Saturday, July 13, 2024

Course Program of Study harms students reliant on financial aid

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Story by Hannah Carley

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The Course Program of Study (CPoS) will go into effect June 2024, and it significantly lessens student freedom when selecting classes.

In Jan. 2023, the Department of Education reauthorized The Higher Education Act (1965), which established the CPoS. This regulates coursework and places confines on aid-dependent students to conserve taxpayer dollars.

CPoS requires a student to enroll in a courses designated for their majors, minors or other degree requirements to receive full financial aid funding. However, this also limits the minors a student can take.

According to an email sent by the Assistant Vice Provost of Registration and Students Records Tyler Henson, “[C]oursework for minors that are considered optional in a degree program may or may not be eligible for financial aid, depending on the type of aid you receive and if the optional minor coursework can count as an elective or other shared course.”

Some majors that require a minor to graduate. The coursework for these minors will be applicable for financial aid, but minors that are not required may not be covered by financial aid.

Now, double-major, double-minor and split-major-minor students flood advising offices in preparation for the regulations’ effective date of June 2024. The regulations will withhold the Pell Grant and other funds for minor programs and classes unrelated to majors.

The Department of Education caused many destitute students with ‘inapplicable’ credits and minors to panic. Per credit requirements, many graduated early, dropped their minors or paid tuition costs using loans.

Many students criticized the lack of versatility in school funding. In contrast, the regulations received overwhelming support from the Department of Education.

The Department of Education prioritized the requirements and regulations of administrative capabilities. College of Media Advisor LeAnne McBride empathized with much of the student body’s struggle.

“If you have a student that comes in as a true freshman with zero transfer AP or dual enrollment hours, they still need 120 hours of academic credit to graduate,” McBride said. “That’s the number one requirement for graduation.”

McBride said CPoS covers credits toward students’ majors and “free” credit hours. She said the HEA lowered the credit limit by 30 credits, setting the new limit to 120. The program regulates all credit hours earned, including free credit hour classes.

“The free electives or the additional classes, and that counts toward the 120 hours needed, even though it doesn’t count in the gen-eds, major or minor,” McBride said.

McBride said a student’s CPoS may impact the amount of financial aid they may receive.

A student’s CPoS federal and state financial aid rules cause grants, scholarships, work-study and loans to be reduced if you enrolled in inapplicable classes to your major, minor or other requirements toward degrees.

McBride said the program requires financial aid students to take classes the institution deems relevant to each course of study.

The Final Rules

The Institutional and Programmatic Eligibility Committee voted in favor of “The Final Rules,” affecting ability to benefit (ATB) on March 10, 2022. These “Final regulations” strengthened financial aid ATB requirements.

In contrast to student reactions, the Department of Education and the Biden-Harris Administration stood behind “The Final Rules.”

“With these final rules … fixing a broken system, which failed to protect students and families, and addresses abuses in higher education that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars in recent years,” President Biden said. “We are … making sure that when students invest in higher education, they get a solid return on that investment.”

The Final regulations and HEA’s CPoS established guidelines to accelerate graduations to save taxpayer dollars.

“[It] will increase our ability to identify high-risk events and require the financial protection we believe is needed to protect students and taxpayers,” according to Final Regulations section 34 CFR part 668.

Student Opinion

Scholarship and grant students depend on government funds to finish their college careers. Without continued funding, these students struggle to keep afloat.

Twenty-year-old Jorge Avila studies Political Science and Pre-Law. He said dually, the subjects sharpened helped hone his writing skills and diversify his research.

Avila said he’d see graduation one semester too quickly. He disapproved of the restrictions within the CPoS program.

“There are a large amount of students that just can’t afford [classes.] When you do that, you’re restricting their ability to learn,” Avila said. “[These] restrictions aren’t necessary because they’re trying to minimize your sphere.”

Avila said financial aid seemed decently accessible. He qualifies for merit-based aid as well as the Pell Grant and Hope scholarship.

“I don’t have to worry about tuition, so I’m very fortunate in that [way],” Avila said. “There are a lot of students that don’t have access to financial aid, whether it be Hope or Pell Grant.”

Victoria Grigsby, a 19-year-old sophomore double-majoring in Political Science and German, while double-minoring in Economics and University Honors, said she felt unprepared for her workforce debut.

She said her passion lies in international public policy. She anticipates working in the European Union or the United Nations. She plans to use a blend of her knowledge within her career.

“I’ve added on the German to try and extend my time at MTSU, it shouldn’t happen with the new rules … I already had it as a minor and I was almost done with it,” said Grigsby.

She’s altered her education plan and experienced economic pressure to graduate ahead of time because of CPoS policies effective June-July 2024.

Grigsby appreciated the safeguards protecting financial aid students with requirements of being in the lower income bracket.

“I have a full Pell Grant and an estimated zero percent family contribution,” Grigsby said. “I come from a very low-income area, a very rural area, where simply students can’t pay for it … I like how it’s limited.”

Information on CPoS requirements and guidelines varies with each institution. For more information, go to MTSU’s website.

Hannah Carley is a contributing writer for MTSU Sidelines.

To contact the News and Assistant News Editor, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, and follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on X and Instagram at @mtsusidelines. Also, sign up for our weekly newsletter here.

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