New policy on financial aid affects all students

The state and federal government staff are sending down new laws that will keep students on track to graduation but threatens to take their money and classes if they falter.

The federal government has established a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SSAP) policy that can be found in the financial aid section of the campus website. Palomar officials say they plan to use those rules, too.

The SAP includes new penalties in financial aid and BOG (Board of Governors) waivers if students fail, encourages declaring majors and priority registration.

Don’t meet standards, lose money

One change in the financial aid policy is that if students don’t meet the requirements, they lose their money for a longer period of time.

The policy started in the 2013-2014 academic year. If a student on financial aid fails to meet just one of the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards, they will lose their federal loan for a full year instead of four months as it was previously. However, the appeals process will remain the same,

Changes part of Student Success

The SAP requirements are part of the state Student Success Act. The Student Success Task Force was started in 2011 to make recommendations for California Community Colleges students to be more successful in their education.

Some of these recommendations are turning into law, (such as course repeatability) according to Vice President of Student Services Adrian Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said the job of the faculty will be to make resources available to support students before it is too late.

“Students will need to be proactive and knowledgeable so they don’t fall below the academic standards,” Gonzalez said.

Three standards to note

According to the SAP, there are three standards that could potentially disqualify a student.

The first is grade point average (GPA), students must maintain a cumulative GPA equal to or higher than 2.0. Fall below that threshold and you could lose your aid or be billed for any payment made to you after your disqualification.

Don’t take too many units

The second SAP standard to look out for is the unit limit, which is a cap on the number of classes you can take. The policy states, “students shall be held to a unit limit equal to 150 percent of the units required to complete their declared major.”

If your declared major has 60 required units, then you must complete that major within 90 units (60 units x 150 percent) to keep your financial aid.

“You know that saying, some students go to college (to try and) find themselves…you have less time to find yourself now,” Gonzalez said.

By the Fall 2014 semester, the state Student Success Task Force recommendations will swing in full effect, such as the changes to priority enrollment and access to the BOG Fee Waiver.

If a student takes too many units, over 100, they could lose their priority enrollment and their BOG.

Don’t linger too long

The third SAP standard to watch is your pace. “You must complete at least 67 percent of your attempted units to make sure you are able to complete your major within the unit limit,” according to the policy.

Earning a grade of A through D and P are considered to be a completed course. On average you need to pass two out of every three classes you take to keep pace.

“If you get yourself in academic trouble or take too many units, you start to lose access to priority enrollment and the BOG Waiver,” Gonzalez said about the 2014 Fall semester changes.

Making the most of majors

Students will be encouraged to declare a major after their first semester so the staff at Palomar can better guide them and can be given the tools to succeed.

Director of the Career Center Rosie Antonecchia said students will be allowed a lot of room to “wiggle” with changing their major.

“I think it is a dual benefit for students and (the) community college…I don’t see what the downfall is in that,” Antonecchia said.

When student Zane Penix was asked if he would care if he was required to declare a major he responded: “I am just taking classes I am interested in…I’m not really thinking about my (general education) right now.”

Really learning toward success

Since 2011, Palomar College has been implementing new policies geared toward “tightening up,” said Mary San Agustin, the Director of Financial Aid, Veterans Affairs and Scholarship Services.

“Our volume of appeals after disqualification is low,” San Agustin said, referring to the financial aid department. “It has minimized the workload.”

This type of change to financial aid policy puts a lot more pressure on students receiving loans to be more efficient and focused.

Elvia Vasquez, a student currently receiving financial aid, said that the new policy “is helpful to people that are struggling and gives them an opportunity to be successful.”

Palomar College is not the first or only institution making this change. Every school defines success differently and Palomar College has to define as a school what success means to the students, Antonecchia said.

Antonecchia added, success to me is “able to obtain an education that led to a job.”

Author: Kyle Rosa

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