By: Daniel Johnson, Staff Reporter
Financial aid check disbursement takes place three weeks into each term, which is a problem for students enrolled in programs such as Welding, Paramedic, Art, or Culinary Arts, said Culinary Arts major Josh Davilla.
The classes for these programs require equipment which is unavailable at the bookstore and must be purchased in time for the second week of classes, said Davilla. Often, students must produce this money out of pocket, said Davilla. Other students in Davilla’s class also said that they were unhappy with the disbursement process, but did not want to be included in the article by name.
“I think that it is wrong for disbursement to be done four weeks into the semester when we need our equipment by week two,” he said. “I think something needs to change.”
Senior Director of Financial Aid, Scholarships and Veteran Services Lee Carrillo said that while students do not receive financial aid checks until the fourth week of the term, all textbooks and equipment for courses can be ordered through the bookstore.
“A student can always order whatever they need. All they have to do is go in and say ‘I need this, charge it to my financial aid,’” said Carrillo.
However, Bookstore Manager Ann Heaton said that only equipment and textbooks are normally stocked, but currently sold out, can be ordered through the bookstore and that not all required for purchase through the campus bookstore. equipment is available
Davilla said that another problem is that disbursement checks are used for more than just equipment. Financial aid checks are often used for rent, transportation, food and other survival needs in addition to school supplies, he said.
“I believe that it should be available the first week of school. That way we can get everything we need at other places than just the bookstore, since they do not carry everything we need,” he said.
Carrillo said that the disbursement date is not fully controlled by CNM administration, but by state regulation. There is a procedure that is followed before financial aid is given, he said.
“The disbursement date is decided by the Enrollment Services Department and is based on census dates set by the state,” said Carrillo.
The Financial Aid Department has no control over the date checks are given to students, he said.
“The census is usually conducted around the second week of school, 10 to 14 days into the semester,” said Carrillo.
Director of Enrollment Services Glenn Damiani said that Enrollment Services decides on the financial aid check release date based on the census date, which is mandated by the state of New Mexico.
The census data is collected twice a term to officially report enrollment data, he said. So students enrolled in late-start classes have varying disbursement dates.
“The census sets the date of permanent records of students being enrolled in a class whether they drop later or not,” said Damiani. “We report enrollment numbers to the state which is what actually drives a lot of our processes here at CNM.”
Public Information Officer for the Department of Higher Education Larry Behrens said that the release of financial aid disbursement is not mandated by the state; however, it is a practice throughout most higher education institutions because funding from the state to each school is based on the number of enrolled students at the time the census data is collected.
The census date typically marks the end of the add/drop period. On this day, the college takes a snapshot of all students’ enrollment which becomes the official enrollment that is used for both state reporting and financial aid eligibility, he said.
“Moving the add/drop date to earlier in the semester is up to each institution. They would need to decide if it might have a negative or positive impact on students,” said Behrens.
Damiani said the date of the census is the third Friday of each term. This term it was on Sept. 14. Once the census is completed, Enrollment Services then sets the date of disbursement for Financial Aid, he said
Carrillo said Financial Aid begins the payout process for financial aid once that date has been set.
“There are no options available for early disbursement to any students,” said Carrillo.
Once disbursement begins, a student’s available funds are paid out to the bookstore, tuition, admission fees and other debts accrued for the term, he said. The rest of the grant amount is given to students over another 10 to 14 day period, he said.
Davilla said he was told the long wait for disbursement was to discourage students from dropping out, but now he does not understand why the money needed by students is withheld for so long just for the census.
“I do not understand why our financial aid has to be delayed for a census to be done,” said Davilla. “It just seems like that is a lot of time for a census.”