Category Archives: Post-Secondary Education

Re-enrolling in college after accruing student debt

Q: We are working with a youth who would like to reenroll in community college, but has incurred student debt from when he enrolled and received the Pell Grant, and then dropped out and did not pay the financial aid back. He reports that the debt has gone into collections. Will he be able to reapply for financial aid? Any advice on how to deal with the debt so he can reenroll in school?

A: If the debt he incurred was from federal financial aid such as the Pell Grant and it has gone to collections, then he will have to at least begin to make payments before being able to apply for any other federal financial aid (regardless of the school he enrolls in).

The student should call the phone number on his Student Aid Report and ask how many payments he must make before the hold can be lifted. The collections office his debt has been referred to will inform the Department of Education (DOE) if the student is making payments. The DOE can issue a letter to the student or school, and at that point the school can override the hold for the student to receive the Pell Grant again.

It is also good to know that if the student calls the collections office and indicates he would like to pay his debt in full, they will usually discount the payment amount for the student if the student asks.

For future reference, if the student was able to catch address the debt before it went to collections, he may have been able to make “satisfactory arrangements” with the school, where the school repays the debt and makes arrangements with the student for repayment. Many schools are willing to use future aid to pay off debt.

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Homeless Students Claimed on Parent’s Tax Return

Q: I’m helping an unaccompanied homeless youth with the FAFSA. I’m wondering how to advise him if someone is still claiming him as a dependent on their taxes, even though they are not supporting him.

A: The issue of tax claims is completely separate from the FAFSA independent student status. The FAFSA status is based on the student’s living situation. As long as the student is determined to be unaccompanied and homeless in the year in which he is submitting the application, he is considered an independent student for the FAFSA, regardless of whether someone else is fraudulently claiming him as a dependent on their taxes.

Completing the FAFSA – independent non-minor students who didn’t file taxes

Q: I’m going to be helping a 19-year-old young woman participating in extended foster care complete the FAFSA when it becomes available in October. I understand that foster youth are independent and so they do not provide any parent or guardian tax information, however are they required to provide their own tax information? What if they didn’t file taxes?

You are correct. If she was in foster care at least one day after age 13, she is considered independent on the FAFSA, and does not provide any information about parents, guardians or caregivers.

In some cases, non-minor dependents file taxes, however in many cases they do not file taxes because they have earned less than the standard deduction. The FAFSA now uses “prior-prior-year” data, so for the 2018-19 school year, 2016 taxes would be used.

  • If the youth was a non-minor in 2016 and did file taxes, he/she should submit tax transcripts using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.
  • If the youth was a non-minor in 2016 and did not file taxes because he/she earned less than the standard deduction ($10,350 for a single taxpayer in 2016), then he/she would not be required to provide tax transcripts when applying for financial aid.

Students not required to file taxes will need to provide Verification of Nonfiling. This could be a signed statement by the student certifying that he/she has not filed and is not required to file a 2016 income tax return. Because the statement is very specific, most schools have created a document for students to complete and sign. If your school does not provide this, make sure that your certifying letter includes a listing of any 2016 earned income and a copy of any IRS Form W-2 for any income earned that year.

Citation:

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Satisfactory Academic Progress

Q: I have heard that in order to maintain certain forms of financial aid, a student has to maintain “Satisfactory Academic Progress.” What does this mean exactly?

A: Each school has a satisfactory academic progress policy for financial aid purposes and there can be variation across institutions. Typically, there are three components: minimum GPA, the percentage of cumulative units attempted that must be successfully completed, and the requirement that students complete their educational program within a maximum time frame of 150% of the published program’s requirements.

GPA requirements are often set at a minimum of 2.0 but you should check your school’s policy to confirm. The percentage of units that must be successfully completed also varies and generally ranges between 65-80%. Each institution’s policy can typically be found on their website.

The final requirement depends on the type of program a student is enrolled in. For example, if the student is in an Associate Degree program that requires 60 units, the maximum number of units that could be taken before losing financial aid eligibility would be 150% of that or 90 units.

In some cases, a student may be able to appeal for a temporary waiver of the satisfactory academic progress rules. These circumstances include when the failure to make satisfactory academic progress was due to injury or illness of the student, death of a relative of the student or other special circumstances. Students in this circumstance should consult with the financial aid office or foster youth program.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) Resources

Q: Is there any way to easily learn more about Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at the community colleges and find out what types of credentials are available at my local colleges?

 

A: There are a number of new online tools now available to help students research and understand CTE options at the community colleges. My Path walks users through the steps involved with community college matriculation and includes information on career options, choosing a college, applying for college and financial aid. The Career Coach offers links to career assessment tests, data on wages, employment and training for jobs in a range of sectors, and a searchable database of programs in different fields. The Salary Surfer uses the aggregated earnings of graduates from a five-year period to provide an estimate on the potential wages to be earned two years and five years after receiving a certificate or degree in certain disciplines. This tool also provides information on which colleges offer programs in each specific discipline.

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BOG Fee Waiver Disqualification from failure to maintain SAP

Q: I’m working with a foster youth in community college who is receiving the Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver. His Grade Point Average has been below a 2.0 for two consecutive semesters now. I understand that the BOG Fee Waiver now has Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements. Will this youth lose his fee waiver?

A: No, if he is a foster youth, he will not lose his BOG Fee Waiver for failure to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). While there is a requirement that BOG Fee Waiver recipients must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA and greater than a 50% Completion Rate, current and former foster youth under age 25 are exempt from BOG Fee Waiver Disqualification.

Citation: Senate Bill 1456 (2012); Board of Governors Fee Waiver Program and Special Programs Manual (2015)

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Pell Grant time limits

Q: I’ve been receiving the Pell Grant for six years – I spent several years attending community college part-time, then transferred to a 4-year where I have one year left before getting my degree.
 
I was told that a student can only receive the Pell Grant for 6 years / 12 semesters. Does this mean I cannot receive the Pell for my 7th year in college?

A: No, this does not mean you will lose your Pell Grant in your 7th year. A student can receive the Pell Grant for 6 full-time-equivalent years (12 full-time-equivalent semesters) as an undergraduate. Since you were not attending college full-time for each of your 6 years, you should still be eligible for some Pell in your 7th year.

For example, if you attended half-time (6 units each semester) for your first 2 years of college, you would have used only 1 full-time-equivalent year of Pell during those 2 years. That would leave you with 1 more full-time-equivalent year of eligibility—enough for your final 7th year.

How can you know for sure how much Pell eligibility you have left?

  • When you file a FAFSA, you receive a Student Aid Report that will give you a general idea of how many of your 6 full-time-equivalent years of eligibility you have already used.
  • For more specific information, you can log in to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) at https://www.nslds.ed.gov/nslds/nslds_SA/ (click on “Financial Aid Review” and set up an account, if you haven’t already). It will show you the percentage of Pell eligibility that you have already used. The cut-off point is 600% (that is equivalent to 6 full-time-equivalent years). Example:  If it shows you have used 400% of your Pell eligibility, you would have 200% (or 2 full-time equivalent years) left.

For the most up-to-date information, you can contact your college’s financial aid office.

Citation: Federal Student Aid Handbook (2016-2017)

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Community colleges offering housing

Q: Which community colleges offer housing? I work with transition-aged foster youth who are often interested in attending community college, but struggle to identify housing nearby. Is there a statewide list of community colleges that offer housing?

A: Yes. Eleven of the 113 community colleges provide dorms or other housing assistance. The California Community College Chancellor’s Office maintains a list of community colleges that provide dorms or other housing assistance here: http://www.cccco.edu/CommunityColleges/CollegeHousing.aspx

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Financial aid-eligible majors

Q: I’m a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), helping my youth fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Chafee application, and want to make sure he selects a major that is financial aid-eligible. I don’t see this information on the FAFSA website anywhere. Where can I find this?

A: You are correct, it is not listed on FAFSA website. There are three ways a student can learn whether a major is financial aid-eligible.

  1. Before applying, a student can look on the college website where they are planning on attending. Financial aid-eligible majors should be located on college websites or district websites. For example, for the Peralta Community Colleges, it is located here: http://web.peralta.edu/financial-aid/sample-page/financial-aid-approved-academic-programs/.
  1. When the student applies for community college through CCCapply and selects his/her major, next to the major it will state ‘financial aid eligible’ or ‘financial aid ineligible’.
  1. After the college has received the student’s financial aid package, the college will contact the student to let them know that their major is financial aid-eligible, or financial aid-ineligible.
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Cal Grant GPA requirements & more

Q: I know the Cal Grant deadline is less than a month away, and I need some guidance to help my foster child. She is a high school senior, and is hoping to attend our local Cal State University.

Her Grade Point Average (GPA) is 2.8, but I understand that the GPA requirements for the Cal Grant A are 3.0. Should my child still apply?

A: Yes, your foster child should absolutely still apply. The minimum GPA requirement for Cal Grant A is 3.0 for high school students and 2.4 for transfer students, however for Cal Grant B, the minimum GPA requirement is 2.0.

Your foster child should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) along with the GPA verification by the priority deadline of March 2nd. If she is undocumented, she should submit the California Dream Act application instead of the FAFSA (by March 2nd).

For a youth who applies by March 2nd, Cal Grants A and B are entitlements, meaning a youth is guaranteed a Cal Grant if they meet the following requirements:

  • meets the income eligibility requirements (foster youth automatically do if they were in foster care after their 13th birthday because they qualify for “independent” status on the FAFSA)
  • is a high school senior, is within one year after graduating from high school/GED, or is a California Community College transfer student
  • meets the minimum GPA requirements (Cal Grant A: 3.0 GPA for high school students and 2.4 GPA for transfer students; Cal Grant B: 2.0 GPA)
  • submits their FAFSA and GPA verification by the March 2nd priority deadline

Once the March 2nd deadline passes, Cal Grants A and B become competitive grants for community college students only, to those who submit the FAFSA and GPA verification by September 2nd, subject to remaining funds. However, Dream Act students MUST submit by March 2nd. If they miss the March 2nd deadline, they will not be eligible for the Cal Grant A and B competitive grant.

If your foster child qualifies for the Cal Grant B, for her first year, it will provide the living allowance of up to $1,656, but not the tuition assistance that the Cal Grant A will. However, when the Cal Grant B is renewed or awarded beyond the first year, the student will receive the living allowance as well as the tuition and fee award. The tuition and fee award is up to $5,472 at a CSU and up to $12,240 at a UC campus.

A note about where Cal Grants A and B can be used:

Cal Grant A cannot be used at California Community Colleges, but can be used at UCs, CSUs, and private colleges. However, if a student is awarded a Cal Grant A who attends a community college, their award is held on reserve status for up to 3 years, then activated if the student meets all renewal requirements at the time of transfer.

Cal Grant B can be used at California Community Colleges, along with UCs, CSUs and private institutions.

Citation: California Student Aid Commission – http://www.csac.ca.gov/; Cal Grant Handbook – http://www.csac.ca.gov/CGM/calgrant_handbook.pdf

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