One of the first steps in providing basic financial aid assistance/guidance to students is being familiar with both the process and the policies that govern that process. Financial aid, as with many aspects of the college experience, has evolved over time and in today’s budgetary environment, it continues to adapt to meet both the need of the student as well as the mandate of governing bodies. It is imperative that we as college representatives be accurate and aligned in the guidance we provide our students. While every campus has an active and engaged financial aid office to provide assistance; it is often the faculty and staff who are the first to be asked for financial aid advice or to hear frustration with this very dynamic process.
Faculty and staff can assist students by having an accurate understanding of the basic application process, knowing your local financial aid resources and campus financial aid office staff, and being aware of where to send students to best resolve their issues. Our active, yet sensitive, engagement of students is one of the most important steps in assisting them through the process. It is vital that we provide students with clear, concise information and avoid taking chances with their future by relying on our personal experiences or just “winging” it with advice. Faculty and staff should be confident in the information and recommendations given to students, and know the point where referral is required.
This year, two significant policy changes in financial aid processes will impact students. It is important that all faculty and staff have a basic understanding of the revised policies and where to find accurate and complete information on those changes. The changes impact students through Satisfactory of Academic Progress (SAP) standards and the Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) policy. These new policies are published in the College Catalogue, Financial Aid Handbook and on the NOVA financial aid website; however, it is important that we as faculty and staff have some sense of familiarity with the new policies and how they can or will affect students as they make academic decisions.
Of the new changes, the most immediate is the federal Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) as it can impact students right away. We are in the midst of the term and students are faced with decisions concerning their classes. It is imperative those students who are currently receiving federal financial aid be very careful in how they make enrollment/withdrawal decisions. Under the new R2T4 policy, a student’s choice to drop/withdraw from a class could cause them to incur a debt to the college. No longer does completing credits within a term exclude a student from R2T4 if the student fails to attend the entire period for which he or she was scheduled to attend. The financial aid staff has published a flyer, The 1-2-3 of R2T4, to assist students as they make choices; it is available on the web as well as at your campus financial aid office. This policy is very dynamic. Should there be any doubt as to the outcome of a student’s decision to drop or withdraw from a class; the student should speak with a financial aid representative as soon as possible. The Satisfactory Academic Policy (SAP) will be discussed in an upcoming Intercom article.
The financial aid process can be one of the most challenging aspects of higher education, not only to the students who are applying but to their families as well as the faculty and staff who provide support and advice throughout that educational experience. These challenges are real and can be very frustrating at times. However, the financial aid department here at NOVA is committed to providing assistance to our faculty and staff as they assist students in navigating the financial aid journey. It is important that we, as faculty and staff, get to know our campus financial aid representatives and become familiar with this evolving process to be in the best position to advise and assist our students in “Achieving the Dream” here at NOVA.