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Lack of communication causes students to be dropped

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Photo shows Bruce Gifford, acting dean of student services and enrollment management. Photo courtesy of CSU-Pueblo website.
160 students at CSU-Pueblo were dropped from classes after they failed to pay their first dues, which was Monday, Aug. 23. More than 80 students came back after making payments.

Before that, emails went out to student email accounts as well as an automated phone call message to inform students of the deadline and the consequence, said Bruce Gifford, acting dean of student services and enrollment management.

The action is reinforcing a university policy that students will be administratively withdrawn if they have a delinquent debt to the university, according to CSU-Pueblo’s 2012-2013 catalogs. However in the past, the policy was poorly enforced

“In previous semesters, the university wasn’t doing a good job in collecting,” Gifford said. “We lost a lot of money.”

The university started reinforcing the policy in the spring semester but gave some time for students to ease into payments allowing them to pay their bills until June, Gifford said.

In previous years, students could always view their bills by clicking “billing/account activity” in their PAWS account, where students can also register for classes, fill out hours for on campus employment, view transcripts and check financial aid information. Upon that, PAWS now provides a brief of balance on its homepage so that students don’t have to click to view.

“Some were surprised that they were dropped, “ said Gifford. “They didn’t think the university was serious about that.”

“As long as they came and talked to us and we knew what was going on, we did not drop them or we allowed them back in,” Gifford said. It was the students who didn’t respond at all were dropped, Gifford added.
The university doesn’t have staff to make personal phone calls to every student, Gifford said.

Also, CSU-Pueblo uses its campus email system as its official mode of communication, according to the university catalog.

Although many students are not used to checking their student email accounts or haven’t even checked at once, “We have to change the culture,” Gifford said. “If you want to know about what’s going on with the university, check your student emails.”

However, many students complained that the communication efforts on the university’s side were not serious or effective although email notifications and automated phone calls were made. Many don’t even consider email as a serious way to communicate as a whole.

Ty McLeod, a former CSU-Pueblo student who was dropped because of financial difficulty, said that the school only contacted him through emails during winter break regarding his financial aid status. He didn’t check emails during the break and was too late to appeal after the semester started.

He had to wait for another year to return to school, or pay out of his own pockets, McLeod said. He has not yet returned to school and doesn’t plan to, he said.

“My least favorite aspect of it was that they relied on school email to get such an important message to me,” McLeod said.

To get back in their classes, students need to ask for their instructors’ and the department chair’s permission and pay a $10 late-add fee.

Second payment deadline will be on Monday, Sept. 20, and although it will not cause any more dropping of students, Gifford said that it would prevent students registering for next semester if they don’t pay what is due.

The dropping of students also had an impact on the already declining enrollment rate at CSU-Pueblo. As the census done after two weeks of class shows, the enrollment this year is 4,800, dropping from 5,230 one year ago.