Andrea Jones, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 21, 2007
Hours-long financial aid lines, a major housing crunch and a murder near campus—and classes at Clark Atlanta University haven’t even started yet.
It’s been a shaky start to the school year at the Atlanta institution, where hundreds of frustrated students are still scrambling to fix financial aid problems and get enrolled as classes start Tuesday.
Clark Atlanta administrators do not require students to have their financial aid arranged before moving into campus housing, a policy that leads to snaking lines and bitter complaints each year. Most colleges require students to have financing in place before they arrive on campus.
Joi Hall, a Clark Atlanta senior, said she spent 11 hours in line outside the financial aid office last week, arriving at 5 a.m., to try to get her loan information processed.
More than 11,000 prospective freshman and transfer students applied, a 26 percent increase from the previous year. About 5,500 freshmen were admitted and 1,400 confirmed their attendance for 2007-2008. About 4,500 students attend CAU.
A murder of a 21-year-old last week in an apparent home invasion robbery at a duplex near CAU also put many on edge.
Four dormitories are under construction, leaving many students who expected housing without it. More than 500 students arrived without room assignments because they hadn’t notified the school they were coming or proven they could pay for it, school officials said.
Rankin [Darrin Quinn Rankin, CAU’s vice president for enrollment service] admitted that the financial aid office is understaffed. But he said too many students arrive at college without a plan for payment.
“Many of our students are in denial. They come here expecting that the university is going to find a way to close the financial gap or deal with credit issues,” he said. “We just can’t, and families get very angry about that.”
“Many of our students and their families are not creditworthy, so we advise them to get a co-signer through a family member,” he said. “Sometimes they get that; sometimes they go through five or six different family members and still get denied. It can be a painful process.”