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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Eagle

AU Central still adjusting to high volume of demand

AU Central has been attempting to adjust to the high volumes of student inquiries since its July 1 opening, according to AU Central Director Jonnel Clothier.

Now almost halfway into the new semester, students say they are still dealing with the problems the office is trying to fix, including a shortage of staff members, long hold times on the phone and poor service quality.

Clothier said in August that AU Central was “not operating as efficiently as we would like,” The Eagle previously reported. AU Central combines the three offices of Financial Aid, Student Accounts and the Office of the Registrar.

Mark Fritts, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, noticed the shortage of help at AU Central during his visit.

“I saw only maybe two people there at the front desk, and there’s quite a bit of people there coming with problems,” he said.

Three new staff counselors started working in the office on Sept. 7, and four Federal Work-Study students have been hired in order to alleviate the staffing shortage, according to Clothier.

Betty Douglass, who was the AU Central interim director when the office first opened, said the process of combining the separate branches of Financial Aid, Registrar and Student Accounts into the AU Central office would mean “the staff will be more like general practitioners rather than specialists,” The Eagle previously reported.

Some students feel this lack of specialization has led to poor counseling.

“It’s somewhat inefficient,” said Jacqueline Vi, a junior in the School of International Service. “I went there to meet with a counselor for financial aid, and [staff members] don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Clothier said she understands students’ concern, but they should allow the staff to adjust to the new procedures. She also noted that some students have asked questions at AU Central that were “out of scope,” such as loft specifications and student health plans.

Still, students feel that the new umbrella style of the AU Central office spreads itself too thin over the three branches.

Joe Yoo, a sophomore in the School of International Service, said he was dissatisfied with AU Central’s Financial Aid branch.

“My financial aid didn’t come to me until a week before school started and I would call AU Central and be on hold for an hour.” Yoo said.

In addition to lack of service from AU Central, other students have been contacted by AU Central when they did not have a problem.

There were directory issues early on, in which system software put similar names into a record. However, the problem was diagnosed, and no e-mails were misdirected, according to Clothier.

“I’ve never actually been there, but they sent me an e-mail saying that my inquiry was being processed, when I never inquired anything,” said Devon Huntley, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Then they said that it was all taken care of and something was changed, but I never spoke to anyone.”

Despite the problems reported by some students, there have been others who applaud the new consolidation.

“They seem more efficient than before they combined,” said Tyler Brennan, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs.

However, Brennan feels AU Central is only “relatively efficient,” he said.

“I mean, we are at AU — there’s a decent amount of red tape for most things,” he said.

Clothier said the best way for students to avoid lengthy forms and lines is to first consult the Frequently Asked Questions section on AU Central’s new website.

Clothier noted that this time is a learning period for new staff, and feedback has helped AU Central improve.

“In the first two plus months of operation, we have collected data which is helping us to pinpoint the biggest issues that cause problems for students, and [we] will look at solutions for making these processes more efficient,” Clothier said.

Despite complaints, she says efficiency will improve.

“Right now, we may not be as fast as we would like to be, but we believe a complete answer that may take a little longer to provide is what students prefer,” Clothier said.

news@theeagleonline.com


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