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ASCC: Year Around Pell Grant program discontinued

The Financial Aid Office at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) has recently taken steps to clarify a change in the federal student aid policy for the current 2011-2012 academic year in order to avoid confusion and misunderstanding with regards to student funding for summer school.

“The policy change will make it necessary for students to adopt a different planning approach from last year if they wish to use their financial aid award for summer school, but it’s simply a matter of observing some new guidelines,” said ASCC Financial Aid Office Acting Director Matau’a Tausili.

 According to Tausili, a recent change in financial aid awards has resulted from the ending of a temporary funding strategy known as Year Round Pell.

“For financial aid purposes, an academic year follows a cycle of fall, spring and summer,” she explained. “During the 2010-2011 academic year, Federal Student Aid established Year Round Pell, with the aim of accelerating students to complete their degrees faster than normal. Under Year Round Pell, students received additional financial aid if they took classes during the summer in addition to the fall and spring. So in effect, students were allowed to exceed the normal limit of $5,550 per academic year, as long as they enrolled full time in the summer.” (For the summer session, six credits is considered full time enrollment.)

However, Year Round Pell, federally funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), was never intended as permanent, and with the time frame for ARRA project funding having ended, the previous financial aid guidelines have once again come into effect, including the maximum award of $5,550 per student for the entire academic year.

This resumption of the previous guidelines and limits caused confusion for some students whose initial experience with financial aid took place while Year Round Pell was still in effect, and gave them the impression that their financial aid had somehow been reduced when in fact it had simply returned to previous levels.  

Despite the discontinuance of Year Round Pell, Tausili reassured current ASCC students relying on financial aid that summer school still have options that can include summer school.

“You can spread out your total of $5,550 to over all three terms in several ways,” she said. “For instance, you can take classes part-time in fall or spring or both, and apply the remainder of your yearly award to summer classes.”

Another method would simply involve careful budgeting.

With tuition costs at ASCC currently at $100 per credit, the base tuition for a full-time student taking 12 credits during the fall or spring term would not exceed $1200 before additional costs for variables such as fees, books, supplies, transportation and miscellaneous expenses. If base tuition for both the fall and spring terms combined is $2400, out of the yearly award of $5,550 this leaves $3,100 to cover variable costs, considerably more than the actual base tuition. If a student can save at least $600 out of $3,100, that covers their base tuition at attend the summer term full time.

According to Tausili, students can also have a strong advantage if they apply for federal student aid far enough in advance to take summer classes immediately after graduating from high school.

“Many high school graduates receive their first Pell Grant to attend the summer session. This eligibility applies to the whole academic year, even though that academic year is in its third and final term, so they could actually be awarded enough take up to 12 credits covered by financial aid. To carry that many credits in the summer term, they need the approval of their academic advisor, and it’s rare for this to happen. Most incoming students take one or two classes during summer.”

Tausili recommended that students graduating from high school this year and planning to enroll in the ASCC summer session apply for federal student aid immediately, because if they wait until registration it will be too late.

They first need to complete the 2011-2012 FAFSA application at  HYPERLINK "http://www.fafsa.ed.gov" www.fafsa.ed.gov. In addition, students who plan to enroll for the fall term must complete the 2012-2013 FAFSA.

She also cautioned continuing and prospective students to take only the classes and prerequisites necessary to complete their chosen program of study, as courses not listed in their programs will not be covered by federal student aid.

Students seeking clarification of ASCC federal student aid policies are always welcome to speak with the counselors at the College’s Financial Aid Office, who can also offer advice on how to budget an award over an academic year.

With the 2012 summer session coming up, the College will hold its priority registration for continuing students for the summer term from April 16th through May 10th. The schedule of summer classes will be available on April 13th.

 

 



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