Tag Archives: Financial aid

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Q: Many of the students I work with lose their financial aid because of satisfactory academic progress (SAP) requirements. Are there any forms of financial aid that are not subject to SAP?

A: While all forms of state and federal financial aid have some form of academic progress standards, some have more flexibility than others. A new law (SB 150) that will take effect on January 1, 2020 will allow students to continue to receive a Chafee ETV grant for two years before they lose eligibility because of SAP. If a student does lose eligibility there are specific criteria that qualify the student for reinstatement that are broader than those used for other forms of aid. To read more about this new law, click HERE.

In addition, the Promise Grant, which covers tuition costs at community colleges, is subject to different standards than sources such as the federal Pell grant and state CalGrant. While this varies by campus, typically the requirements are less stringent, and students can often maintain the fee waiver even when they no longer qualify for other forms of aid.

Finally, if a student does lose financial aid, they should be encouraged to appeal to have aid reinstated. This process can be cumbersome, and they may need support to navigate their college’s SAP appeal process.

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Burton Book Fund

Q: I am working with a former foster youth who needs financial resources to purchase his college textbooks and course materials this semester. How do I find out which campuses are participating in the Burton Book Fund this year and help him apply?

A:  The list of participating campuses for the 2019-2020 Burton Book Fund can be found HERE. If the student’s campus is participating, have him/her reach out to the campus representative listed and meet with that person to submit an application to receive a $200 Burton Book Fund. For more information about the Burton Book Fund, please visit this PAGE.

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IRS Verification of Nonfiling

Q: Last year, students who submitted a FAFSA but hadn’t filed a tax return were required to submit a “verification of nonfiling letter” from the IRS. This was a very onerous requirement and students struggled to obtain the documentation. Have there been any changes to this requirement to make it easier?

A: The Department of Education issued a notice recently outlining some changes to these requirements. According to the notice, institutions now have greater flexibility when verifying a student’s nonfiling status. The notice states that if the individual is unable to obtain verification from the IRS or other tax authorities and, based upon the institution’s determination, it has no reason to question the student’s good-faith effort to obtain the required documentation, the institution may accept a signed statement certifying that the individual attempted to obtain the verification and was unable to obtain the documentation along with W-2 forms from any source of employment income.

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CalGrant Extension

Q: I heard that foster youth can now receive a CalGrant for eight years instead of four years under a bill passed this year by the legislature. If a foster youth is already receiving a CalGrant, can they still get the full eight years or is it only for students who get new awards moving forward?

A: All foster youth who otherwise qualify can receive the grant for the full eight years, regardless of whether they are already receiving a CalGrant or not. Representatives from the California Student Aid Commission shared this on a webinar last week. To view the entire webinar, CLICK HERE.

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FAFSA Submission

Q: I am working with foster youth to complete their FAFSA by the March 2 deadline. How do we know it was successfully submitted and received?

A: The FAFSA form will be processed a few days after submission, and it will be indicated when you log back into FAFSA.

You can also make a correction by choosing “Make FAFSA Corrections,” or click to “View or Print your Student Aid Report (SAR).”

 

For additional resources on completing FAFSA, please review the Financial Aid Planning Guide.

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Cal Grant Time Limits

Q: I was awarded a Cal Grant to attend community college, but my counselor is telling me I shouldn’t take the money because it could run out later. Could you explain why I wouldn’t want to accept this money?

A: Currently, the Cal Grant is available only for a maximum of four years of full-time enrollment at a community college, CSU, UC or private institution. At a community college, the grant provides up to $1,672 to cover non-tuition costs, such as books, housing and transportation. At a 4-year university, the money can also be used to pay for tuition costs and therefore provides significantly more: up to $7,414 for a student attending a CSU campus, $14,302 for students attending a UC campus and $10,756 for students enrolled at a qualifying private institution. If you utilize the funding while in community college, you run the risk of not having enough funds remaining when you transfer to a university and when the available benefit is significantly more.

It should also be noted, that this limitation would change if Senate Bill 940 passes. For foster youth specifically, the maximum time would be extended from four to eight years, allowing students to utilize the grant throughout their educational career. To support the passage of this bill, please consider sending in a letter of support as well as sign on to the budget request letter to expand Cal Grant access for foster youth. Support letters can be sent to Carolyn@jbay.org

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Independent Status on FAFSA

Q: How do I know if I qualify for independent status on the FAFSA, and what exactly does it mean to be an independent student?

A: Independent Status” on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) means that youth do not have to provide any information, including income and asset information, about their biological, adoptive, or foster parents (including relative or non-relative caregivers) or legal guardians in the Parent Demographics section. This will mean that parental contribution is not added into a student’s contribution to determine his or her Estimated Financial Contribution (EFC), the index number that determines how much a student can pay for education and how much financial aid students receive.

If any of the below applies to students, then they qualify as independent students on the FAFSA:

  • Was an orphan, foster child, or ward/dependent of the court at any time since the age of 13
  • Age 24 or older at any time before December 31st of the award year
  • Was determined at any time since July 1st of award year to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless
  • Is married as of the date student applies
  • Will be a graduate or professional student when the award year starts
  • Is currently serving on active duty for purposes other than training
  • Is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Has dependents other than a spouse

Citation: U.S Department of Education, Office of Federal Student Aid, 2018-2019 Application and Verification Guide https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1819FSAHbkAVG.pdf

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Selecting a Housing Plan on FAFSA

Q: I am completing the FAFSA and on the page where I indicate which schools I want my information sent to, it asks me to indicate if I will be living on-campus, off-campus or with parents. I am currently in foster care and have lived with my aunt since I entered the system, and I plan to continue living with her while I go to community college. Which option do I select?

A: You would select “off-campus.” Students should not select “With Parent” as their housing plan if they plan to live with a foster parent, relative caregiver, or legal guardian. Instead, select “Off-Campus.” This is crucial for getting all the money that is available to you to pay for your living expenses. The option you select has an impact on how much money you receive as the “cost of attendance” is considered more when living off-campus than when living with a parent. For more tips on how to complete the FAFSA, check out the Financial Aid Guide for California Foster Youth.

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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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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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