Submitted by TICAS on October 10, 2008
By Laura Szabo-Kubitz, Policy Associate In times of financial instability, the need is even greater for programs that promote college accessibility and affordability. Bad economic times lead more people to turn to education as a solution, which we’re seeing with record numbers of students across the country applying for aid. While larger reforms are needed, those who work in financial aid can make a big difference in students’ lives by taking small steps. Recently, I visited the financial aid office websites of more than twenty colleges to find out whether or not their schools participate in federal student loan programs. I was surprised at how often I had difficulty finding an answer, so I began to look for office phone numbers to ask directly. Some sites had user-friendly layouts where I was able to find information quickly. However, I was surprised how difficult several schools’ sites were to navigate. In an attempt to offer students helpful information, some sites offered an overwhelming amount of it. As a result, key pieces of information – like contact information or types of available aid – got lost in the mix, thus negating the sites’ intended purpose as a helpful tool. If students are unable to locate a simple phone number on a website, how are they supposed to get the vital information they need? Putting the aid office’s contact information very clearly and visibly on the financial aid office homepage is a simple step that all financial aid offices – not to mention all student services – should take today. It’s quick, easy, and it just might make all the difference.