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EDITORIAL: Rutgers students deserve more from advisors

As Rutgers students, we should not have to fight to get the help we need from the Office of Financial Aid or other services.  – Photo by Google Maps

“Welcome to the Office of Financial Aid at Rutgers—New Brunswick ... Please select from the following options. Press one for — ” This is a trick question — none of the options listed will apply to you.

You start to mash buttons, hoping one of them will take you out of this choose-your-own-adventure nonsense and put you on the phone with a real person. By accident, you click zero and enter the long, long line of students waiting to speak to a financial aid officer.

After an hour of listening to elevator music, a tired sounding office worker finally picks up the phone, only to tell you that you have to come in person — pre-coronavirus disease (COVID-19), of course.

You hop on a bus, get leaked on by the air conditioner and show up to sit on a line for another hour. You get to the window and find out you needed to bring several forms of identification. At this point, you have spent hours trying to resolve an issue and have nothing to show for it.

Dealing with a bureaucracy like this at Rutgers is an ongoing, exhausting fight for so many students, and yet, the Rutgers administration continues to do nothing to restructure, reorganize or address this issue in any way. Our tuition money pays the salaries of people who are ill-equipped to help us both with academic issues and financial issues alike.

It is not the fault of overworked, overburdened office workers, but of higher-level management that does not attempt to organize the efforts of their employees in any way or increase the transparency of these offices at all.

The Office of Financial Aid at Rutgers is a prime example. Not a single person seems to be able to deliver a clear answer in a reasonable amount of time, and there is no transparency regarding the structure of this office or its leadership.

There is only one reason that any student would walk down to the office behind Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus — you have a problem. And if it is a problem you bring to the Office of Financial Aid, it probably involves thousands of dollars worth of tuition and fees.

Yet, despite the urgent nature of these financial issues, problems can take weeks or even months to get resolved. We are bounced around from bureaucrat to bureaucrat without so much as a clear answer the whole time.

But bureaucracy at Rutgers does not stop at the Office of Financial Aid, it bleeds into all other areas of our lives as students, most notably academic advising.

From the moment we enter Rutgers as students, we have almost no support from the designated “academic advisors.” When it comes to scheduling future classes, picking the rights majors or finding the best professors, most academic advisors give us less information than is available online.

We take the time out of our schedule to trek down to someone’s office, only to watch them conduct the same Google searches we did hours earlier to prepare for this meeting.

Our peers and professors give us better advice and information than the people being paid to do so. Finding an advisor that both wants to help and has the capacity to do so is a game of luck, and with so few actually qualified people available, students are left to fight for their attention and help.

We are not trying to say that these advisors are ill-intentioned, simply that they are ill-prepared. They should be able to help students plan their four years at University, work with the poorly designed Degree Navigator, be open about which professors we should reach out to and give us the insight they supposedly have as experts.

Maybe this requires more training or directives from those in charge of these services, but it is crystal clear that, as it stands, academic advisors are inadequate at best.

This is all assuming you can actually reach your academic advisor. More often than not, their contact information is hidden on websites we cannot find, and your advisor is often so overbooked during the course scheduling period that you cannot reach them in time to answer your questions.

These are the by-products of a disorganized and mismanaged system. It is not our contention that the advisors are to blame, they are not receiving the support they need either.

We understand that running a University with more than 50,000 undergraduate students requires a bureaucracy and is by no means a simple task. That said, we pay more than $7,000 in-state or $15,000 out-of-state tuition a semester for a quality service that we are not receiving.

As stakeholders in our University, we deserve the same transparency as consumers of any other product. A dollar-by-dollar breakdown of where our tuition money goes is warranted, especially when prices are rising, and our issues have been the same issues for approximately two decades.

Email your deans, advisors and chancellors and explain to them the struggles you undergo every single day trying to get anything done at Rutgers. Remind them that we are fighting an uphill battle against the RU Screw, and it is their job to help us.

We pay enough tuition money to get an answer when we need one.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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