During spring break, some students received an email from the college letting them know that the academic progress of their financial aid had been updated “based on grades posted for the recently completed term.” In the email, students were further instructed to log on to Banner/Self-Service and check the updated status of their financial aid. Many of those who did found a notice that read “Suspend: Max Credits.”
One of these notices went to a student who shared her reaction anonymously. “I was disappointed; I wasn’t really surprised. I knew I had dropped some classes the term before that I was not doing well in. I thought it was weird the way they set it up; you have to go deeper into the system to find out what is actually going on, or you have to go ask somebody. You can’t just click on to something where it is supposed to tell your progress, and it tells you, ‘This is what’s going on.’ You have to figure it out. I think most people don’t even know how to figure it out.”
How students end up in this situation is relative; basically, they exceed the limit of financial aid. Jennifer Smith, a financial aid assistant, explains: “During our staff meeting, we talked about trying to come up with a better way to forewarn those students who are going to suspend based on max credits so we can alert them a little bit sooner or in a different manner so that they have more time for the appeal process and it doesn’t seem so shocking to them. It’s a federal requirement that we are only able to pay for 150 percent of a program, so that’s why that requirement is there. Then the appeal process comes to us, and we find that most of the time the student only has one or two terms left to complete that degree.”
Students have expressed varying reasons of how they reached a maximum credit financial aid suspension. Sometimes it’s just life – housing or transportation falls through, family needs have to take precedent, the list goes on, classes get dropped and students must re-enroll, increasing the number of total classes used against their financial aid.
Sometimes the problem is a degree change, leading again to more classes and more aid.
Another student said that he needed to improve his GPA to get into his school of choice, a decision which led to re-taking required classes and needing additional financial aid.
Other students had simply gotten off track, taking too many classes outside of courses required for their degree or transfer program. Some of these students said they felt misled or left to their own devices when planning their schedules.
However, a lot of information is available on the school’s website as well as in the course schedules to help students stay on course with their degree program.
According to the UCC website, “Academic advising is mandatory which means that students must meet with their academic advisor before registering for classes.” The website also states, “Students are encouraged to maintain an ongoing relationship with their academic advisor and check in with them twice minimally each term.”
The UCC catalog for 2015-2016 devotes 35 pages to educating students on transferring to university. Part of the confusion may be that students, after looking over the first seven pages, have to find and read the right three or four pages that coincide with their programs.
Another deterrent could be that the “Advising & Counseling Services” website link states, “You can find the name and contact information for your assigned (sic) on this page.” However, no names are provided on this page for students to contact. Only main hours and phone information are given.
The Financial Aid page on the UCC website provides some helpful information under the “Satisfactory Academic Progress” heading: “UCC is required by federal and state law regulations to define standards of satisfactory progress that students must maintain in order to continue to receive financial aid. Satisfactory Progress is monitored each term.”
The paragraph goes on to explain the appeal process which snagged many spring term students. However, while the paragraph is clear, the process is still confusing.
The biggest problem, according to students interviewed, is that the system each term shows a history of academic status as “Making Good Progress” right up until the Suspend notice is received. No warning is given.
“You can go for several terms making good academic progress to ‘Suspend: Max Credits’ without seeing it coming,” claimed another student who also wanted to remain anonymous.
When the Suspend notice is given, students can appeal. According to the UCC website, the appeal process “requires written documentation explaining why the student was not able to meet the standards. Also, the student must meet with an academic adviser and provide a written plan which is thoughtfully constructed to produce improved academic performance.”