Report suggests shift of financial aid focus

AddThis

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

The Education Commission of the States (ECS) is calling on government officials and policy-makers to adjust their college financial aid focus from being institution-centered to student-centered, according to a report released last Wednesday.

Student demographics are changing, the ECS report said, and with a more diverse student population comes a greater need to specialize financial aid packages. 

Sarah Pingel, ECS policy analyst and co-author of the report, said non-traditional college-goers can be overlooked because colleges are primarily working on a schedule the institution set rather than catering toward individual students.

“If I’m an adult student that decides in June that I’d like to pick up a community college class in the fall, I will have already missed that deadline to apply because that deadline is set on a traditional student schedule,” Pingel said.

Many states across the country require students to be enrolled in at least 12 hours of classes to receive a full allotment of financial aid. In Texas, the minimum amount is six hours, but if students want to be eligible to receive state grants, they will have to enroll for at least nine hours of classes.

A lot of the time, non-traditional students go to school part time or operate on a different schedule than that of the university, so more aid could be dispersed for a greater amount of students if the school calendar were to become more flexible, Pingel said.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board oversees and enacts regulations regarding grant eligibility, and the university identifies which students are eligible for certain grants.

If the amount of students in need is greater than the amount allocated to the university, the amount given to each student will be reduced so that each student qualifying for aid can receive some financial assistance, said Jamie Brown, communications coordinator for Student
Financial Services.

“If you have two students, and student A is enrolled in 12 hours, and student B is enrolled in nine hours, and they both meet all other eligibility requirements, they will both get that grant,” Brown said.

Determining eligibility involves several factors, and if one has been out of school for a year, is a transfer student with more than 30 hours or has children, then chances of receiving a Texas grant significantly diminish.

English junior Jordan Wilk said a lot of uncontrollable circumstances prevent people such as herself from being full-time students, and she wishes there were more resources for people who aren’t able to dedicate as much time to school.

“I wish there was a place where you could go where there’s just a whole list of scholarships that are for part-time students,” Wilk said. “As far as I’ve seen, there really isn’t that. You’re on your own.”