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News Contact:
Cathy Summa-Wolfe
, Director
Communications & Community Relations

Sweeping Changes in Financial Aid Regulations Will Affect COM Students

Record Numbers of COM Students Applying for and Receiving Aid

Kentfield, CA—Feb 3, 2012—New federal and state regulations will impact students applying for financial aid this year. Those who will be affected include: students who repeat courses, some Pell Grant recipients, adult students without a high school diploma or GED, and those who receive a Board of Governors Fee Waiver as part of their financial aid packets.

These changes come at a time when College of Marin (COM) students are applying for and receiving financial aid in record numbers. Financial aid applications have nearly doubled in the past four years at COM from 2,037 applications in 2006-2007 to 4,026 in 2010-2011. In part due to an increase in need related to the ongoing bad economy, the number of financial aid applications is expected to increase again significantly this academic year. Mid-year applications have already topped 3500 in the third quarter with hundreds more expected in the fourth, fifth and sixth quarters.

The increase in the number of financial aid recipients also has resulted in an increase in the number of students who have been denied financial aid due to unsatisfactory academic progress. According to the College of Marin Financial Aid Office, the number of students who are being denied financial aid due to a lack of academic progress has almost quadrupled since fall 2008 from 103 to 390 students. Many of these students will not return to classes this spring due to a lack of funds.  

Other financial aid changes have also gone into effect. According to COM Financial Aid Director David Cook students previously were allowed to repeat a class an infinite number of times and receive financial aid. New regulations have eliminated this practice. Beginning this spring 2012 semester, students will not be allowed to repeat courses indefinitely and continue to receive financial aid. COM students now will receive federal financial aid funding for only one repetition of a previously passed course.

Pell Grant recipients will also be subject to new restrictions. In 2010-2011 approximately 2,100 COM students received $6.6 million in Federal Pell Grants. The House and Senate announced an agreement on December 12, 201 regarding fiscal year 2012 funding for the U.S. Department of Education as part of an omnibus spending bill that covers multiple federal agencies, and includes changes to the Pell Grant program. The agreement worked out by Republicans and Democrats in the omnibus bill maintains the maximum Pell Grant award of $5,550 per year, and includes changes to the program to offset the $1.3 billion funding shortfall left over from Fiscal Year 2011.  

The major changes to the Pell Grant include:

  • Elimination of the Ability to Benefit (ABT) provision to establish eligibility for Title IV funds, which means new financial aid applicants without a high school diploma or GED will be barred from the Pell Grant program.
  • A reduction of the number of years a student can use Pell Grants from nine to six years;
  • A reduction of the income allowable to qualify an applicant for a maximum grant under the “automatic zero” expected family contribution calculation from $30,000 to $20,000 a year.

In 2010-2011, nearly 500,000 California community college students received Pell Grants totaling $1.6 billion. Pell Grants are the largest source of financial aid for the state’s community college students. These grants enable the neediest students to obtain a college education. COM students who are receiving Pell Grants are cautioned to plan their academic progress according to the new time constraints. Students planning to transfer to a university and earn a baccalaureate or higher degree must pursue a focused course of study in order to be ensured eligibility for Pell Grants to help pay for their education.  In an effort to provide greater support for student success,  COM is implementing a number of changes, including stricter enforcement of prerequisites and encouraging students to work with counselors to set and achieve their goals in a timely manner.

Other changes are also in place that students should be aware of.

Students applying for loans should note that the interest subsidy during the six-month grace period has been eliminated for new Stafford Loans made on or after July 1, 2012, and before July 1, 2014. The repayment period still begins six months after the student is no longer enrolled at least half-time, but interest that accrues during this six-month period will be payable by the student rather than subsidized by the federal government.  

Also, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office recently announced an administrative change in the calculation of eligibility for Board of Governors Fee Waivers (BOGFW) for students filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and qualifying on the basis of financial need.  Currently, a student who demonstrates $1 of financial need qualifies for a fee waiver.  According to the Chancellor’s Office the new formula will limit eligibility to students whose financial need is at least equal to the enrollment fees for a full-time student (12 units per term).  For 2012-2013, minimum need is $1,104.  Students will remain eligible for a BOGFW to cover any number of units as long as they demonstrate financial need equal to or greater than the minimum.

Students may apply for financial aid online at using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The priority deadline for applying is March 2, 2012.

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