Campus & Community

Palm Beach State stiffens financial aid policies

FinancialAidPalm Beach State College is implementing stricter financial aid policies that will drastically change the way it doles out federal funds and make students more accountable for the dollars they receive.

Beginning in the fall, federal financial aid funds will not be disbursed to students until 30 days after the start of the term. Student loans will be divided into two disbursements — half at the 30- day point and the remainder at mid-semester. Students with loans may find the majority of their first disbursement paying tuition and other financial obligations to the College. They may not receive their refund or “net check” until mid-semester.

Currently, the federal funds are disbursed in full within one to two weeks after the Add/Drop period which lasts about a week after the first day of the semester for full-term classes.

Thomas Vo, interim director of financial aid, said the changes are proactive measures to reduce the College’s three-year cohort default rate, currently at 19.2 percent, and to prevent abuse of the system.

“We do have some bad apples that ruin it for the rest,’’ Vo said referring to students who get financial aid and then quit school. “They are here to use our institution as an ATM machine,’’ he said. “They are here to get a refund check and then they disappear. We have an obligation to the students, the institution and the Department of Education to ensure financial aid funds are used properly, so that students can obtain a high quality education from Palm Beach State College. This entails changing the culture and how funds should be utilized accordingly.”

He noted that students who leave school early in the term are more likely to default on student loans or not pay back Pell grants or other funds as required.

About 62 percent of Palm Beach State College’s students receive some type of financial aid, Vo said.

The U.S. Department of Education can pull funding for institutions whose three-year cohort default rate reaches 30 percent or more, which would jeopardize all students who rely on financial aid to fund their education.

Also included among the changes are:

  • Student loans will be offered automatically. Students will have 14 days from the Add/Drop period to complete three steps or their loan will be cancelled. They must complete entrance counseling online, complete a master promissory note and complete “Schoolbucks,” an online financial literacy application developed by the U.S. Department of Education and Broward College. In the past, students at PBSC only were required to complete entrance counseling once. Now they will be required to do it every year, Vo said.

To educate students about the changes, Vo has held 25 mandatory sessions across the College. Students also have received emails regarding the changes as well as a link to a video that explains the changes. Information also was sent through the College’s messaging system, Blackboard Connect.

In addition to updating students on the new changes, Vo also is using this time to re-educate students about policies that already were in place, including the Standards of Academic Progress that require students receiving financial aid to maintain a 2.0 grade point average and pass 67 percent of the courses they attempt.

Click here to watch a video regarding the changes.

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13 comments on “Palm Beach State stiffens financial aid policies”

  1. How disappointing that the school has chosen to treat its students worse than an alleged criminal. The justice system considers a person innocent until proven guilty. Financial Aid considers the students to be abusing the system and works to take benefits away instead of looking at the situations. If the financial aid staff gets its way, no students will be able to get aid. I wonder how long they think that they would have a job if there was no financial aid for the students. When is someone going to be brought in that will look at the students’ needs as well as enforcing restrictions?

    1. maybe if you read the article. some students have found a way to game the system. just like they do in politics. just like they do in life.

    2. Hello Michael,
      I agree with ninety percent of what you have stated. The only part that I respectfully disagree with is if the financial aid staff gets it way, for they have to abide by the rules as you and I; The counselors have very little, if any, influence regarding regulations, procedures, and policy that govern financial aid. However, I totally agree with everything else mentioned in your post!

      1. Hi Greg, I can see your point as you have probably been lucky enough to have seen the minority (being the good staff). My frustration lies mostly with the leadership and not with all of the counselors). I have been lucky enough to find one very good counselor who I make sure I see even if I have to come back. Her name is Janet and she actually listens and treats people with respect and honesty. I had even gotten to the point where I would go to another campus if I wasn’t able to see Janet and became frustrated with other staff as well and was treated like I was trying to rob the government. One manager even told me that I should just go ahead and try again because my circumstances call for me to receive aid even though she didn’t feel I should receive any so a person who has been there a shorter time would just follow the guidelines and put it through. Aren’t the guidelines always supposed to be followed? I believe that the management needs to be changed and a new mind set brought in. I have to say that from watching this video that this interim director did not impress me at all. If the leadership does not change, the new people hired in will have the same negative attitudes and it will only continue to get worse.

    3. Hey Michael,
      I have also experienced the same personalities that you mentioned and Janet is one of the best counselors! Also, the manager helped me out once or twice, for the counselor was not familiar with the new guidelines at the time; they are always changing. Regarding the interim director, I felt the same vibes as you, but he deserves a chance to make things right (remember, he has a boss too). In a vertical organization structure (command and control), the culture is dictated from the top down! So you are totally correct when you said the leadership would have to change.
      During the past four years, I have had many problems with the financial aid process (every year I seem to be honored by being select for an audit), and two or three times had to email the director (there have been two or three directors in this time frame) to straighten out issues. However, I am going to complete my bachelor’s degree next summer, and I would not had been able to do this without the help of the financial aid department at Palm Beach State College!! My point is that a bureaucracy has many flaws and no system is perfect. Perseverance is what got me through, and of course, the people at the financial aid department! Hopes this information helps you with your endeavor.

  2. Wow, I can not believe that they are treating everyone the same way. Financial aid at PBSC is very bad, their employees always have an attitude when you go ask for help. I was going to get my BA there, now I will go somewhere else.

  3. Palm Beach State College is providing me with a first-class education, for I am presently enrolled in the Bachelor’s degree program. However, I am one of the sixty-two percent that would not be attending college without financial aid. Therefore, any changes that are needed to enable future students to attend college is a blessing.
    Students must remember that the financial aid counsellors are there to assist students, but it is the student responsibility to analyze their aid package and inform the counselor of any discrepancies. I have always found the financial aid counselors to be helpful and informative; furthermore, they have solved every problem that I brought to their attention. Students tend to blame the counselors for every error which is completely insane, for they are there to help the students and not their personal accountant. Thank you Financial Aid Department and Palm Beach State College for all you have done in fulfilling my dream to attend college!!!

    1. Maybe you work there, who are you kidding, we all know it’s a good school to go to, the problem is with the financial aid department, they need to hire new workers who knows what they doing.

      1. Hey Richard,
        When I first started college at PBSC, my attitude was similar to yours regarding the financial aid employees! However, my attitude changed with each issue that I brought to their attention, for they would always resolve the problem (even when I acted obnoxious). Over time, I learned to respect them (financial aid employees) and came to the realization that they were not the problem, but the solution.
        When a student walks into an office and blames the counselor for an error, it is human nature for the counselor to become defensive. All the counselors at PBSC are over qualified and under paid (the majority of them have a bachelor’s or master’s degree). I do not work at the college, my job is being a full time student, and I do expect financial rewards upon completion of my bachelor’s degree!

  4. I find this new “stiffening” practice to be quite laughable. Did the school ever even consider applying this standard to first time in college students? Tallahassee Community College does this. Furthermore, student loans are supposed to be used for school related expenses. How in the world are students supposed to pay these expenses if their school disperses funds on a drawn out staggered schedule? This money belongs to adult students who are accountable for their own repayments. We adults do not need Palm Beach State playing big brother, mom or dad for us. It’s our money and we need it NOW.

  5. I could not have said it better. We have bills we need to pay. This money is our resposibilty the college has no right to treat students who have been in enrolled every semester for the past year and a half this way. The interm director has a lot to learn

  6. I am so disappointed in the treatment we are receiving. I feel we have a right to be heard so I am asking all who feel that these changes are unfair. To those of us who have been attending faithfully to please contact Mr. Vo and let him know. here is his email vot@palmbeachstate.edu The rules he has put in place should only apply to new students. They really should not apply to VA students but they do. Please lets get together and fight these rules.

  7. I am a veteran. This is my 3rd semester at Palm Beach State. I have attended and completed all of my classes. Why am I being penalized for what some people have done in the past? Why are you penalizing returning students for something that obviously is a problem with new students? Wouldn’t a more reasonable approach have been to apply this stiffer standard to students who are new to PBSC or new to college at all? I really depend on my financial aid since and this is unacceptable.

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