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Plan can help restore financial aid

Students who have lost their financial aid under the new satisfactory academic progress regulations do have options that will help them get that funding back, said Harold Case, Student Financial Support Services dean.

Case said the changes in financial aid aren’t in the requirements themselves, but in the way those requirements are implemented and enforced.

Before, colleges had more latitude for handling students who weren’t making satisfactory academic progress. The new rules remove much of that flexibility, he said.

“But as part of the SAP regulations, schools have an option to do an individual academic plan,” Case said.

The plan, which OCCC decided to call a Financial Aid Academic Plan or FAAP, is offered to students who have already fallen below satisfactory, said Mary Turner, learning support specialist.

“This is pretty much a last opportunity for students to work with us, so we can help them get back in good standing,” she said.

Students who are offered an FAAP don’t have any other option, she said.

“This is what they have to do to get back into satisfactory academic standing.”

Turner said a student on an FAAP has to agree to come in to Student Support Services and build a plan to get back on track.

“While it’s not a guarantee that they will do what they need to, it does give them an outline of what resources they can use, what directions they should take, and what we strongly encourage them to do each semester.”

Turner said the Student Support Services office offers the same services to any student seeking help.

“We meet with any student who is afraid for their academic well-being or financial aid well-being.

When we go into (Success in College and Life) classes, we encourage students to come see us, sooner rather than later,” Turner said.

Another key component of a FAAP is that it’s offered to students who have already passed the point of losing their funding, Case said.

“These are not students who are going to be able to make it back up to standard in one semester. If you can get back to Satisfactory Academic Progress in one semester, there’s no Financial Aid Academic Plan involved,” Case said. “We just put you on probation.

“So these students don’t have an option, because they don’t have a way to continue getting (federal) funding otherwise.”

To get a FAAP, students who have fallen below satisfactory first need to take the step of filing an appeal online, said Meghan Morgan, Financial Aid assistant director.

“On the appeal, you have to explain what caused you to not meet Satisfactory Academic Progress, what happened to get you to the point of being on financial aid suspension,” Morgan said.

She said students also have to explain what has changed that they can now meet academic progress standards.

“You have to submit documentation to our office, and you have to agree to the stipulations laid out in the appeal, including the FAAP,” Morgan said.

Unlike a FAFSA, a new appeal does not need to be filed with every financial aid year, said Linette McMurtrey, Financial Aid assistant director.

“We’ll evaluate the FAAP every semester, but if (the students are) making satisfactory every semester, then we can approve them to continue,” McMurtrey said.

“If they don’t meet the standards, or if they sign up for a FAAP and don’t meet with Student Support, then they will be ineligible for next semester.”

Turner said Student Support wants to be clear that FAAP is not a punishment.

“We’re trying to educate them about how to be responsible, successful students.

“If they’re on a plan, that’s a good thing. It means they still have a chance to redeem themselves.”

For more information, contact Student Support Services at ext. 7520, or Student Financial Support Services at ext. 7525.

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