Financial aid goes for a green future

By: Katelyn Mertz

Beginning mid-June 2012, continuing students will no longer receive their financial aid award packet in the mail as they have in previous years.

Instead, awards for the 2012-2013 aid year will be available exclusively through the Student Center on student Zipline accounts, with the supplementary documents available in the department’s new Online Brochure.

This change does not apply to incoming freshmen or incoming graduate students, who will still receive an award packet in the mail.

Prior to the decision to go paperless, the volume of paperwork mailed by the Office of Financial Aid alone was enormous. This new procedure will also allow Financial Aid officers to more efficiently serve their students, as well as minimize printing and mailing costs on their end.

“We’re very excited about this change,” said Director of Financial Aid Michelle Ellis. “We’ve been considering it for quite a while.”

The office has been considering the change for years, in fact – even before the Office of Student Accounts’ e-bill went paperless in 2008. Other Ohio colleges and universities have successfully been making similar changes, beginning with the University of Cincinnati, which has been paperless for several years. When financial aid awards became paperless this past fall semester at Kent State University, Financial Aid directors at The University of Akron knew it was time to follow suit.

“The information offered to students is nearly identical to what has been offered in the past,” Ellis said. “It is merely being delivered in a different, more efficient, manner.”

Students may remember that the award packet consisted of a letter from the Director of Financial Aid, an Undergraduate or Graduate checklist, an Ohio-resident or non-resident Cost of Attendance form, information regarding the University’s Withdrawal Policy, as well as information regarding the Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy.

Now, the same information contained in the award packet will be available in the Online Brochure, viewable on the Financial Aid website: The Online Brochure is a new asset to the department and acts as a reference tool in much the same way the documents included in the award packet have in years past.

Another item formerly included in the packets was the award letter itself. By implementing this change, the award will no longer appear as a letter sent through the mail, and the award amount will only be available in the ‘Finances’ portion of each student’s Student Center on Zipline.

“Our students already receive so much mail from the University of Akron; we are giving them one less item to have to sift through,” Ellis said. “Also, as continuing students, they have already seen this information at least once before, so I am confident they will adapt well to this change.”

Ellis assures students that communication lines will still be open for students with questions.

To receive financial aid for the 2012-2013 aid year, it is required that students complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The 2012-2013 FAFSA became available Jan. 1.  To be eligible for priority awarding, students must complete the FAFSA by March 1.

For students planning on taking classes during the summer 2012 semester and utilizing financial aid, Summer Aid Applications will be available at the Financial Aid website and in the Simmons Hall lobby beginning March 20.

Students should expect to receive a postcard from Financial Aid before the first summer session reminding them of the new financial aid procedure. As students complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and any other required forms, they will be emailed by Financial Aid that their award is ready to be viewed on their Zipline account, and can accept or decline any offered award from there.

Students who have questions may contact Financial Aid at (330) 972-7032 or visit windows two through six in the Simmons Hall lobby to speak to a Financial Aid counselor. For inquiries regarding a student’s bill, all questions should be directed to the Office of Student Accounts.