Financial aid office partners with advisers

Student Financial Assistance will notify both student and adviser when in “danger zone”

webIMG_4783Alyssa Smith
Junior nutrition major Kristin Pender depends completely on financial aid to pay for college.

Student Financial Assistance  is planning to partner with academic advisers to help students like Pender make appropriate course selections. The partnership involves notifying students when they are at risk of  losing financial aid and will be fully implemented by this fall.

She said she knows her financial aid is based on her grades and how many credits she drops and she can check it on myUSI, but she isn’t clear about  the specifics.

“I was told by another student that on myUSI it tells me how many credits I’ve attempted and completed, and another tab says completion for financial aid,” she said. “I don’t know how low it has to go before I lose my financial aid.”

Lately , Pender said she’s had trouble communicating with the financial aid office.

“I rely on my FAFSA (aid) 100 percent,” she said. “The financial aid office has always made it 10 times harder than it should be. They always try to get me out in just five minutes.”

Pender said the office partnering with academic advisers is a step in the right direction.

“If I would’ve dropped classes not knowing how it would affect my financial aid, I would’ve been stuck,” she said.

Mary Jo Harper, director of Student Financial Assistance, said 85 percent of students at the university benefit from financial aid.

She said she appreciates communication between the  office and students.

“I encourage students at risk to seek guidance,” Harper said. “Notifying the students and advisers is an extra step the office is taking because we care about our students. We care about their success.”

Vice President for Enrollment Management Andy Wright said when he was a first semester freshman, he considered giving up.

Wright was paying tuition out of pocket as a freshman and working 35-hour weeks. By the second week of classes, he said he didn’t know if he could do it.

“I asked if maybe I wasn’t meant to be (at college),” Wright said. “I didn’t have that support. All I needed was someone to tell me that I could do it.”

He said college isn’t the best fit for everyone, but before dropping out, students need to be having conversations with advisers and faculty.

When students receive federal Title IV financial aid, they must stay within satisfactory academic progress (SAP). They have to be completing and passing at least 67 percent of their classes as well as meeting GPA requirements depending on the number of credit hours taken.

“We’re looking to help students be more proactive,” Wright said. “Ideally, students will meet with their adviser and develop a plan to move away from the danger zone.”