Ten minutes before the Financial Aid Office opened, the line had already wrapped around the top floor of the most dreaded sections of campus: the administration (read: paperwork) offices. The Summer Sessions office workers, unable to stem the aid panic and having nothing really to do themselves, were nice enough to provide sugary caffeineated libations for everyone in line.
Their appeasement strategy successfully stemmed a riot, but my caffeine and sugar buzz fueled racing thoughts about how to dismantle the system. Meanwhile, the paperwork quagmire in which I found myself became deferred until next month for a fee.
I view fees as part of tuition. You want to charge me 80 bucks for a $5 library book that was “lost?” Fine. Go ahead. $50 for not picking my classes during the first two passes? Sure, I’ll eat that. I don’t even know when my passes are. $25 for deferring my payments until you can find some form I faxed in a week ago? I am just glad that credit is the equivalent of monopoly money to me at this tender age of 21.
Perhaps providing a way to charge the administrative office fees would provide an adequate incentive for them to process paper. Imagine sending the bill to UCSB – $100 for a line-waiting fee, $25 for a bad smell that lingered in Financial Aid Office and $25 for general stupidity. Not only would this help out my financial situation, but it would force these people to actually do stuff. It seems like the fear of losing their job just isn’t enough these days, especially when their job is to continually deal with an onslaught of angry students demanding money.
To their credit, these people do provide the greatest pro of administrative paperwork: that fuzzy feeling you get while looking at your BARC statement right after a hefty check from Uncle Sam. The amount and type of money you can get is a function of your skill with paperwork.
Demanding money is getting harder and harder these days. Back when the bipolar stock market was in one of its manic swings, it was a different story. Nowadays, in our war-torn, misguided and generally messed up government, it seems that you have to be in a very narrowly defined category to get good aid, such as a Cal Grant.
Now, in theory, the Cal Grant works by giving money to those students who need it. You fill out the paperwork, and then based on some calculations from said paperwork you then get shoved into different categories. What they don’t tell you is that filling out paperwork is a skill – an art form, really.
And there are some damn creative people on campus.
One unnamed BARC worker was all too willing to spill the beans about the chum before me. Apparently, this guy was so fed up with waiting for his Cal Grants that he just decided to write the check out for class now to avoid a late fee, and then wait for the money to come through to his account later.
Write the check?
Cal Grants are, in theory, reserved for people who cannot write checks for outrageous sums of money. Considering that fees this quarter are utterly and completely ultra-outrageous, how could this guy afford to just cut the check?
As the unnamed BARC worker divulged, there is usually a large discrepancy between what someone has in their pocket, and the impression that certain paperwork forms leave. This discrepancy is actually quite common here at UCSB and much of the money set aside for the needy isn’t actually getting to the right people. It’s going to where it usually goes: the rich.
Well-intentioned government programs usually have loopholes. So what can you do about it? Learn to love paperwork, as life always will have an administrative paperwork section.
Travis Cannell is a senior College of Creative Studies computer science major.