Due to an unexpected staff transition at the Financial Aid Office at Pitzer College, many students returned to campus this year without having received their financial aid package.
Director of Financial Aid Robin Thompson said that the office usually sends letters out on a rolling basis starting June 15. This year, however, letters were sent out beginning in July, and most letters were sent out the first week of school, she said.
Angel Perez, Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Pitzer, said that Thompson’s predecessor, Margaret Carothers, retired in June. Meanwhile, Associate Director Yvonne Guttierez-Sandoval left the college for another position.
“We were left without any administrative financial aid staff over the summer,” Perez said. “It was pretty difficult because we immediately figured out that there was no way we were going to get financial aid packages to students on time.”
While Pitzer began a national search to find a new director, the school hired a private consultant to work with the office’s administrative assistant to begin assembling the financial aid packages. Thompson began work Aug. 17.
A Pitzer sophomore who wished to remain anonymous said she received her financial aid package Sept. 6.
“I was super worried that my financial aid would have changed a lot,” she said. “If I was getting it while I was starting school, worst comes to worst, I might not be able to come back to Pitzer if I wasn’t offered as much aid as the year before.”
She said the delay also made it more difficult for her and other students to apply for work-study jobs.
“There was this huge hiatus between being able to work and not being able to work,” she said.
Alyssa Solis PZ ’13, a student employee at the Office of Admission, said she spoke on the phone with many concerned parents and students.
“People were freaking out, but I think that’s because they thought that there was an issue with the money at first,” she said.
Solis received her financial aid package the second week of school.
“Even I was kind of sweating,” Solis said. “But being able to see how hard everyone was working, I was less stressed about it.”
Perez also spoke with many families. Most families were understanding, but “there were a few families where the anxiety level was huge,” he said.
“I fully understood that it must be extraordinarily anxiety-provoking to be sending your child to college and not know how much you’re supposed to pay,” he said.
The Financial Aid Office sent out packages by class, starting with sophomores. First-years already knew their projected aid amount from the information included with their acceptance letter, Perez said.
Thompson said the problem faced by the office this summer was unusual, and she hopes to notify families of their financial aid packages between June 15 and 30 next summer.
Daniel Gonzalez contributed reporting.