By Jonathan Baca, Staff Reporter | Photo by Jonathan Baca
Disbursement is always a logistical challenge, and CNM had made several changes to the process this year to make things more efficient, and are discussing even more options for the future, Lee Carrillo, Vice President of Student Services said.
CNM disbursed $21 million to 11,777 students last week, and things went smoother than ever, thanks to less paper checks and a new office at the West Side campus, Carrillo said.
“I’ve done this for 23 years, and I think over all, this is probably the best,” he said.
For students with part-of-term or short term courses, their funds may be split and disbursed in two or more parts, with subsequent checks going out ten days after the start of their late starting classes.
This is an optional federal rule that CNM opted to comply with, mainly to discourage students with short term courses from receiving all of their disbursement, and then leaving school before the end of the semester, Carrillo said.
“This was a way of keeping the student in the classroom, and hopefully making them successful,” Carrillo said.
4,676 students opted for direct deposit this term, having their money sent directly to their bank accounts. This is a 10 percent increase from last semester, and a trend that CNM hopes will continue, Carrillo said.
“It is something we’ve worked towards for forever. Go direct deposit if you have a bank account,” he said.
Students who signed up for direct deposit got their money two days before students who received a paper check, and this has made the process easier and faster for both the Cashiers office and the students, Bursar Christine Duncan said.
“The less paper checks we have to handle, the faster it is,” Duncan said.
Financial Aid and the Marketing and Communication Office teamed up to encourage students to switch to direct deposit, using emails and social media to let students know about the option, Duncan said.
The other big change this semester was the start of disbursement at the West Side campus, which lessened the load for Main and Montoya campuses, Duncan said.
With more staff and resources this year, the West Side campus gave out checks to over 600 students. Montoya campus handled disbursement for over 900 students last week, and this has meant more convenience and shorter lines for everyone, Duncan said.
“We tried to make it a little more convenient for those students at the other campuses, so people didn’t have to drive as far,” Duncan said.
An email was sent out to students, letting them know which campus to go to in order to get their checks. Checks were sent to whichever campus the majority of a student’s classes were held, Duncan said.
Disbursement is a joint effort between Financial Aid, the Cashiers office, and Accounts Payable, and is a team effort, Duncan said.
“This term we changed a couple of things, so we had meetings, talked about it, and made decisions together,” Duncan said.
Financial Aid processes a student’s award eligibility, and the Cashiers office cuts the checks, once a student’s tuition and fees have been paid, Carrillo said.
“We work very well together,” Carrillo said.
With the success of the direct deposit option, CNM has begun discussion about another possibility for disbursement; replacing paper checks with plastic credit cards from a bank, Carrillo said.
The cards would be free to students, and would work like a gift card, with no possibility of overdrafts or further debt, Carrillo said.
The main issue with this option is that many banks would charge a transaction fee every time the card was used, Carrillo said.
Carrillo said the school has received presentations from several banks, but they have not made a decision to go with a particular one yet, and are waiting for the best possible deal, one that would work best for the students.
“We just need to make sure that whichever bank we choose to go with has none, or the minimal fee, so it doesn’t affect the students’ money,” he said.
Carrillo said it would most likely start out as an optional program, like direct deposit, but that it might become mandatory at some point down the line.
No decisions have been made yet, and it is ultimately up to the Executive team whether CNM will implement these cards in the future, Carrillo said.
Most of the student problems with disbursement last week were about confusion over whether they would be getting the full amount of money, and when, said Duncan. According to Carrillo, students get their money ten days after the start of their classes, but for Freshmen and first time borrowers of loans, there is a thirty day wait before their funds are disbursed.
“We want to make sure that they are here and they are doing well before we disburse those loan moneys to them,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo said that many students at times get confused about disbursement because of attending hours, short term courses, ineligibility because of repeat courses, and other issues.
The Financial Aid office tries to communicate with students as much as possible through emails throughout the year, including award letters, schedules, and deadlines, so hopefully students will be less confused if they read these emails carefully, Carrillo said.
“We always have the student in mind when we are sending out these emails, to make them as simple as possible so they understand them,” Carrillo said.