Putting the aid in financial aidTodd Mordhorst
Challenges were nothing new for Lauren Tripp. She’d overcome plenty just to make it to Washington State University, and even before she got to campus, she was determined to earn her degree no matter what obstacles stood in her way.
But near the end of her freshman year, Tripp was facing a financial hurdle that threatened to derail her dream.
“During my second semester, I had more costs than I could cover with my financial aid due to my dorm expenses, and I didn’t know,” Tripp says. “I didn’t see the notifications and I didn’t really understand what to do. I finally realized I might not be able to come back to WSU because I owed about $4,600 and there’s no way I could pay that.”
Tripp began thinking she might have to return to her hometown of Gig Harbor and find a job. And she thought her dream of working in the field of landscape architecture might have to take a backseat to paying bills, and figuring out another path.
“I thought I was going to have to come home from school, which is something I didn’t want to do,” Tripp says. “I didn’t want to let my mom down, and I didn’t want to let myself down.”
But with persistence, resilience and the helping hand of dedicated WSU staff, Tripp is back at WSU, thriving as a sophomore.
Kara Kimball, WSU Receivables Office collections supervisor, encouraged Tripp to explore her options. Tripp’s mother had applied for the Parent Plus loan believing it would be denied. Their plan was to receive the denial so Tripp could be eligible for an additional unsubsidized Stafford loan, but Tripp’s mother was approved.
Paying off the loan would have been a huge obstacle for Tripp’s single mother, who makes minimum wage. Instead, Kimball recommended that Tripp apply for Special Circumstances Request with Student Financial Services. With the help of the team at Student Financial Services, the request was approved and gave Tripp an additional $4,000 in funding. Tripp worked over the summer to pay off the rest of her bill, and she feels like she’s much better prepared for her sophomore year.
“Figuring out all possible avenues for assistance can be very complex,” Kimball says of the university system. “It’s difficult to expect an 18 or 19-year-old to understand how to navigate it all, but University Receivables and Student Financial Services work together to try to educate them on how to be their own best advocate. We want them to know that we’re here and they can trust us.
“The 12 staff members in University Receivables have a total of about 95 years of experience working in this WSU office. We’re here because we enjoy working with the students. If they can tell us what’s going on, we have a better understanding of how to help them get through the tough times and stay enrolled. There are campus and community resources available if they know where to look.”
Tripp learned valuable lessons through her freshman ordeal. When she realized she had unpaid bills mounting, it took humility and courage to seek help.
“You need to take the initiative and it is scary, but asking for help is not something to be looked down upon, or be anxious about,” Tripp says. “It’s kind of a wakeup call. When you get to college, you’re an adult and if you’re not going to stand up for yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. For me, it was basically deciding whether I was going to push for my education, or not.”
Kimball encourages students to advocate for themselves, and utilize WSU staff and resources that are here to help. Tripp says she did her part by staying in touch with Kimball and others in the Student Financial Services office.
“It was definitely a really long process, but the best thing I did was try to communicate well with the staff here, and without the people working here I wouldn’t have known what to do,” Tripp says. “I’m really thankful.”