By Anthony Marengo
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – Students at Camden County College are finding the financial aid process difficult and time consuming. Many of those who apply for aid describe the steps as confusing and blame the financial aid office for the problems encountered.

Thousands of students applied for financial aid last year, and there were several complaints about the system and the resulting complications.

Lisa Kellan, 48, is a financial aid counselor at CCC’s Blackwood campus and admits there have been some problems. “Most of the problems students have encountered dealt with either retrieving their PIN (personal identification number) or (needing help) with tax returns,” says Kellan.

However, Kellan notes these problems were far more prevalent with the old system and forms, saying, “The program we are using this year is much simpler and more user-friendly … they take the applicant through the process step-by-step.” The new forms have been slimmed down to only four sections of questions consisting of student information, student dependency status, parent information and student financial information.

One of many students who had trouble with financial aid in previous years, Patrick Solinski, 20, agrees it is much easier to complete this year. “I applied online,” says Solinski. “It did not take very long because there are instructions with every step.”

Although the time required to complete the forms has decreased, a majority of the students who apply believe the wait for receiving a response is too long. Applicants usually receive a reply from FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) about 2 to 2 ½ weeks after submitting their form(s).

“It would be nice if I could know sooner whether or not I am going to be given financial aid instead of stressing for two weeks,” says Solinski, who works full-time as a waiter at Filomena’s restaurant in Berlin Borough. “My schedule is pretty hectic, so I do not really have much time to waste waiting around for an answer from FAFSA.”

Kellan says the office works at a frantic pace to ensure the applicants get a response as quickly as possible. “It normally takes us (Camden County College’s financial aid office) a couple of days to analyze and transfer the information to our system,” she says. “After that, we mail it to FAFSA offices where they process the request and mail their decision of whether or not to provide financial aid to the applicant.”

CCC student Patrick Solinski meets with a financial aid counselor to learn about the new FAFSA system. By Anthony Marengo, CCC Journalism Program

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