Sunday, January 22, 2012

Now I Have to Worry About Students Financial Aid Too

In the past, I haven't worried about students' financial aid.  I let them worry about the consequences of not completing classes, even when advising them.  I've never had students who had problems continuing their financial aid, until this semester.

At the start of the fall semester, there was an article in the Lexington Herald Leader that listed the default rates for the colleges in Kentucky.  Of the community colleges in Kentucky, ours had the highest default rate.  Needless to say, our administration wasn't happy about that.  At the same time, Congress tightened the rules for satisfactory academic progress (SAP).  That means that more students are not meeting SAP, and the college is more reluctant to make exceptions through appeals.

Photo Credit: Lexington Herald Leader

These changes were concrete for me at the start of this semester, when I had one student who came to my office asking for me to help her with her appeal.  She had 37 credit hours of transfer credit from Kaplan University and University of Pheonix.  These credits did not count towards her Associate of Science degree, but did count against her SAP.  I helped her complete a degree completion plan for her appeal, but her appeal was denied.

Reflecting on the student's situation, there is plenty of blame to go around.  The student wasn't completing her courses and she had been self-advising. I've haven't been tracking down students who have been self-advising, and I have never mentioned financial aid in advising.  Also, online, for-profit colleges are notorious for exploiting financial aid.  My student was in their key demographic.  She is a working mother who is looking for education for a better job.  In fact, Kaplan called the student after her appeal was denied, and said that her SAP problems weren't a problem.  I am really unhappy with online for-profit colleges at the moment.

With our developmental course redesign, we've been allowing student to carry completed units from one semester to the next.  This loss of urgency lead to some poor competition rates for our students. This semester, we've been reminding students to keep up their work so they don't face a SAP appeal.  I've noticed that the students are working harder this semester.  The downside is that I have more grading, but we will get more students through this semester.

I've never bee a professor who likes to nag students, but that is changing.  For now on, I'm always going to bring financial aid considerations when helping students make decisions.