LOAN Zone gets high marks in student survey

Eighty-eight per cent of students surveyed using the new LOAN Zone were satisfied with how well staff responded to their needs.

The LOAN Zone, opened by Student Financial Services from Aug. 27 to Sept. 21, was designed to address issues of long wait times and line ups, lack of space and a high volume of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan documents that needed to be turned around in a short amount of time.

The goal was to improve students overall experience when dealing with OSAP-related matters and to educate them about the process. Last year, 15,381 students or 36.2 per cent of York’s student population received OSAP, $101,245,638 in loans and another $12,650,344 in grants.

Right: Students meet with the LOAN Zone team to arrange their OSAP loans

To achieve these goals, Student Financial Services began a self-serve system where students could book an appointment ahead of time to pick up their OSAP rather than waiting in line ups. It began to do on-the-spot reassessments so students would know how much OSAP to expect without the need to make another appointment, and it had OSAP experts explain the process and how to fill out the forms. There was also a power point presentation explaining the different sources of financial aid, what can affect OSAP funds and common mistakes to avoid.

Student Financial Services sent e-mail messages about the LOAN Zone to first-year, continuing and out-of-province students. It also sent out notebox messages, implemented a Web site, a financial document tracker and improved the LOAN Zone’s signs. Comfortable chairs, couches and computers were also made available for staff and students.

Left: Some of the OSAP team members at the LOAN Zone

The survey was Student Financial Services’ way of getting feedback on just how well its new initiative was working. Overall, most students were satisfied. Eighty-five per cent of students reported waiting between five and 20 minutes to see someone, while 77 per cent said the appointment system worked well for them. Another 72 per cent were satisfied with the LOAN Zone’s location, 81 per cent thought the signs were satisfactory and 85 per cent reported finding out about the Zone by e-mail or Web site.

Student Financial Services found the new process worked well for them as well. Eighty-nine per cent of students showed up for their appointment within the first two weeks the LOAN Zone was open. That figure dropped slightly to 85 per cent as the weeks went on. On average, there were about 413 appointments per day with about 40 students a day without appointments.

Faculties served by the LOAN Zone included the Faculty of Arts, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, Faculty of Fine Arts, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Health and Faculty of Science & Engineering.