Rising appeal numbers in Shepherd University’s financial aid department for this academic year may cause some students to rethink decisions moving forward.
Satisfactory Academic Progress appeals are filed for three main reasons: if a student falls under the qualitative GPA required, fails to meet the quantitative percentage of credits completed, or does not meet the time frame for completion standards. These new stipulations come from the federal policy effective as of 2011.
However, according to Sandra Oerly-Bennett, the director of financial aid, since the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission just met on Feb. 1, the SAP data for the spring semester is still being analyzed. Oerly-Bennett stated that there were more than 200 SAP appeals received since last summer, an increase from last year and a direct result of the amended federal policy.
This policy also seems to correlate with Shepherd’s updated attendance guidelines. According to the new policy, classes must be attended regularly and students must complete requirements or aid may be revoked, which would require an amount due back to Shepherd immediately.
While at first these new rules might seem a bit rigorous, they are actually practical and beneficial. Attendance is vital in so many ways not just from a financial perspective. Missing lectures on a regular basis is unhealthy and has a direct result on an individual’s performance. It is also unfair to the professors and other students in the course.
This academic year, a small percent of Shepherd’s student body was forced to apply for SAP appeals in order to get financial aid back. While that percentage may be low now, it is still growing. In addition, both the amended federal policy and attendance guidelines are evidence that reform needed to take place.
Each student utilizing financial aid really needs to be more conscious of the responsibilities that come with accepting student loans. Often times, it is so easy to forget how much of an asset aid is until it is in jeopardy of being lost.
Understanding the possible implications of having financial aid revoked might reduce the number of withdrawn classes, which for some students minimizes the number of semesters to graduation. Plus, when it comes time to pay back the loans, thousands of dollars would be saved as it decreases the amount borrowed in the long run.
Inevitably though, life happens, and that’s why it is important for students to stay informed in order to prevent issues from hindering academic performance.
Oerly-Bennett gave some great suggestions about what individuals can do. She states that students should talk to their academic advisors and go to the Academic Support Center or the Advising Assistance Center.
Most students are aware of academic performance during the semester, which is why it is essential to seek help before grades are permanently affected. Study groups and in-class networking are also other options to get through tough courses. Or if it is completely unrelated to academics, Shepherd also has counseling services available.
Whatever the case may be, there are programs in order to avoid unsatisfactory progress. At any moment, a situation could arise, and being informed might just make the difference.