The Greenback – August 2012

Check out the new look of the latest issue of ‘The Financial Aid Greenback,”

NOVA’s quarterly newsletter that helps students stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest in the world of financial aid. This issue will be available in electronic form with some limited copies at your campus financial aid office.

GREENBACK_Aug_12

Read about:

  • Help Us Help You – An update on the Financial Aid Support Center and how you can make your voice heard.
  • Exactly What is “Adjustments?” – Learn more about the process of adjusting and disbursing your aid.
  • Buying Books with Financial Aid – Some important tips on using your financial aid at the bookstore.

Check it out and share your feedback on our Facebook page!

The Financial Aid Support Center

Help Us Help You. The Financial Aid Support Center has been in service for the past ten months and, as of the date of this article, has answered more than 46,000 inquiries. While this is wonderful news, NOVA financial aid is serious about helping students; and to that end, we need your help. The Financial Aid Support Center needs your feedback; tell us how we are helping you as you complete the financial aid process.

You can provide feedback on your support center experience three different ways; the first is via the web-based survey on the support center portal. This seven-question survey allows you, the user, to evaluate the support portal, the embedded knowledge base, the NOVA financial aid staff, and allows you to write in your own comments. This survey has provided some vital information thus far and, with your help, will be an even more effective tool.

The second is via a brief phone survey at the conclusion of your call to the support center. This will allow you to rate the service you received during your call on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most positive score. This provides us with quick and instant feedback on your phone call experience. The support portal is currently getting about a 40 percent response rate via this feedback tool, and it is our goal to get that response rate to above 60 percent.

The final method for feedback is via an embedded survey in your support center e-mail that summarizes the nature of and response to your ticket. This short survey allows the support center staff to gain valuable insight on your financial aid needs and expectations. An example: via this survey, we have found that 75 percent of respondents have indicated that e-mail is their preferred method of communication. Therefore, the financial aid department is taking steps to increase our effectiveness in reaching students via e-mail.

Customer service is a very serious matter at Northern Virginia Community College. Your feedback is essential to improving the financial aid application experience. The Financial Aid Support Center is your first line of engagement in addressing financial aid concerns; and it is important that we all work together to continue to improve this service.

Financial Aid Bookstore Purchase

Students are able to use their financial aid to purchase books at the campus bookstore as early as two weeks prior to the start of classes. This service is available through the last day to add/ drop (term census date). This year, purchases may be made from August 8 – September 10. Some important things to remember while using this service:

•First, before going to the campus bookstore, make sure all classes are registered and no holds exist on your account. Understand that you may purchase books for later-starting classes at this time as well, as this is the only period each semester when you can purchase books and supplies directly against your available financial aid.

•The next step is to understand what aid is available for your use at the bookstore. The bookstore will show financial aid based on your actual enrollment at that time. Your pending aid, as you see it in your award letter, is based on full-time enrollment of 12 credits; but when it is time to buy books, you are limited to the portion of aid allowed for the classes you are actually enrolled in at the time of purchase.

•You will be asked to sign a release to allow bookstore employees to access your eligible aid figure. Additionally, the maximum you can spend at the bookstore using aid is $1000 if you have this much available aid beyond what is necessary for tuition and fees. There are some limitations to this program. If you are awarded aid but do not have the enrollment to be eligible, you will not be allowed to spend against those funds; if you are awarded “Alternative Loans” or “Plus Loans” you will not be allowed to spend against those funds. In order to use your federal student loans, you must have accepted your loan, completed your Master Promissory Note (MPN) and your entrance counseling for those funds to be available for bookstore purchases.

•It is important to understand that your financial aid is awarded with the expectation that you will successfully complete your classes; aid assists in your ability to be successful. Any changes in enrollment can impact your financial aid and the funds you have available for bookstore purchases. If you have any questions or concerns, contact the Financial Aid Support Center at 855-323- 3199.

Financial Aid Adjustments

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.