If you’re a student seeking federal aid and don’t have your major decided, you might be in trouble.
Students receiving any federal aid — money through grants, work study or student loans — starting in the 2017 summer semester will have to take classes that lead directly toward their degree, said J.D. Robertson, interim assistant vice president of enrollment management.
Federal aid change
This federal aid change has been a federal rule for a few years, Robertson said. But Dixie State University administration hasn’t followed this rule in the past because Banner, a software that helps keep track of students’ grades and courses, did not have the capability to keep track of all of the courses under every degree.
“We did not have the capability to track all of the required classes for each degree within our system,” Robertson said. “There has now been enhancements to the software and we will begin following this rule beginning next summer semester.”
Robertson said this federal aid rule should not affect students seeking an associate degree as long as they’re taking the required general education classes. But if students go beyond an associate degree, the financial aid office will begin to constrict the number of credits students receive financial aid for.
“We will always be looking at those classes that lead directly toward [students’] degrees,” Robertson said.
However, not all degrees have an expansive list of electives, Robertson said. He said students in that case will have a little more freedom to take different classes, but students should meet with their academic adviser to determine the number of elective credits they can take.
Robertson also said students will not receive federal aid to audit a class, which means a student takes a class and does not receive credit for it. He said when students audit a class, they’re not working toward progress for their degree.
Registrar Julie Stender said she believes this federal aid change will be a positive thing for DSU students.
“I think it’s going to help students stay on track,” Stender said. “I think they’re going to be able to obtain their degree in a quicker time.”
Jake Brown, a senior business administration major from Tacoma, Washington, said he’s glad he’ll be graduated by the time this change is implemented. Brown said he’ll be left taking electives next semester in order to graduate and he would be angry if administration didn’t let him use his financial aid.
“I understand the motive for pushing kids to stay on track,” Brown said. “But a lot of students like taking other electives like yoga that gives them a break from their stressful classes.”
Another change that’s already taking place is with filing for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
According to FAFSA’s website, instead of students and parents having to wait to file until Jan. 1, they could have started filing Oct. 1 of this year.
Robertson said the major change with FAFSA is the financial aid office will no longer be looking at prior year information when filing for FAFSA.
“We used to just look at just the taxes [students and parents] barely completed the spring before the fall semester; that was called prior year information,” Robertson said. “The department of education is now changing the FAFSA where students and parents will use prior prior year, meaning we’re going to look at [their] tax information from two years ago.”
This change will be helpful for students and parents because a lot of parents often do tax extensions, Robertson said.
“They don’t get their taxes done by the time school started, so there’s some issues and problems there being able to have parent information verified and being able to use previous year’s data,” Robertson said.
Robertson said the best thing for students who have questions about their financial aid accounts is to sit down and talk with an academic adviser.
“Generally, after that freshman year, [students] should be making decisions of the area they want to study in,” Robertson said.