Federal aid sets new rules

Oct. 11, 2011, 3:04 a.m.

New federal regulations require that students receiving federal aid funds meet five standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), according to the University Financial Aid Office website.

The new Program Integrity Regulations, which took effect July 1, require that students maintain a 2.0 minimum cumulative GPA, earn at least nine units per quarter and 36 units over three quarters, are enrolled for no longer than 18 undergraduate quarters and meet a minimum cumulative pace of progression that is set by each undergraduate institution.

Stanford’s Financial Aid Office has set the required pace of progression-how many units a student completes divided by how many units a student attempts-at 60 percent.

“The federal government doesn’t want to pay for you to keep trying to take classes and dropping out at the last minute,” said Director of Financial Aid Karen Cooper.

Although the Department of Education has always maintained SAP requirements for students on federal or state financial aid, this set of regulations is the first to set a higher standard for academic progress than the University’s own enrollment requirements, due to the new pace of progression regulation.

“I think it’s another prompt for students to be aware of the body of coursework they are signing up for and to think thoughtfully and deliberately in consultation with one or more advisers to ensure that the body of coursework that they’re planning for themselves is attainable,” said Randy Williams, associate dean of Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR).

Due to differing standards between the University’s enrollment requirements and the federal aid academic progress requirements, both UAR and the Financial Aid Office will be communicating with students on federal or state aid about their academic progress.

“I’m a little concerned about how students will feel about the Financial Aid Office approaching them to talk about their academic situation,” Cooper said.

If a student fails to meet the SAP requirements, a student will enter “Financial Aid Warning” status for the following academic quarter but will remain eligible for federal student aid funds.

However, these students must earn at least 12 units of credit while in “Financial Aid Warning” status. This status is only available once to students. A student will enter “Financial Aid Ineligible” status if they fail to the meet the SAP requirements for any subsequent academic quarter.

If a student enters “Financial Aid Ineligible” status, all federal aid is rescinded for that quarter unless the student appeals the decision to Stanford. Williams said that if a student creates a plan with his or her academic adviser for continued academic improvement, the student could once again qualify for financial aid for that quarter until improvement is established.

“I’m guessing that we’re talking about less that one percent of the student population,” Williams said, regarding the number of undergraduates this policy could affect. “We’re talking low double-digit numbers, 10 to 15. Extremely low numbers.”

The July 1 Program Integrity Regulations include other provisions that do not apply to Stanford because the University’s students are either degree-seeking or ineligible for federal aid. For example, one provision states that programs that award certificates rather than degrees must track how many of their students go on to careers in the pertinent field and if they are successful.

“The concern is that the motorcycle mechanic programs out there that are for-profit are allowing students to continue to enroll even though they’re not being successful over and over again just so [the programs] can get their money,” Cooper said.

The new regulations also require that schools have a net-price calculator on their financial aid web page by Oct. 29. Stanford’s Financial Aid Office already maintains such a calculator to estimate what a Stanford education might cost once grants and scholarships are awarded, but the office has to rename the calculator as a net price calculator.

“A lot of what’s going on these days at the federal level has to do with the nonprofit versus the private, for-profit sector,” Cooper said. “There’s a feeling of wanting to regulate that for-profit sector and unfortunately, when they do that, we all get swept up.”


Alice Phillips '15 is Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. Previously, she worked as the paper's Deputy Editor, Chief Copy Editor, a News Desk Editor and a News Staff Writer. Alice is a biology major from Los Angeles, California.

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