WSU students still wait for money

Computer glitch delays financial aid to thousands across state

By Jacques Von Lunen, Columbian staff writer

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Thousands of Washington State University students, including many attending the Vancouver campus, still have not received their financial aid disbursements for the current semester because of a computer glitch.

The money from loans and grants typically arrives in students' personal bank accounts no later than the first day of the term, which was Monday, university officials said.

But late this week, long lines of waiting students snaked out of financial aid offices on all WSU campuses, as first reported in the student newspaper, the Daily Evergreen.

Students typically cover some living expenses from financial aid. But more pressing, the aid money pays for books and tuition, both of which are due within days after the start of the semester.

The delay is happening now because this is the first semester in which all modules of a new student information system are

on line, said Nancy Youlden, vice chancellor for student affairs at WSUV.

The system, known to staff and students as the zzusis portal, holds student data on registration, grades and financial aid. Until two years ago, those data were kept on a platform built by WSU employees three decades ago, Youlden said.

"It was developed before we had branch campuses," she said. "It was clear we needed a new system."

The university purchased a system from computer giant Oracle to replace its homegrown, aging portal. Youlden called the new system "a huge leap," and said everyone would appreciate its capabilities once it's running smoothly.

That's not the case yet.

Only about $53 million has been disbursed to WSU students so far, WSU President Elson Floyd wrote on his Web page. Officials originally expected to give out more than $100 million this week, Youlden said.

The university has made concessions to students after the computer glitch. Floyd moved the deadline by which late fees would be assessed on tuition from Sept. 4 to Oct. 1. Students can apply for short-term loans of $2,000 -- up from $1,000 available previously -- Youlden said. However, because of the great demand, that process also is slower than usual, with students having to wait several days for the emergency money, she said.

Campus libraries are giving out copied pages of textbooks to help students who can't pay for their books right now, she said.

The state auditor's office will look into the problems leading to the financial aid delay and make sure the causes are being addressed, Mindy Chambers, the auditor's spokeswoman, told the Associated Press.

Jacques Von Lunen: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/col_schools; jacques.vonlunen@columbian.com.