Making Financial Aid Work for Every Student
Financial aid is available to all students, whether they realize it or not. They don’t have to be of low-income status or have stellar test scores; they simply need to apply. On average, about 80 percent of students do apply for some type of financial aid, whether it is federal student aid, scholarships, discounts, fellowships or tuition waivers. This is great news for students but being awarded financial aid is just the beginning for both them and the higher learning institution.
Title IV federal regulations passed down from the Department of Education mandate that students may only receive federal financial aid for courses that apply toward their declared degree. This can make course selection a confusing and sometimes frustrating endeavor. It brings up valid questions about eligibility, the amount of financial aid that can be rewarded for repeat coursework and how changes in a student’s program may impact financial aid.
For many institutions, adhering to the regulations to make class eligibility transparent to students is challenging. There is plenty of risk for audits and penalty fees for the institution, and student engagement can take a hit as well. If there are delays in informing students of their ineligible classes or there is too much red tape, students can easily become discouraged. They simply want to finish their enrollment schedule and set their schedules without having to worry about how, or if, financial aid will be administered.
Fortunately, higher learning institutions have options. With an investment in a Financial Aid Course Audit (FACA) system, colleges and universities can reap several immediate benefits:
A Financial Aid Course Audit helps colleges and universities clarify the courses that are eligible for federal aid. These are the specific regulation topics that an FACA system can make more transparent to help institutions stay compliant:
- Credit Hour – Institutions must award students only the amount of financial aid deserved. An institutions assignment of a credit hour must be acceptable as defined by the Department of Education.
- Retaking Coursework – The regulations expand the definition of a full-time student by allowing repeated coursework to count towards a student’s full-time course load for one repetition.
A FACA system can help institutions better comply with the Department of Education’s regulations on course applicability, remedial coursework and repeat coursework. By identifying situations that fail to meet eligibility requirements early on, non-compliance becomes a non-issue.
Student engagement is a top priority for higher learning institutions hoping to boost or sustain enrollment numbers, reputations and graduation rates. The first step in student engagement is supporting strategies and technologies that make students happier, which leads to student success.
A Financial Aid Course Auditor gives institutions the ability to inform students much more quickly, even within a day of registration in an ineligible course or a course that will only qualify for partial credit. Providing students with this near-immediate notification via their Student Information System (SIS) helps students stick to their academic and degree goals and maximize their opportunity to graduate on time.
When students have the information they need to clarify their program and course selection, both the students and the institution are better able to comply with federal aid guidelines. For the students, in particular, adherence to the sometimes confusing regulations means they can more easily navigate their educational journey in an efficient manner so they can reach their goals. The institution’s SIS system can be integrated with the FACA system to make many tasks easier, such as registering for eligible classes, buying the right books and paying only for the classes that will help them meet their degree requirements.
The many federal regulations can make processing and managing financial aid an administrative nightmare. One missed step can put the institution at risk for noncompliance and derail a student’s educational path. With the implementation of FACA into a college or university’s enrollment and financial aid process, many tasks are automated. These new efficiencies give administrators more time to work on other projects, which helps institutions reduce overhead costs while providing students with better service.
Using the FACA system, institutions can help students become more self-sufficient, enabling them to perform many tasks on their own from their institution’s SIS system or mobile app. By going to their personal profile, they can confirm they are enrolled in the program they identified. They can then register for courses that apply to their program of study so they can maximize their financial aid award and achieve their academic goals sooner.
Every course in which they are interested is marked as either eligible or ineligible for financial aid. Once they register, they will receive a message informing them of any classes that did not apply to their program of study and will not be considered eligible for financial aid. The usual labor-intensive process of finding and registering for eligible classes and then waiting to hear if their selections were eligible for their program of study has now been transformed into a few clicks from their own computer or mobile device using the institution’s app.
These efficiencies can be multiplied per student across the campus, compounding the FACA system’s benefits.
Fewer Student Advisor Visits
Typically, students would discuss their academic and career goals with their course advisor. The advisors help their students choose programs that satisfy their interests and give them viable opportunities for job placement or continuing education. The FACA will not replace this important one-on-one communication but it will help both the student and the advisor going forward.
When students can access their own financial aid data and course catalogs from their computer or mobile app, they can reduce or even eliminate many of the meetings they would need to schedule with an advisor. The FACA process runs in conjunction with the advisement report, ensuring most students can navigate their own journey rather easily without constant advisor intervention.
Financial Aid Course Audit has changed the playing field when it comes to Title IV compliance. Higher learning institutions can be proactive and prepared for changing regulations when they leverage the right technology. Students are demanding a more hands-on approach to their educational journey. Institutions can help prepare these students for their future by equipping them with the student success tools they need to reach their goals.