How does this work? As a financial aid student, you have done all the required work and completed your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), turned in all necessary documents, and monitored your My NOVA account regularly. At last, you receive notification that you have been awarded aid. Your award letter informs you that you will be receiving a Pell Grant, subsidized, and unsubsidized student loans. The total amount of your award is sufficient to cover your tuition costs. Life is good!
However, that euphoria is short-lived as the rigors of being a community college student begin to set in; the school/work/home balancing act needs adjustment. This often requires you to make difficult academic decisions — decisions that can ultimately affect your financial aid award. Your financial aid, as explained in your award letter, is awarded based on the premise that you will be enrolled in 12 credits or more — full-time status. This status is determined at the end of the “Add/Drop” period for each semester or term. This date, known as the census date, is the date your course registration status is assessed for determining your financial aid. This process is what we in financial aid refer to as “adjustments”.
So, what exactly is being adjusted? And why is my refund so much less than I anticipated? Both of these are good questions and can often be answered by understanding what was adjusted and why. When you, as a student, change your enrollment by dropping or not attending a class, and that change reduces your enrollment status (full-time to three-quarter time, or half-time to less than half-time), your financial aid will be adjusted to reflect that change. This means your Pell Grant will be reduced to match your actual enrollment at the census date. If you drop below six credits, you will lose your loan and supplemental grant eligibility as well. As a financial aid recipient, you must be aware that reducing your course load can have serious implications on your financial aid award even after excess aid has been refunded to you.
It is also important to understand that “anticipated aid” as you see it in My NOVA, is based on full-time enrollment. If you are enrolled less than full-time, the Pell Grant amount will be adjusted to reflect actual enrollment; for loans, you must be enrolled in a minimum of six credits. When it comes to financial aid, it pays to be proactive, read your college mail and e-mail, and, most of all, earn your aid by completing your classes.
It is no secret that the financial aid process can be very arduous for students and staff alike. The process of administering the distribution of local, state, and federal funds is a task that requires continual refinement, oversight, and review. However, it is our goal here at NOVA to accomplish this process as effectively and efficiently as possible. Our campus representatives and college administrators are continually reviewing processes with the goal of making them more transparent and supportive of the student experience. NOVA has set a vision of being the “Gateway to the American Dream” for members of our community, and we know that the path to that gateway often leads through the financial aid office for many of our students.