The U.S. Department of Education recently released a preliminary set of rules that aim to strengthen federal student loan programs.
Cindy Burnette, director of Student Financial Assistance, said WKU would be most affected by rules that tighten requirements on satisfactory academic progress and verification of the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Burnette said the final regulations have yet to be announced, but changes could mean more work for her department and students alike.
Currently, satisfactory academic progress for students receiving Pell Grants, CAP Grants and PLUS loans and other Title IV aid is measured after a student has been enrolled for a full academic year, Burnette said.
Students must achieve a certain grade point average based on the number of credit hours they have completed, she said.
If the new regulations make the policy more restrictive, satisfactory academic progress could be measured after each semester, she said.
“We don’t know yet how it will play in,” she said.
If this is the case, some students could lose their aid after a bad semester. In the past, they would have an extra semester to improve their GPA, she said.
The university could also see an increase in FAFSAs it is required to verify with the federal processing center, Burnette said.
Currently, about 30 percent of WKU students’ FAFSAs are selected for verification.
This year, there was a significant increase due to the larger volume of FAFSA applicants and more regulations being put in place, she said.
If a student’s application is selected for verification during a busy time of the school year, which is July 1 or later, then about a month of processing time is added, Burnette said.
As applications take longer to process, the aid takes longer to be awarded, she said.
While concrete changes remain to be seen, Burnette said WKU already does some of the things the DOE will implement.
According to the press release, many schools do not distribute student aid to federal aid recipients in time for them to get their books and supplies for classes.
Burnette said that’s not a problem at WKU.
According to the press release, the number of high school “diploma mills” – organizations that award degrees with little or no academic study – has called the credibility of some secondary schools into question.
The DOE standards could require colleges and universities to develop procedures to evaluate the validity of a student’s high school diploma.
Admissions Director Scott Gordon said he has not heard of the proposed regulations, but said WKU doesn’t have a problem with “diploma mills.”
Final regulations should be published in early 2011, according to the release.