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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Financial aid intricacies revealed to students on South Campus

By Elaine Bonilla/reporter

On South Campus alone, students received $15.5 million in the 2011-2012 school year, the South director of student financial aid told students recently.In Be Financial Aid Savvy: Are You Meeting Satisfactory Progress?, JoLynn Sprole brought students up-to-date on rules for aid.

South provided more financial aid than any of the other TCC campuses, Sprole said. NE Campus followed with $14.5 million, and TR had the smallest amount with $4 million.

Grants, loans, scholarships, work-study and Stars of Tomorrow are examples of financial aid TCC students can attain. However, eligibility might be tricky for some students now that TCC’s policies are changing regarding financial aid.

A new quantitative/qualitative policy came out in September, Sprole said. A student must maintain a 2.0 GPA, have a 67 percent cumulative completion rate of all hours, complete at least one credit hour each semester and make progress toward a degree or certificate. Cumulative hours include current hours enrolled, prior attempted hours and any transferred hours, Sprole said.

“Does that only include the credits you got while on financial aid?” South student Charise White asked.

Sprole said it includes all courses taken whether financial aid or the student paid. 

Incomplete courses are harmful to a student who depends on financial aid because every incomplete course adds to the cumulative hours but not to the completed hours, Sprole said.

“Completed or earned classes are courses where a student received an A, B, C or D,” she said. “Incompleted classes are courses where a student makes an F or withdraws.”

This policy has a few more financial aid statuses: eligible, warning, ineligible, automatically ineligible and time frame, Sprole said. A student is eligible if they are meeting all the requirements. Warning status lets students know to be careful because whether they pass or fail will determine if they will move to eligible or ineligible the upcoming semester.

Ineligible means the minimum requirements were not met for two consecutive semesters. Automatically ineligible means a student completely withdrew or failed all courses even if the student has at least a 2.0 or 67 percent completion rate. Time frame status means a student exceeds credit hour limits: 99 hours for an associate degree or 44 hours for a certificate program.

“Chances are, the time frame is the number of hours they take from your community college to start your time frame at your four-year school,” Sprole said. “As you transfer to a four-year school, your time frame increases since you typically need more hours than at a two-year school.”

Students who apply for financial aid but have a prior academic history will be evaluated at the time and given either eligible, warning or time frame status.

This should make the transition from old to new policy smoother for students who fear losing financial aid without warning, Sprole said. If students have lost eligibility, they have options to re-establish eligibility.

“Raising completion grade to 67 percent is possible but can be harder since the student must pay for their own classes,” she said.

It’s a slow process to work one’s way back to the 67 percent completion, Sprole said. For example, if a student takes and passes 12 hours in a semester, then nine of those hours will keep the student at the completion rate from the previous semester and the other four hours will begin increasing the completion rate during that semester.

Education major Denise Ramirez said she didn’t realize dropping classes, the way she had before, could affect her cumulative hours, which then affects her financial aid eligibility.

Another option is the appeal system, which takes into consideration mitigating circumstances such as illness, job-related issues, death or change in major.

To follow through with an appeal, students must write an appeal letter stating the situation, send in documentation of the situation and have a solution to what they might do differently if faced with the same situation again.

TCC is one of the few community colleges offering an appeal system, Sprole said. Dallas and Austin community colleges do not have such a system.

If an appeal is granted, a student is either placed on probation for a semester and expected to improve to meet requirements or placed on an academic success plan designed for students who cannot meet requirements within one semester, Sprole said.

The student and TCC devise a plan allowing students a fixed number of semesters to meet minimum standards, such as four full-time semesters or eight part-time semesters for improvement.

If, at any time, students stop following the plan, they automatically become ineligible. This means there is no room for dropping, failing or even changing classes without approval, Sprole said.

“There is a program called Fresh Start, where a student decides to come back after so many years and wants to start over with a new GPA,” she said. “The GPA may be new again, but classes that were previously taken are still taken into account when it comes to cumulative hours.”

Before coming to the seminar, White was unaware of TCC’s time frame status.

“I didn’t think you could cap out on financial aid if you just kept taking classes,” she said.

White said the most important thing she learned was how many credit hours students can take and what could happen if they don’t pass.

An academic progress evaluation is given each semester. Students will receive emails telling them if they are eligible for financial aid.

If students are currently on financial aid and their status changes at the end of this semester but have already enrolled in spring classes, their classes will be held until after the break, which gives students a few weeks to come up with the finances.

Ramirez said the most important thing she learned was the qualifications for financial aid, which gave her an idea of where her eligibility stands.

“I feel I know more about financial aid than before, and I will think twice before dropping any more classes,” she said.

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