Federal and state financial aid changes hit students

Jessie Hellmann

With the United States government trying to tighten its purse strings, several changes hit state and federal financial aid that will affect current and incoming students.

These changes will affect students who receive either, or both, Federal Pell Grants and state financial aid.

With the changes, students can receive only six years of Pell Grant funding instead of the prior nine years. Federal Pell Grants are awarded by the United States Government to economically challenged students.

“It’s imperative that students are cognizant of these rules and graduate on time, because if they don’t know, they may run out of financial aid,” said Director of Student Financial Assistance Mary Harper.

This change is implemented for all students, not just incoming freshmen.

Harper said the change to the Federal Pell Grant has already affected about 150 USI students.

“Just because you’re eligible this year doesn’t mean you’re going to be eligible next year,” Harper said.

Another change that will affect some students who receive financial aid is the minimum Grade Point Average required to receive state aid.

The Indiana State Legislature passed a bill that increased the minimum GPA requirement for incoming freshman to receive state financial aid. This change does not affect students enrolled before the 2012-2013 school year.

Joanna Riney, associate director of student financial assistance, said students who do fall below the GPA requirement will have a semester to bring it back up.

“If for some reason they lose it, we can get them into a probationary semester, and then by the end of that year, they can get it back up and not lose it,” she said.

Freshman will be required to hold a 1.70 GPA, sophomores a 2.25 GPA, and juniors and seniors a 2.5 GPA.

“My interpretation of (the changes) is that the money is getting so tight, that this is a new way to eliminate some spending,” she said.

Harper said both of these changes make it more important than ever for students to try to graduate in four years.

“Now is not the time to go undecided and just continuously take classes just because you think you might want to,” Harper said. “It’s important that a student stay on track and graduate within a four-year time frame because state aid is only rewarded on a four year basis.”

Harper said she encourages students to work with their adviser and financial aid counselor to plan out how to graduate in a timely manner.

“We are asking anyone that has questions concerning their financial aid come to us,” she said.