LEHIGH ACRES - The Fall semester is now in its second week at Edison State College and the college still hasn't processed more than 2000 student loan applications.
Fox 4 has received at least a half dozen emails in the past few weeks from students who say they almost had to drop Fall classes because the college didn't process their application in time and they couldn't pay out of pocket.
Samantha Caristo balances being a mother and a student. But this year she almost had to drop her classes because four months after she submitted her federal student aid forms the college hadn't processed them.
"Usually I'm always approved before school starts," said Caristo.
"And this year?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"No," said Caristo. "Still waiting."
Caristo says the financial aid staff told her they were overwhelmed.
"Why am I being punished," she said, "because you haven't finished my financial aid yet?"
At the last minute the college sent her an email saying she had been awarded a $1500 scholarship - the exact amount needed to pay for classes.
"If I wouldn't have gotten that magical scholarship that I did not apply for," she said, "I would have been dropped that night."
"I'm sure it wouldn't look too good if all of a sudden the day after the drop date," she said, "everyone is dropped from Edison and nobody is enrolled anymore."
Edison says it has 16 financial aid staff members working on 9,552 applications. That's one staff member for every 597 students.
Florida Gulf Coast University has 12 financial aid staff members for 18,709 applications. That's one staff member for every 1,559 applications.
FGCU officials say all applications received by July 1 were "processed in a timely fashion before the first day of Fall classes."
Two weeks after Fall classes started, Edison processed 74 percent with 2405 students still waiting.
"This [year] is the worst," said Caristo. "But every year it's an issue."
The issue this year, according to Edison, is the government. The college says the federal government asked 6350 Edison students to submit "additional verification."
"When this happens," said Edison spokeswoman Teresa Morgenstern, "students are required to submit additional documentation, which adds time to the entire process of receiving financial aid."
A process that seems more like a headache to students like Caristo.
"I'd like to next semester maybe not have a problem," she said.
The college says, on a case-by-case basis, they will make a short-term loan available for students whose financial aid is nearly completed.
They also have an Edison Cares scholarship which can be given to students in situations like this.
Throughout the year, Edison State College processes thousands of applications valued at $63 Million in financial aid for students. At any time during this process, the Federal government can select for students for additional verification. At this time, the Federal government selected 6,350 students for the Fall 2012 semester. When this happens, students are required to submit additional documentation, which adds time to the entire process of receiving financial aid. On a case-by-case basis, Edison State College will make available a short-term loan for students whose financial aid is nearly completed. Additionally, the college also has an Edison Cares scholarship, which is awarded to a handful of students based upon individual cases. The Edison Foundation also provides scholarships for students. It is the goal of the college to help as many students as possible continue their higher education aspirations.
1. How many employees work in financial aid right now (that are handling/processing applications)? 16
2. How many students applied for financial aid this year? 9,552
3. How many employees worked in financial aid last year(handling/processing applications)? 16
- 9,552 enrolled Edison applicants
- Of those 9,552 enrolled Edison applicants, 6,350 have been selected by the Federal government for additional verification
- Of the 9,552 enrolled Edison applicants, 7,048 have their financial aid - for 74 percent