Financial Aid refunds provide flexibility for students

Kaleb Schwaiger

Staff Writer

Illustration by Cliff Blair/The Tallahassee Democrat

Illustration by Cliff Blair/The Tallahassee Democrat

Many students couldn’t attend college or a university without student aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, helps many students achieve their dream of higher education. Once students apply and are accepted for aid, they are entitled to a certain dollar amount for the school year.

Several surveyed Parkland students reported funding at around $3500. If a student takes 18 credit hours, that leaves around $1200 for the student to use after paying for their semester’s classes.

Often times the majority of the leftovers get spent at Parkland’s bookstore. At the bookstore, students can purchase not only textbooks and supplies but other goods such as clothes and candy or soda.

While the money is the student’s to spend as they wish, some would argue that the student has an obligation to use that money solely to further their education.

Jennifer Eisenhauer, Parkland Bookstore Assistant Manager, feels that the aid money students get is not always spent wisely.

Students can use the financial aid money to buy things other than school supplies and books, such as food or Parkland clothing, which quickly tears into their remaining funds.

Eisenhauer estimates that 70 percent of students make potentially unwise “non book” purchases with aid money. Given that many students at a community college work themselves through, it seems an unwise allocation of resources to spend on non-essentials.

Some student might also be using their aid money to purchase textbooks and clothing for other students. Eisenhauer recalls students talking on the phone asking friends which book they needed or what size they were. These purchases do not directly go towards helping the aid-receiving student in their studies, and should bear some scrutiny.

There are, however, two potential sides to the story. It is entirely possible that some of those purchasing “non essentials” are doing so because they have no other option. The aid money doesn’t turn into funds usable outside of Parkland until about six weeks into the semester, and some may need that money to feed themselves throughout the day.

“Even though we feel that students can sometimes make unnecessary purchases, we are thankful that they have the opportunity to use financial aid in the bookstore,” Eisenhauer stated.

Kinesiology major, William Greul, doesn’t care what others spend their aid money on but he feels they should make wise decisions.

“Thanks to my scholarship, I had enough aid money to pay for my food and rent, and I’m happy to have that working for me,” Gruel said.

Business Administration major, Marino Duncan, shares similar viewpoints, and he also spent his aid on tuition and rent. He feels that others should make wise decisions because, if they end up dropping out, those grants will turn to loans that they have to pay back.

“The last thing you want to be doing is paying back money that you spent on candy and school clothes,” Duncan remarked.

Financial Aid Adviser, Julia Hawthorne, commented that what the money is spent on specifically isn’t tracked by her offices. The most that they can do is see how much of the aid was spent on tuition and how much was spent at the bookstore or remained unspent.

“The bookstore credit is a refund they would get anyways, it is theirs to spend as they wish,” Hawthorne said.

If they didn’t spend the money at the bookstore it would just come back to them in the form of a refund check. Then the money would essentially be cash in the student’s pockets to be used for anything they desired.

For more information regarding financial aid, including how to apply or track your requests, visit the Parkland College Office of Financial Aid and Veteran Services, in Room U286, or phone the office at 217-351-2222.