by JAMIE VERWYS
Next semester, Pima Community College students and employees will notice some significant changes to the college’s payment options and deadlines.
Those interested in enrolling will either have to pay out of pocket, sign up for a payment plan, provide verification that they will be receiving financial aid or confirm protected status, such as being a veteran, within 14 days of signing up for classes.
Students who fail to satisfy these financial requirements will be dropped from all their courses.
David Bea, executive vice chancellor for finance and administration, said in an Oct. 16 email to faculty that the college worked to improve the student payment system for the past year and the changes are to increase student success.
“The new process will allow students to commit to their class schedules earlier, which should result in more accurate course enrollments, fewer class cancellations, and a smoother start to the semester,” he wrote.
According to the email, revising the payment system of the college was necessary in light of the frustration caused by the fall semester’s early registration payment deadline. The final deadline, Aug. 15, was 11 days before the first day of class. Once the funds were due, large numbers of students who hadn’t made a payment were dropped from registration, sometimes leading to cancelled classes due to low enrollment.
PCC student and former board student representative Alec Moreno thinks creating this new deadline can actually help students, many of whom have expressed their frustrations over having their classes dropped.
“I think it’s a great idea to put new deadlines in place,” he said. “I always hear students complain about signing up for a class to find out later that it’s been dropped,” he added.
“Now students will know they have two weeks to make the payment from any time they register. It’s going to make registration more reliable not only for students, but faculty as well.”
PCC representatives said that the deadline is not an uncommon one in the collegiate world and they examined the payment procedures of eight different colleges to determine the new deadline.
Although many colleges require payment even quicker then Pima, the deadline could still prove to be a struggle for some students.
Liz Pennington, East Campus Inner Campus Council representative and current Board of Governors student representative, expressed some concern when learning of the new payment deadline.
“I was concerned that there is still not an option to stretch out payments over a longer period of time,” she said. “My thoughts were that giving students six to eight months would help them manage payments with all of their other financial responsibilities.”
Students who rely on the payment plan option to afford college can also expect some major changes next semester, but many of the revisions are improvements according to Pennington. She said that the old payment plan didn’t benefit many students.
“Students have shared with me that the current payment plan option does not make paying for school more manageable,” she said. “I know of students that have had to drop courses this semester, because they could not afford to make the payments on all of their classes,” she said.
The issues with the payment plans caused some students to think about leaving Pima.
“Many of these students have told me that they are seeking other learning institutions that provide options for longer periods of repayment for institutional loans.”
For the first time, the college will offer payment plans for the summer semester, spread over 3 months. Pima will also drop the enrollment fee and the minimum $200 in costs required to be eligible for a payment plan. The old plan required students to pay ten percent down when they registered.
Students who receive financial aid are also now eligible to enroll in a payment plan. They are still held to the new 14-day deadline cycle and are required to prove that they have completed Free Application for Federal Student Aid and have been certified by deadline. Anyone who falls under protected status must confirm this with PCC before the deadline.
On Oct. 26, ten days after faculty were informed, a post was added to Pima’s website alerting students that changes were occurring. Unlike the previous page defining payment rules, there is more information available to help students understand their options and the addition of a “payment estimator” can help students determine their payment plan costs.
For Pennington, the changes are a step in the right direction for Pima students.
“I can see initiatives to improve the well being of PCC. I do believe that these efforts are motivated by a desire to not only meet HLC accreditation standards, but in Chancellor Lambert’s words at the last Board of Governors meeting, ‘to exceed standards.’”
Bea said that student services employees and cashiers have all been trained and instructed in the changes to assist students.
PCC will also offer training to employees in their Fall Student Services Symposiums.
Students with questions about the changes should contact the Students Accounts Office at 206-4574 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the payment plan changes and the new deadlines visit pima.edu/paying-for-school/payment-deadlines.html.
Additional information can be found on PCC’s Facebook and Twitter pages.