OSWEGO, N.Y. —A year after a new policy prohibiting students with outstanding balances from registering for classes at SUNY Oswego was implemented, students say it has had positive and negative effects.
With tuition steadily rising, many college students have been concerned about their ability to pursue their academic ambitions.
Ty’reek Wylie, a senior at the university majoring in political science, said he was initially shocked after receiving an email from the student accounts office about the hold.
“The email honestly sent me in a panic,” said Wylie. At the time I didn’t have any way to make payments and I just thought I wouldn’t be able to return. It was unexpected and just academically hindering.”
The office of student accounts on campus places holds on student records and most of the holds can prevent registration, insurance and transcripts. While many students including Wylie were unaware of this, their scramble for financial help began.
Lauren Porter, assistant director of financial aid, says that the office uses a variety of strategies to ensure that students receive the best possible support needed to understand their bill even when unanticipated policies are implemented.
“We try to be front and center at admissions events both for prospective and already admitted students,” said Porter. “We hold tabling at events on campus, we send out emails and we’re open to having any kind of discussions with students that have questions.”
Porter says that many institutions use registration holds for students to get necessary advising on their bills rather than waiting until they graduate.
“We had students that would come in at the end of their four years that owed $60,000,” she said. “Truly outrageous amounts of money, so on one hand it’s good to make sure that students have some idea of their bill by the time they register for classes.”
On the other hand, Porter says that the holds sometimes backfire and cause students financial stress.
“It can cause students to jump a bunch of hoops to get into classes they need once they miss the registration deadline,” said Porter.
Wylie says that he wasn’t able to register for classes until a month after his original registration date in November.
“I was only able to register once I got my bill under $1,000,” he said. “I got it to a two-dollar amount under one thousand, which was still considerably high. This wasn’t until a month after so I wasn’t able to register until finals week in December.”
The drawback of this policy, says Wylie, was that it prevented him from taking the courses that he intended since many of them no longer had any seats.
Similar to Wylie, Keissy Sarda, a senior majoring in human development, said that she was unsure of how to proceed after being emailed about the hold on her account.
“As a first-generation college student, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge of college,” said Sarda. “I initially thought that I would have to pay my balance off after I graduated from Oswego. Therefore it never really crossed my mind and I didn’t spend any time worrying about it.”
Sarda said that one downside of this policy was that students were not informed before the email was sent out. Students therefore had to act fast to register for their courses on time.
Today, both Wylie and Sarda view the policy as a learning experience. Wylie says that the hold enhanced his approach to finances.
“It improved my savings skills,” said Wylie. “While the policy is still going, before this semester I saved a significant amount of money to be able to pay my balance in full. I’ve noticed that I’m saving far more cautiously than before.”
Sarda says that it helped her become more familiar with the resources available on campus.
“A friend of mine pointed me to the financial aid office,” Sarda said. “I scheduled a meeting with them, and many of my concerns were fixed. I was able to take out a private loan to help pay for my expenses till graduation.”
Porter has some helpful advice for students who are struggling with registration holds.
“My main recommendation would be coming into the financial aid office and talking with us,” Porter said. “While every student’s situation is different, we can sit down and have that one-on-one conversation which can help the student fill in the blank that they were missing.”
But Porter says the solution has to start with the students.
“Students must reach out to us, we are here to help and lead them in the right direction.”