovich, "and to use our limited resources strategically to recruit and retain high-quality students."

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu