How To Deal With The Scariest Place On Campus: The Bursar

Anyone whose job description (unofficially) involves taking all of your money and leaving you with crippling student debt is bound to be unpopular.

This hatred for the money-collectors of the world dates back to Biblical times, and continues to be ever-present in our society. For a modern day example, look no further than our very own Penn State Office of the Bursar. An extremely kind person might look at the automatic hate some of these employees receive and think, “Is this fair? Maybe they shouldn’t get much hate for just doing their job.” Wrong. Anyone who makes a big deal out of forgetting to pay sixty dollars when you have already forked over thousands has it coming.

If you’re one of the lucky few who have never had a poor experience with the bursar, then just wait– it’s bound to happen eventually. Even if you’re #blessed enough to have your parents fund your entire college experience, it’s practically guaranteed that you will eventually have to interact with the bursar. After all, you are the one who is getting the degree from Penn State, not your parents. Even during Halloween, the Bursar’s Office is still the scariest building at Penn State. Peruse through these tips on how to deal with our lovely friends in the Shields Building to make it a little less scary:

Make All Your Payments On Time

Yeah, this one is pretty obvious. However, this is always how the problems start. Maybe you got the date mixed up or the payment didn’t go through as quickly as you thought it would. Whatever the reason, paying all your bills on time is extremely important because there’s a litany of consequences for failing to do this, such as:

  • You may not receive grades for the courses you are attending.
  • Once classes begin, you cannot add, late drop, or late add courses for the current semester.
  • You can’t schedule classes for next semester.
  • If you are receiving student loans, you may enter repayment status with your lender.
  • Some sources of your student aid may be cancelled.
  • If you are receiving a Federal work-study award, you cannot be hired.
  • The university reserves the right to cancel an incomplete registration.
  • If you are an international student, you may be out of compliance with the Student Exchange Visitor Information System.

If you can’t make huge payments at once, then it’s possible to enroll in the Deferred Payment Plan (but wait, there’s a charge for that!). This plan allows you to defer payment of two-thirds of your tuition bill. The first one-third of tuition, fees, and room and board is payable by the due date of the tuition bill, and the remaining two-thirds are payable over the subsequent two months. The $45 fee that goes along with the Deferred Payment Plan is due along with the first payment.

It is also worth noting that when I say make your payments on time, I mean make ALL of them on time, no matter how small. Even having a charge as low as five dollars could put you in jeopardy come scheduling time. Nothing is more soul crushing than having your schedule all planned out but not being able to register because the bursar has placed a hold on your account for a measly five dollars. And at midnight, there’s nothing you can do; the Bursar’s Office is closed.

Save. Everything.

Even though we sometimes think computers to be infallible, mistakes still happen. You and your bank say that you made the payment, but the Bursar says otherwise. In order to make this terrifying conversation work in your favor, come armed with confirmation emails and receipts, because proof like that will always work in your favor. Whenever a confirmation email is sent to you from either the Bursar, your bank, or your lender, save it in a folder marked specifically for Penn State Tuition Payments. This way, it will always be clear what you have and have not paid.

Check eLion Frequently

Most students only go on eLion to schedule classes, calculate their GPA, or look at their grades. On a typical day, there really isn’t a need to visit the site. However, the Bursar is sometimes able to add a charge to your bill, without necessarily notifying you in a timely manner. For instance, if you take a lab class at Penn State, then it is likely the Bursar will add a small fee to cover the cost of supplies you use in the lab. If you never check eLion, then the chance of your account carrying unbeknownst fees only increases. That’s why the next tip is…

Check eLion A Few Days In Advance To Scheduling/Requesting Anything From The Administration

When it comes time to do something important, such as scheduling or ordering a transcript, then make sure to check eLion early. If there is a charge that is unpaid, this gives you a chance to take care of it before the big day comes. This way, you’ll be able to send your transcript to that dream grad school smoothly, and you’ll make it into that math class that only has two spots left.

Whenever Something Is Charged To Your Account, Take Care Of It Immediately

Going to Penn State is like going to the bar. But instead of, “Put it on my tab,” the catch phrase is, “Charge it to the Bursar.” There are so many circumstances where charges can be added to your account, and thus, so many circumstances in which you could forget to pay. For example, taking a trip to the University Health Services and obtaining a prescription usually ends with the question, “How would you like to pay?” Being college kids, we obviously defer payment over to our parents whenever we can. And if you’re sick, then you probably just go home to bed and forget about it…and maybe forget to mention it to your parents.

Now that we will soon be able to late drop an unlimited number of classes, it is also important to note the fee that comes with it. Late dropping a class comes with a small fee that won’t go away on its own. The best solution to this not wreaking havoc on your future schedule is to take care of it right away or tell your parents right away.

Watch Your Late Drop Credits

If you have any type of financial aid, then you should know it comes with certain restrictions. While having endless late drop credits may seem fun, in order to maintain your financial aid eligibility you need to be completing a certain ratio of the classes you enroll in. Likewise, if you have a scholarship, then dropping classes and having a course load of fewer than 12 credits makes you a part-time student. That status could result in a retraction of your scholarship. Before you make a decision to drop any class, you should talk to someone at the Bursar about your situation specifically. That way, you can completely understand if it will have any negative impacts on your finances.

Give Your Parents eLion Access

Since college is not high school, many students want to establish some independence and keep their eLion account (and their grades) private from their parents. However, sharing your account with your parents is undoubtedly the easiest way to get bills and finances taken care of. This way, you won’t have to give your parents access every time something needs paid. While you may feel like an adult sometimes, it’s easier to just admit you still need your parents when it comes to the Bursar.

Make Your Case In Person

Yes, the Shields Building is far away. However, the fact of the matter is that yelling at the representative on the phone or sending a heated email may not always get the job done swiftly. If you truly have a problem that needs solving, then the best way to get it done is to talk to someone face-to-face. Going to the Bursar’s office can allow you to look at your account together and you can watch them as they physically fix your problem, whether it be removing a hold or excusing a bill you already paid. Even though it’s going to be a trek, it’s probably worth it if it saves you from some stress.

As students, finances and money are the last things we want to constantly have on our minds as we enjoy our few short years at Penn State. After all, college is supposed to be the best years of your life. However, you can only have those incredible years in you pay your bills. If you check your accounts and take care of things frequently, the Bursar will be the least of your problems at Penn State.

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About the Author

Katie Klodowski

Katie is a senior from Pittsburgh, PA and a retired editor at Onward State. Currently, she works as a staff writer. True to her hometown, she is a fan of Steel City sports but also uses her ballet and music training to be a tough critic of all things artsy. The fastest ways to her heart are through pizza, sushi, and a solid taste in music (this means no Taylor Swift). To be constantly razzle-dazzled, follow her on all social media forms at @KatieKlodowski

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