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Business Services Employees Take Care of Students' Business

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
May 2, 2007

Business services senior assistant Sherry Paterson helps junior Brianne Rafford-Varley

At this time of year, the business office is fairly quiet. But at the beginning of the school year, and then again in January when second semester begins, lines of students weaves out the door. Sherry Paterson handles refunds to students whose financial aid exceeds their charges. She also posts tuition charges and payments, handles enrollment and housing deposits and helps process the monthly tuition payment plan.

“There’s a huge volume; it’s amazing,” Paterson says. “We’ll be gearing up for fall semester soon. Charges will start getting posted the beginning of July. It will be very busy with incoming freshmen and that’s exciting.”

Paterson notes providing good customer service to students and parents is just about the best part of her job. Her goal is to make sure they get the information they need.

The office has six service windows but expands to 11 when necessary. During the first few days of the fall and spring semester, when lines are out the door, the crew relies on volunteers and work-study students to keep things flowing smoothly.

“Work-study students are part of our front line,” Paterson says, “as they help answer the many phone calls that Business Services receives.”

Leslye Bridges spends most of her time processing third-party, PLUS (parent) and Stafford loans. Payments from the biggest lenders are received weekly. The rosters cover thousands of students. That means making sure the amount of money received jibes with her records before the funds can be disbursed to students.

“There’s a lot to learn about loans because there are so many different kinds,” Bridges says. “Right now we’re not that busy but this summer, once the bills go out, it will be crazy in here.”

Every semester, Luke Cahoon has to boil down the explanations of a few hundred students into two or three sentences as part of the process to get their $100 late fees forgiven.

In the fall of 2006, that had him reading 267 petitions. Some students get right to the point. Some write paragraphs.

“It’s not a complicated process but it’s an awful lot of work,” Cahoon says. “Generally, there are between 200 and 300 every semester.”

A drawer full of late fee petitions

After he’s condensed the reason for the lateness, Cahoon gives his opinion on whether the petition should be granted and then passes the file along to the others involved in the decision.

And that’s just one part of Cahoon’s senior business service assistant job in Business Services. He also answers all of the department’s email and helps graduate students and teaching assistants who use payroll deductions. Ninety percent of his time is spent on the computer.

“The tricky part about graduate students is, they don’t always know at the beginning of the semester what they’re going to be doing,” Cahoon says. “Sometimes they have to fill out multiple forms. I try to make that all flow as smoothly as possible.”

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