The Jan. 17 ASSOU Meeting began with the customary land acknowledgement, followed by revisions to the minutes from the Senate’s last meeting in November. After the minutes were approved, the Senate discussed their retreat over the prior weekend. They announced that the OAR meeting was to take place the week of Jan. 22 after being rescheduled from Fall Term. President Alicia Gerrity described meetings she had attended with faculty pertaining to changes in the SOU budget and described the Town Hall meeting that would immediately follow the Senate meeting. She yielded the rest of her time.
The senator representing RHA stated that ads for the upcoming drag event, to take place on Feb. 11, were being distributed. The senator representing clubs described upcoming events, including the Computer Science Club’s AI Art/Text Generator session on Jan. 24. The Senator representing athletics gave an overview of recent wins and losses and highlighted upcoming games. Men’s wrestling won against Arizona Christian and Vanguard but lost by two points against Embry-Riddle. Men’s basketball won both their games against Lewis & Clark State College and Walla Walla State College. Women’s basketball lost against Lewis & Clark but won against Walla Walla. The men and women’s basketball teams will play against Eastern Oregon on Jan. 20 and against College of Idaho on Jan. 21. The Senate then moved on to new business regarding financial aid.
The Senate was introduced to Jason Piazza, a processor in the financial aid office and a point of contact for the Senate’s financial aid task force. Piazza discussed some of the challenges the Financial Aid Offices faces in helping students access monetary assistance for their education. He explained that the office sends mass emails at the beginning of each term to inform students that they may not be taking full advantage of financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Despite this effort, they are unable to reach all students, partially because, in Piazza’s words, “Financial aid really can’t push students too hard because if we try to encourage them to take loans, it could be seen in a dark light.”
He went on to discuss further challenges of the office. At the time of the meeting, the Financial Aid Office had two Processors, including Piazza. Piazza explained that he would no longer be a part of financial aid as of Jan. 20, leaving just one processor in the department. In five years, the number of positions in the department had been reduced from four to two, putting a “big burden” on the office. He encourages students to go into financial aid to review their options and to reach out if they need help. He also stresses the importance of staying updated on emails from the Office.
The Senate questioned Piazza about financial resources for students outside of loans. Piazza spoke at length about the benefits and challenges of scholarships. He explained that students must be persistent with scholarships and put in extra effort to receive them. Because scholarships are renewable, students can reap the benefits of scholarships throughout their education. The Senate then asked Piazza about options outside of scholarships. He highlights parent-plus or third-party loans as viable options.
When questioned about some issues regarding Financial Aid’s website, Piazza explained that the University is federally required to use certain verbiage. This means that the Office is limited in its ability to change the website. Piazza described the services provided by the Office, which include meetings with pre-college students and resolving concerns. Students can request meetings via Navigate. Processors meet with students on Zoom. Navigate also offers a comment option for quick questions
Piazza also explained changes in Financial Aid policies in the last few years. Since the Covid-19 Pandemic began in 2020, people have been unsure of forward paths for their education. Some students were relying on benefits offered during the pandemic, which expired in 2021. Additionally, college enrollment is down both at SOU and nationwide. This proves that students need to be able to support themselves and invest in their futures. The Senate thanked Piazza for his time, and the meeting was adjourned at 6:49 PM.