Financial bars to registration harm low-income students

James Treuthardt

Fees comprise a large portion of our college experience. We pay for tuition, we pay for University health services, we pay for transcripts.

However, if fees are not paid within the semester, students cannot register for classes next semester. Students must find some way to pay off these fines or risk losing required classes. The University should do away with financial registration bars, which harm low-income students who already struggle to afford college.

According to Hodges Mitchell II, assistant director for accounting and financial management from the students accounts receivable, students are able to take out one month loans of up to $500 to clear their financial bars.

For students who are struggling to pay financial bars already, expecting them to take out a loan and pay it off within 30 days is not reasonable.

Students may also speak with the Office of Financial Aid to see if any assistance is available. However, that is not guaranteed, making a loan the only guaranteed option a student has to clear financial bars if they cannot afford to do so.

Therefore, students must choose between certain vital University services they can not immediately afford, such as University Health Services or transcripts, or taking out an expensive loan.

While options do exist to circumvent financial bars, expecting low-income students to use these options is unrealistic.

This can have a chilling effect on low-income students that might shy away from using University services because of the cost. As a low-income student myself, I often avoid using expensive services such as UHS. I have to choose whether or not I am sick enough to justify paying or if I can overcome the pain. Students should not have to choose between healthcare and registering for classes. Financial bars help create that dilemma.

Mitchell notes that financial bars exist to ensure fees are paid in a timely manner. It makes sense that accounts receivable would want to make sure that funds are coming in and that the University’s accounting is under control. But focusing purely on the accounting perspective ignores real issues students can have in paying off fees.

With the University’s recent expansion of financial aid for low-income students, they also need to address policies that foster an unsafe environment where low-income students avoid using University services.

UT needs to revise current solutions to pay off financial bars that students cannot afford, and they need to ensure that low-income students feel comfortable using pricier University services. No student should ever have to choose between using essential UT services or registering for classes.

Treuthardt is a journalism and marketing junior from Allen. Follow him on Twitter @jamestreuthardt.