New financial aid rules target good, bad students equally

January 17, 2012 Editorials Print Print
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Hundreds of students are losing their financial aid this semester with few options for getting it back.


Jeremy Cloud

Why? Because the government has apparently decided the best way to save a little money is to stop helping students who have a history of academic difficulty.

No, this isn’t a prank or joke. Under the new satisfactory academic progress (SAP) regulations, students who have withdrawn from too many classes or had too many low grades are no longer eligible for federal aid.

Sounds great on paper, right? Why keep offering aid to lazy students that keep quitting in the middle of classes, or party instead of studying and flunk?

 

Unfortunately, it’s far too complex an issue to address by so broad a solution.

Students are often encouraged to drop classes they’re struggling with to preserve their GPA. Adult students and students with undiagnosed learning disabilities might have a string of bad grades that came about through life getting in the way, or an inability to get the help they needed.

And, of course, everyone has a bad semester now and then, a semester where nothing seems to go right and every class just gets harder and harder.

But hey, that’s what academic forgiveness is for, right?

Take a bad class over again, fill out the forms, petition to have the grade replaced, and life goes on.

And there’s the first major issue with the new system: there is no academic forgiveness.

Under the new guidelines, everything counts. Got those D’s expunged? Not as far as funding is concerned. Withdrew from that math class to escape an F? Withdrawal now counts as an F for funding calculation purposes.

Then the second problem looms and the sheer brutality of the new regulations becomes clear: there is no time limit on how far back the assessment goes.

Coming back to college after 10 years away? Well, if there were low grades or withdrawals on the transcript the first time out, funding may not be available.

Oh, and the best part?

These new rules are already in effect. They went into effect in December when students were out and only the most alert would notice.

Bottom line here: the government has decided to inject some money into the economy by jettisoning hundreds, if not thousands, of potential skilled workers, writing them all off as a loss regardless of circumstance or current progress.

They have implemented these rules quietly and in such a way as to cut off the funding at the worst possible time, in the middle of a financial aid season.

And the regulations don’t differentiate between good students who’ve had a hard time and bad students.

Really, people. This author calls for political action often. But they’re messing with the funding now. So please, for the love of all that’s sane, go find a congressperson and bombard him or her with letters and email.

This needs to stop before college once again becomes the province of the elite, a privilege that the average person simply can’t afford.

To contact Jeremy Cloud, email editor@occc.edu.

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