Chris Maroldo, Probation / Dismissial / Reinstatement Issues Interest Group Chair
Andrea Harris, Probation / Dismissial / Reinstatement Issues Interest Group Member
At many higher education conferences, people refer to the “silo effect,” a phenomenon requiring students to travel from office to office to find the information they need. “Fred” visits the Registrar’s Office to find out why he can’t register. It’s due to a Bursar bill. Then a catch-22 occurs. Off to the Bursar to find that he can’t pay without additional loans. See Fred run to Financial Aid where he learns that he lost his aid due to previous unsatisfactory academic progress. On to the Advising Center to meet with his advisor for help.
“Integration,” the silo’s antidote, is not always feasible given institutional resources. However, any school can theoretically integrate by sharing knowledge. Given that so many probationary or dismissed students lose their aid, schools should consider training advisors who work with that population to provide comprehensive information.
Two examples of an intersection of advising and financial aid as it relates to both public and private institutions:
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Fred comes to your office with a pained expression. After successfully completing the reinstatement process, the financial aid office just informed him he must file an appeal to receive aid for the upcoming school year. What do you do?
Fred has been flagged for low grade point average and not successfully completing 75% or higher of previous coursework attempted. Students like Fred, after paying their academic “debt” to the institution and successfully completing the petition process, are overwhelmed to learn that a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) appeal is necessary. Can advisors assist students who must file an appeal? Or should advisors defer to the experts and refer students to the financial aid office? The answer to both questions is a definite but qualified “yes.”
Many students like Fred, who counted on financial aid but now have to deal with the added stress of waiting to learn if he can afford to come back to school, may be headed toward very serious financial consequences, such as taking out a high interest personal loan or giving up his dream of attending college. Advisors must offer related guidance to help students get back on track and can assist students with the appeal process by first becoming more familiar with the SAP guidelines at their institution. For example, the SAP guidelines for IUPUI can be found at http://www.iupui.edu/~finaid/undergraduate/sap.html . Granted, there is a lot of information and the language is in “financial aid-ese.” It is unreasonable to expect that advisors understand all the details. Yet, imagine how students feel reading the guidelines for the first time. That’s why they are in your office.
To help lower the stress levels of student AND advisor, advisors should work to establish a good relationship with a knowledgeable staff member of their school’s financial aid office. At IUPUI, advisors can seek clarification via email to a special “staff only” email address that is managed by financial aid professionals who provide excellent, easy-to-understand answers. While this information allows advisors to share specific information with the student, advisors must be clear with the student that helping them navigate this process does not mean that the appeal will be accepted. It is the student’s responsibility to articulate why the appeal should be approved.
Usually, a private higher educational experience comes with a hefty price tag. A majority of students at an institution such as this may rely on their financial assistance to pay for their education. Because students who have been on probation for two terms (or have an abysmal single term) will lose their aid, it is vital that our staff be knowledgeable about the related financial aid issues.
While it is certainly helpful to phone a friend in Financial Assistance, academic advisors are the ones who will meet with the student who has received a policy-laden letter about (possible) cancellation of aid due to poor performance. For some, the prospect of losing aid is the greatest deterrent, and for those who have actually lost their aid, the question of whether to pursue a private loan that can help them remain enrolled is a very real issue, sometimes more important than degree progress.
Pepperdine advisors do not pretend to know about amortization and interest, but we know what it will take to get back to good standing. Assuming that the majority of our dismissed students must earn at minimum 20 units of “B” work to get back to a 2.0, and that some have never earned even a single “B-,” we would be remiss if we did not tell students that they might be looking at a private loan for more than one semester. In fact, compounding probation/dismissal stress with additional financial worry may likely exacerbate an already difficult situation. As a result a conservative, realistic estimate is warranted.
Although we may not have a SAP appeal form, we have a petition process for just about anything. To ensure a more integrated approach, an “exception” committee (which ignores financial issues) reviews readmission petitions and a Financial Aid Appeals Committee (whose membership includes this advising administrator) reviews requests for reinstatement of institutional aid. What if a student petitions both groups and is welcomed back sans aid?
It is challenging to reconcile support for the institution with genuine service to the student. The institution benefits from the tuition, but the student who takes out a private loan at an exorbitant interest rate and defaults will still owe money to the university, damage his/her credit, and never be able to get a transcript to apply to a less-expensive school and rebuild.
What the authors think:
It is not realistic to expect every academic advisor to know the particulars about the financial aid world. However, when it comes to dealing with students whose aid is jeopardized or lost because of previous academic performance, advisors at both public and private institutions should be able to discuss all of the ramifications so that students are able to make informed decisions about these potentially life-altering matters.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
University College Advising Center
Andrea Gillie Harris
Senior Director, Student Administrative Services
Cite this article using APA style as: Maroldo,C. & Harris, A. (2007, September). Advising probation and reinstated students with financial aid issues: A public and private university perspective. Academic Advising Today, 30(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]