Office of Financial Aid, HSRC work to ease the financial burden of college

Chloe Stewart, News Contributor

The cost of college has become a much-debated topic across the United States in recent years and Oregon State University is not exempt from this controversial issue. According to the Office of Admissions, attending OSU full time for one year can cost between $26,000-$41,000 on average, resulting in financial burdens for some students. In light of this, several programs and departments around the university are dedicated to providing aid for students struggling financially. 

Among these resources available to students is the Office of Financial Aid. The Office of Financial Aid exists to help students navigate financing college and locate resources that can help them do just that. According to Brian Hultgren, associate director of the Office of Financial Aid, this is their busiest time of year, when many students, new and returning, seek financial assistance. Last year, over 20,000 OSU students received some form of financial aid over the course of the academic year.

According to Hultgren, the Office of Financial Aid focuses on helping students understand college financing and develop greater financial literacy. For example, students can learn the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. The Office of Financial Aid also works hard to ensure that their services are readily accessible.

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“Our goal is that paying for college will not be a barrier and a worry that is distracting students from completing their education,” Hultgren said.

Moving forward into the academic year, Hultgren advises students do their best to be proactive with their finances and ask plenty of questions.

“A lot of times just talking it out can be helpful and hopefully eases some of the stress that comes with that. I think knowledge is power, so understanding what the processes are and what opportunities there are (…) can help students be better prepared,” Hultgren said.

The Office of Financial Aid resides in the Kerr Administration Building, and has its own webpage as well. For more information, students can find resources online or make an appointment.

Another resource available to students is the Human Services Resource Center. Among the services provided at the HSRC are their food pantry, emergency housing options, a textbook-specific library, assistance connecting students to services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and more.

According to Nicole Hindes, assistant director of HSRC, this program was developed as a result of student activism requesting a portion of student fees be put aside to help the increasing numbers of students struggling financially. Additionally, this program has become a model on a national scale, with other universities frequently seeking information about the HSRC on our campus and how they can implement similar services in their own communities. 

Last year, according to Hindes, the HSRC made approximately 10,000 contact points with students and served approximately 1,700 individual students.

“We are an institution that knows how to work hard,” Hindes said. “We know how to dig in and get things done. So many of our faculty and staff are working so hard to do their jobs in all different sorts of ways, and we know as an institution, the value of hard work. We recruit students to our engineering department, for example, we tell them ‘this is going to be hard, but it’s going to pay off.’ And we’re not afraid of that. The hard work should be going and studying for four hours. The hard work shouldn’t be going and studying four hours on an empty stomach. That’s not fair. And I think that our faculty and staff know that that’s not fair, and that’s not what we want our students doing.”

The HSRC is housed in Champinefu Lodge. There is also a website providing more information about the services they offer.

For students who are feeling overwhelmed and do not know where to begin, the Office of Student Life could be a place to start. It is made up of smaller offices who serve students, including the HSRC, Military & Veteran Resources Disability Access Services and more.

Among these programs is Student Care, which stands for Community, Access, Resources and Empowerment. Aubrie Piper, director of Student Care, described her office as a hub for students to connect to resources throughout the university.

“If you don’t know where to go, if you don’t know where to start, start here and we’ll figure it out with you,” Piper said.

According to Piper, her office focuses on helping students navigate challenging circumstances, like family crises. Piper also mentioned that financial difficulties are frequently cited as cause for concern by the students she works with. To help students work through these situations, Piper and her team emphasize the importance of working with students to problem-solve, develop an actionable plan and locate the services that will help students achieve their goals.

“You’re not alone,” Piper said. “And that’s so hard, because in really challenging circumstances, I believe that’s a very natural feeling.”

Piper has been in this office since its creation approximately a year ago. Moving forward, Piper hopes to continue to serve students and further develop a culture of care for students at OSU.

The Office of Student Life is located in Snell Hall, with smaller offices devoted to some of the departments within it, such as Student CARE. Additionally, they have a website with information and contacts for each of their departments.