By Erica Dunigan
Staff reporter

August 11 students received a notice about change in financial aid. Many students may have just skimmed through the article, others may have let it pass by.

The email stated, “Congress changes rules for Satisfactory Academic Progress starting with the fall 2011 semester.” The email also had a link to view the article on Southwestern College’s news page.
Amber Hart, communication freshman, said that students just received the link to the article through email.
“The email didn’t even catch my attention, nor did they mention it when I set up my financial aid,” Hart said.
Brenda Hicks, director of financial aid, said that the majority of students do not know these standards or the evaluation exist.

The article that was posted on the news page defined what “satisfactory academic progress” is and why it exists to help benefit students.

“It’s really a way that the government assures that the students receiving tax supported dollars are enrolled in courses, and also progressing satisfactorily towards a degree,” said Hicks.

Any student that receives financial aid is accountable for meeting the four standards in the policy for satisfactory academic progress.

The four standards are: 1) cumulative grade point average (2.0), 2) successful completion of at least 70 percent of their coursework in the semester under evaluation, 3) successful completion of at least 70 percent of their overall coursework, and 4) overall maximum time to degree.

“It’s not a new policy,” said Hicks. “It’s a further definition of a policy that has been in place at colleges across the United States.”

Southwestern has always had a policy in place for satisfactory academic progress. The policy originally had three out of the four standards. The new change brings the third standard, and brings attention to professors.

“I believe from talking with Brenda Hicks and learning about the new standard, that a lot of this is motivated from the excesses and abuses in the for-profit education world,” said Bob Gallup, professor of physics and mathematics. “Some people are really scamming the system.”

The article further states that “failure to meet the first three standards, two semesters in a row, results in suspension of the student’s financial aid privilege,” and “failure to meet the fourth standard results in an automatic suspension.”

There is an appeal process for students if they do not meet one of the standards.

“The student would explain why it is taking them this long to earn their degree,” said Hicks.

If a student does not meet the appeal process, they can earn their financial aid back later down the road.

“An example would be if a student got suspended for not meeting the standard gpa,” said Hicks. “The student can get their gpa back up or follow their academic plan to rehabilitate their ability to get their financial aid back.”

Dick Merriman, president of Southwestern College, said that most students at Southwestern meet all the standards.

“Get a plan, a degree, and get out there,” said Merriman.

Erica Dunigan is a senior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail her at