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Aid appeal now required for students below 2.0 GPA

September 22, 2010

A new federal financial aid policy will require students to enter a university-conducted appeals process to reclaim their financial aid benefits if his or her grade-point average drops below a 2.0 for two semesters.

Several hundred MSU students are expected to be affected by this change, said Rick Shipman, Director of the Office of Financial Aid.

The modification, which students were notified of by e-mail Wednesday, was included as a part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act passed by Congress in 2008 and since has been gradually incorporated into universities’ financial aid offices.

Shipman said although maintaining a 2.0 GPA has been a part of university aid requirement for many years, the major change is in an enforced appeals process. A student will receive a warning during the first semester in which his or her GPA falls below the required mark and could lose aid the next semester if the GPA doesn’t bounce back above the 2.0 level,
he said.

The appeals process will require a student to work closely with an academic adviser to rethink class schedules and performance and to submit an appeal to MSU’s Office of Financial Aid.

“If we cannot approve (the appeal) the way it is submitted, we would pass it on to the University Committee on Appeals,” Shipman said.

“This way, academic groups of people review and make a decision. At that point it’s not a financial aid issue, it’s really an academic issue.”

In the past, if students’ grades slipped below the required mark, they simply had to work with an academic adviser but did not have to file an appeal, Shipman said.

Shipman said the new federal policies have all been put into place at MSU starting Wednesday and although the Office of Financial Aid expects some extra work, he thinks it’s something that will be running smoothly within a few semesters.

“We feel that we’re now doing what the law requires but in a way that we make sure that students are supported by the process,” he said.

“Out of this will come some training for academic advisers on how to put together a plan for a student. We’ve also assigned one person full-time to handle these appeals and three other staff members, including myself, will be secondary people participating in the review.”

Student opinions about the new regulation varied. Forestry senior Lydia Vanderbilt said if students are falling below a 2.0 GPA, there is a problem.

“We come to school to get an education and if you’re only making a 2.0, you probably need direction,” she said. “I think people take financial aid for granted and so I think that it would make people realize that people are giving them money to go to school and do something, not to get a 2.0 and feel like it’s OK to slide.”

Nursing sophomore Ben Sowles said he’s never let his GPA fall anywhere close to the 2.0 benchmark, but said MSU should have better support services for those who
need them.

“The university should implement more assistance programs and maybe have tutors on deck,” Sowles said. “Lay it out in front of (students) and say ‘This is what you have to do and
if you don’t do this you’re done.’”

Although he agrees with the new appeal process, business and pre-law senior Jared Hocking said it’s important to recognize that students should be assessed on a case-by-
case basis.

“It’s unfortunate because if the government is providing for your school, there is some expectation that you should be able to keep up,” he said.

“(But) a lot of people have other commitments along with school, like work, and that makes it difficult, so sometimes they let things slide a bit.”

Shipman said having multiple people focused on the appeals will help students get quick answers regarding the status of their case.

“This will be much easier to manage after we get through fall and spring and have some experience with the new rules,” he said.

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