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Monday, August 16, 2010

The Student Prince

Well, the dust has finally settled here in the Urban Village. We had a crisis, which was even divided, 50/50 between bureaucratic ineptitude and "my son forgot".

California, cradle of the current recession, has, apparently decided to crack down and stop pouring money into the coffers of the undeserving. So, of course, their first cutbacks were in education. We sure wouldn't want anyone who could READ living here now, would we?

Well, the hubster and I are the proud parents of a college senior. All this time we've been existing on loans, grants, scholarships, spit and sealing wax. This summer, as usual, all the forms were filled out and filed, on line, as always. All the i's were dotted and t's crossed. This was, after all, just the usual renewal. Ah, but then someone in the Office of the State Controller (I'm guessing that's where he or she was) said "Holy crap! We just GIVE this grant money away! Well, yeah, that's why it's a GRANT, as opposed to a LOAN, doofus. So we get a notice. Thanks for the on line information and by the way, now we want corroborating evidence. So we spent an entire week-end looking for our tax returns and W-2s.

Now I figure it's probably because our income dropped dramatically last year, in fact, when we filled out the on-line forms we got a chatty little pop-up box saying "Hello. You're income is considerably less than it was last year, would you care to change the figure?" OH HELL, YES! I would LOVE to change the figure. Unfortunately it still won't show up in the bank account. Um dude? Read the "source of income". Can you spell U-N-E-M-P-L-O-Y-M-E-N-T C-O-M-P-E-N-S-A-T-I-O-N?

So, anyway, we gather up all the papers and Number 2 Son toddles out to the west Valley with his packet. He stopped by my office before he boarded the bus. We sat down and checked off all the paperwork, we dotted and signed and double checked and lovingly placed everything in a nice manila envelope which we sealed and wrote upon in clear, precise letters.

About two hours later I got a frantic text from the kidlet. "The line at financial aid wraps twice around the building and they have a drop box. Is it okay if I use it?" Apparently it wasn't JUST us. "Of COURSE" I reply. Put the envelope in the box and go on your merry way!

Can you spell B-I-G MISTAKE?

About six weeks later my son gets a letter. It says "You didn't enclose copies of your SIGNED Federal Tax Returns. We can't process your request until we get them."

Okay, I enclosed them myself. I signed them. We double checked them and placed them in the envelope. I have NO freaking CLUE what they DID with them, but then, neither do they.

By this time it's the middle of summer and my son is in the middle of his summer job, which involves long hours and short pay. But it ends in early August. So he gets through that and THEN he gets the missing paperwork together and hies himself out to Financial Aid. Where they say "Thanks a lot, you're good to go and, oh, btw, your aid will be in very late because of this". Okay, so what do we do while we're waiting, school starts in two weeks, will it be in by then. Not even close, is the answer. Okay, so how long can he attend classes while we wait? That would be "not one freaking second".

Last year, when the Governor refused to sign the budget and all funding for everything was stalled we got a notice saying, in essence, it's the State's fault, just come to school and when the State money comes in we'll apply it to your account.

But, as they seem to have lost half the initial paperwork it now becomes OUR fault and we need to cough up the tuition, which will then be reimbursed when the grant and loan funding comes in. Okay. When's the tuition due? August 22nd. Great, we've got a week. I start the wheels in motion, I go to the Credit Union, I start looking at those lists online that say you have money somewhere that you didn't know you have...

And then, last night, here it comes. "I checked my account with the University. It's not due the 22nd." "Oh cool. When?"

"Tomorrow. Midnight."

At 11am today I had officially decided to give the kid a check and send him out to pay. I'm thinking, well, okay, they can't deposit it until tomorrow anyway and they'll have thousands of checks to post so that'll take a day at least...and if the Credit Union comes through...and I get paid on Thursday...

Seriously. He's worked way too hard to not go back this semester. Anyway, at about 11:30 I get a text..."how can Grandpa electronically transfer the funds to the California State University system?"

God LOVE him, my son had called his grandfather who, upon ascertaining how much was needed and for WHAT these funds were needed, basically said sure. Who should he make the cashier's check out to?

I said, no. Tell him I will fax him a copy of a deposit slip to my bank account. There is a branch of that bank (a very large bank known to many as "The Evil Empire") about five minutes from Grandpa's house. If he deposits a cashier's check into my account I can then go on line and pay the tuition with my check card. Easy peasy! OR...give Grandpa your student ID and he can put it on HIS check card. Or his AmEx. Whatever.

Uh, no. Grandpa doesn't trust the Internet. He doesn't trust the very large chain of banks I have a small account with. He doesn't trust going into a bank and depositing money into an account that isn't his own. He doesn't trust giving out his credit card on line. I'm not sure he trusts my son, or me for that matter because he wants to make the check payable to the school. I SUPPOSE, when I'm in his position and I'm bailing out my grand kid, I'll feel the same. Just to make sure the money IS actually going to the University and not the closest Indian Casino.

HE then DROVE it over. He lives an hour and a half away. Hello, good-by, here's your check, have fun, see you later". We handed over a signed, undated check and said we would call and tell him "deposit it" as soon as the funds come in. And he was off again.

He actually HAS another grandfather, who lives about 15 minutes away and could well have done the same thing. But probably not in time, because there would be a lawyer involved, loan papers drawn up and notarized and a lot of disclosures to read and sign swearing that we would not file charges against them for usury when the 35.8% interest rate started accruing. My father is a grandparent. There was NO consultation scheduled, no interest will be charged, no indictments brought against his pantie waist parents who didn't have the money and just WHAT were they thinking of, it wasn't as if they didn't KNOW you were going to college and why do you have to go back anyway and why don't YOU have a proper savings account and oh, btw, have you tried welfare?

My son is currently in line at the cashier's office. It's very long, I'm guessing it wraps twice around the building. This time I strongly advised him to NOT use the drop box. If I'd been using my head the first time I would have figured out that the line to drop off paperwork wrapped twice around the building because all of these people had used the drop box previously and knew that investing two hours in line would net them a RECEIPT for all their paperwork. So when the University lost half of it some kid could wander back in the middle of summer when there was absolutely no line and say "Dude, I gave it to you, you checked it off. See?" and then head off to Taco Bell, where he or she is either lunching or working.

Ah HA! There's already an update. Someone wandered up and down the line asking if anyone was ONLY paying their tuition in full. All those who were got pulled out of the line, which was also processing payments plans, meal tickets and parking permits and taken over to a separate window where a young lady was sitting there punching in student id's and "2533" into the accounting program, over and over and over. Sort of like the person at the bank on Friday afternoon who keeps yelling "Does anyone have a straight deposit, no cash back?" His wait was cut to about 10 minutes. He's paid in full. As for me, yeah. I'm pushing retirement and I couldn't pay his damn tuition. I suppose setting the good example that we'll do anything to get them an education sort of balances out the lousy example that we can't AFFORD to pay his damn tuition and, even though I'm starting to push retirement, I still have to get money from my father.

As for my father,I won't rest until I know he's home. I've driven with him.

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