News | Administration

After review, changes coming to financial aid office

  • ALL OF THE CHANGES | Students will no longer have individual financial aid officers next semester, and office hours will be expanded from six to 40 hours per week.

Students will no longer be assigned to individual financial aid officers starting next semester, following an internal review conducted by the financial aid office last spring.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jessica Marinaccio said in a statement Tuesday that the Columbia College and School of Engineering and Applied Science financial aid office will undergo a series of structural changes as a result of the review, which was designed to increase communication between the office and students. In addition to allowing students to work with any financial aid adviser, the office has hired four additional staff members, and office hours will be expanded from six to 40 hours per week.

Marinaccio wouldn’t speak on the record about the changes, but she said in the statement that they’re intended to increase the efficiency with which students’ concerns are addressed.

“Paying for college can be a challenging prospect,” Marinaccio said in a statement. “We want to help students and families more smoothly negotiate this complicated process and feel that these changes will help us do that.”

The internal review—which was implemented by former financial aid dean Laurie Schaffler, who left Columbia in May—consisted of focus groups, a student survey, and educational groups. It found that students were unhappy with financial aid officers’ response times to emails and phone calls, wanted more information about their financial aid packages, and would like to know more about the exact role of financial aid officers.

The review also showed that parents often interact with financial aid officers more directly than students do. As a result, students will now have the option of including their parents in communications with the office.

Columbia College Student Council President Karishma Habbu, CC ’13, spearheaded the review with Schaffler last semester. Habbu said that the changes address all three of the major student concerns—timeliness, communication, and educational outreach.

“These changes are great—they are exactly what we need,” she said.

Habbu added that she is thrilled with the quick follow-up by the financial office and its staff.

“They went above and beyond,” she said.

The results of the review were shared last month with Habbu, Engineering Student Council President Tim Qin, SEAS ’13, Columbia College Dean James Valentini, and School of Engineering and Applied Science Interim Dean Don Goldfarb.

The evaluation also showed that students were generally satisfied with their individual interactions with financial aid officers, although few had actually stopped by the office. Parents, for whom data was collected through a survey conducted by the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, were also generally pleased with the services provided.

Marinaccio was appointed to her current position in August, when the offices of financial aid and admissions merged. She has served as dean of admissions since 2004.

margaret.mattes@columbiaspectator.com

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Anonymous posted on

"The financial aid office". Again, is this not a newspaper for all CU students? If so, as far a I know, there is not one financial aid office.

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rick131 posted on

It is actually Columbia Colleges's newspaper started in 1877. For university wide information, check other sites. This artilce for better or worse is about CC and SEAS financail aid issues.

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anon posted on

Correct. The Spec pre dates SEAS, Barnard, and GS.

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ColumbiaSpectator posted on

Thanks for pointing this out. We do aim to cover all of Columbia, but considering the majority of our students are undergraduates, those issues take precedence. We've updated the story to specify this office refers to CC and SEAS students.

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Anonymous posted on

Undergraduate population approx. 8,000

Total student population approx. 27,500

This suggests that the Spec needs a different reason for giving undergraduates precedence. Not that giving the undergraduate community (which more than the graduates live here, work here, and make this their home) is a bad thing, but the 'majority' argument is not holding.

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rick131 posted on

The readers of this the paper and this site are 90% undergrads. That's like complaining that Barnard's newspaper runs too many articles about Barnard when they know Columbia is across the street.

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Anonymous posted on

You know this by: IP, survey, or crystal ball?

From the Spec's own site (focus on the 'serving' part): The Spectator is one of the strongest ways to reach a highly coveted but difficult market: 18 to 22-year-old college students.

Columbia Daily Spectator is the only daily newspaper serving the more than 60,000 students, faculty, administrators, and staff of Columbia University. The Spectator is also the premier news source for local coverage of Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side.

http://spc.columbiaspectator.c...

or from the "about us" page (focus on who the readers are cough-West Harlem-cough):

Founded in 1877, the Columbia Spectator delivers news daily to thousands of readers around Columbia University, Morningside Heights, West Harlem, and beyond. The newspaper is published five days a week during the academic year, and offers news, arts, commentary, sports coverage, and photos from around campus and New York City, in conjunction with our blog, Spectrum, and our weekly arts and features magazine, The Eye. We are the second-oldest college daily paper in the country and have been financially independent from the University since 1962.

The organization is run by undergraduates from Barnard College, Columbia College, the School of General Studies, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, with a staff totaling over 200 students. Spectator has opportunities for students wide range of interests, including reporting, writing, editing, photography, design, illustration, video production, and business.

http://www.columbiaspectator.c...

If we are going to guess statistics (since it seems to be in fashion) I would guess admins read the Spec more than anyone else.

In all, saying that the school paper is primarily concerned with one of the smallest constituencies of the University is undercutting the work the Spec does and the 200+ Species do. But, hey if you want to undercut your school's (read university not college) paper that so that you can make a point on a comments section, be my guest with silly comparisons and all.

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Anonymous posted on

Stop being a troll, this is an undergraduate focused newspaper where the majority of the readers are undergraduates in CC/SEAS

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Anonymous posted on

Prove it.

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Anonymous posted on

smd, you're just mad that no one cares about you

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Anonymous posted on

Why are you mad now? Ref 'smd.' Can't make up more stats?

Anyway, you care enough to reply, what does that make you?

I'll catch on the next article's comments section, witless/tasteless clown.

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ColumbiaSpectator posted on

Thanks for your comment! A clarification: that was meant to read "the majority of our readers," not of Columbia's student body.

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you for adding this detail to the article!

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