Software Glitch Freezes Financial Aid For Thousands Of WSU Students
by Kelsey Watts, KHQ Local News Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
PULLMAN, Wash. – The second week of classes are in session, but thousands of Washington State University students are still wondering how they're going to pay for them.
Over the last two years, WSU has installed a new student information system called ‘Zzusis.' It underwent final testing over the summer and passed, but when it was brought online with thousands of students waiting, a glitch was discovered with a component that deals with financial aid. As a result, money for tuition, housing and books was never posted to student accounts.
WSU says the glitch itself is fixed, but roughly 10,000 students throughout the system were affected, and now catching up with the backlog is the big problem.
Post-graduate student Jessie Harris is among those still waiting.
"The financial aid literally disappeared," she said. "I logged on once, there was my financial aid, I logged on again and it was gone."
Harris spoke to KHQ from her place in a line of roughly 40 people outside the financial aid office Tuesday. She'd been waiting almost 2 hours, and it wasn't her first time in line.
"I waited in line for a total of 5 hours prior to this, so we're working on what, 7, 8 hours now? That's a full shift at work," she said.
WSU says payments have been posted to the majority of students affected, but it may take until mid-October to catch up with the backlog.
"You hate to use the cliché that it couldn't have happened at a worse time, but really that's what we're talking about," Watkins told KHQ. "We're really sorry this happened, but new system online, it had a glitch, and it's unfortunate."
In response, WSU is waiving late fees on tuition until October 1st, and is making loans of roughly $2,000 available to students to help pay for housing and books in the meantime.
"The good news is students are still able to go to school, they're still able to pay their bills, but now we've just added a little extra paperwork and problems to their process," Watkins explained.
But it's a problem students like Jessie Harris would rather do without. She's dyslexic, put herself through undergraduate school, and is now working nearly full-time at two jobs just to pay for her rent.
After waiting in line and her name was finally called, she learned it will be another 3-4 weeks before her paperwork is processed.
"We really need this to come through now. Yesterday would have been great but today, it needs to happen," she said. "I hope the administration knows that for every number of students that haven't received financial aid, there's a face behind that number."
The glitch has also caught the attention of the Washington State Auditors Office. It's been asking WSU preliminary questions about what they're doing to fix it. A spokeswoman from the Auditors Office tells KHQ its just "fact-finding," and it's too early to know if a state audit may happen.
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