Palm Beach State stiffens financial aid policies
Palm 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.