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Bill Scheu Report on FSCJ Pell Grant problems

Bill Scheu Report on FSCJ Pell Grant problems

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Published by: The Florida Times-Union on Aug 07, 2012
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WilliamE.Scheu
1301
R.iverplace
Boulevard-
Suite1500
Jacksonville,Florida32207
ATTORNEYSATLAW
904.346.5560
904.398.3911
Main
904.396.0663Fax
August7,2012REPORTTOTHEBOARDOFTRUSTEESOFFLORIDASTATECOLLEGEATJACKSONVILLEABOUTINSTITUTIONALISSUESRAISEDBYTHEFINDINGSOFTHEAUDITORGENERALCONCERNINGPELLGRANTAPPEALSOnJanuary12,2012,DavidMartin,theAuditorGeneraloftheStateofFlorida(the"AuditorGeneral"),actingonbehalfoftheU.S.DepartmentofEducation("DOE"),deliveredtoDr.StevenR.Wallace,PresidentofFloridaStateCollegeatJacksonville("FSCJ"orthe"College"),hispreliminaryandtentativefindingsandrecommendations(the"AuditReport"),concerningprocessesanddecisionsmadebyFSCJaboutfinancialaidfortheacademicyear2010-11,specificallythoseconcerningtheawardofPellGrantsandstudentappealsofgranteligibilitydenials.OnFebruary7,2012,PresidentWallaceandStevenBowers,FSCJVicePresidentforAdministrativeServices,discussedtheAuditReportwithFSCJTrustees("Trustees"),atanoticed"PostBoardMeeting".InMarch,2012,FSCJDirectorofFinancialAidMichelleBowles,filedwiththeAuditorGeneraltheCollege'sresponsetotheAuditReportandestimatedacorrectiveactiondateofJune30,2012.ThatdatewassubsequentlyextendedtoSeptember15,2012.TheFSCJBoardconsideredtheimplicationsoftheAuditReportatitsmeetingsonApril3,May
1,
andJune5,2012.OnJune5,2012,FSCJannouncedtheengagementofWilliamE.ScheutoexaminetheinstitutionalpracticesoftheCollegerelatedtothefindingscontainedintheAuditReport.Mr.ScheuwasnotengagedtoreviewparticularPellGrantawardsandappeals,buttoexamineinstitutionalhistoryandpractices,andtomakerecommendationsforthefuture.AttheJune5,2012,FSCJBoardmeeting,Mr.BowersannouncedthatDOEhadextendeditsreviewoftheFSCJPellGrantprogramtothe2011-12academicyear,buttheCollegedidnotincludethe2011-12yearinthescopeofMr.Scheu'swork.BackgroundInformationTheFederalPellGrantprogramprovidesneeds-basedgrantstolowincomeundergraduatestudents.Therearealsolimitedcircumstances(suchasteachercertificationprograms)inwhichpost-graduatestudentsmaybeawardedPellGrants.Asimpliedbythename,aPellGrantisagrant,notaloan,anddoesnothavetoberepaidbythestudentrecipient.Forthe2010-11academicyear,themaximumPellGrantawardwas$5,550.00.
 
August7,2012Page2AstudentseekingaPellGrantfilesanapplicationforstudentaid("FreeApplicationforStudentAid",or"FAFSA")withDOE,whichconsiderstheeligibilityofthestudentunderfederallaw.34C.F.R.§668.32setsforththeregulatoryrequirementsforstudenteligibility,whichincludeamongother"non-economic"standards,whetherastudentsatisfiescertaincitizenshipandresidencyrequirements,whetherthestudentsatisfiesSelectiveServiceregistrationrequirements,whetherthestudenthasacorrectsocialsecuritynumber,whetherthestudentisenrolledinaneligibleinstitution,whetherthestudentisincarcerated,andwhetherthestudenthasabaccalaureateorfirstprofessionaldegree.Inadditiontothe"non-economic"standards,DOEevaluatestheFAFSApursuanttoan"economic"eligibilityformula,thefundamentalelementsofwhicharethestudent'sincome(andassetsifthestudentisindependent),thestudent'sparents'incomeandassets(ifthestudentisdependent),thefamily'shouseholdsize,andthenumberoffamilymembers(excludingparents)whoareattendingpostsecondaryinstitutions.Theapplicationisnotfiledunderoath,buttherearewarningsaboutperjuryiftheinformationfurnishedbythestudentisfoundtobeintentionallyuntrue.WhentheDOEcompletesitsevaluationoftheFAFSA,itelectronicallysendstoFSCJanInstitutionalStudentInformationRecord("ISIR"),inwhichtheDOEadvisestheinstitutionastowhetherthestudentiseligible,basedontheinformationsubmittedbythestudent.AStudentAidReport("SAR")issimultaneouslyfurnishedelectronicallytothestudentsothatthestudentcankeeptrackofhis/herstatus.Inaddition,DOErequiresFSCJtoverify30%oftheISIRlFAFSA's,selectedrandomlybyDOE,andanyotherISIRlFAFSA'swhichareotherwiseflaggedbyDOE.OnoccasionDOEhasrequiredFSCJtoverifyupto50%oftheISIRlFAFSA'ssenttoit.FSCJ'sOfficeofFinancialAidhandlestheverifications,andastudentkeepstrackofhisorherstatususing"Connections",whichisaCollegeelectroniccommunicationsystem.DOE'sverificationnotificationmayincludeverificationofsomeorallofboth"economic"and"non-economic"eligibilityrequirements.TheverificationtaskoftenrequiresFSC]stafftoevaluatetaxreturnsandothercomplexinformationthathasbeenfurnishedbythestudent.DOErefusestodotheverificationsitselfandimposesthatburdenonFSCJandothereducationalinstitutionsthatusefederalstudentfinancialaidprograms.Itisaverystaff-intensiveeffort.AtFSCJ,thereareonlyfourFinancialAidProcessorsandasupervisingFinancialAidProgramCoordinatorinvolvedinverifications,whichincludenotonlyPel1Grantawards,butothertypesoffederalfinancialaid.Whiletheverificationprocessisproceeding,or,ifnoverificationisrequired,uponthestudentbeingdeemed"qualified"byDOEintheISIR,adeterminationismadeunderthesupervisionoftheCollege'sOfficeofFinancialAidastowhetherthestudentismaking"satisfactoryacademicprogress"forretentionoffinancialaid.ThisdeterminationismadepursuanttopoliciesestablishedbyFSCJpursuanttoapplicablefederalregulations.Underthefederalregulationsineffectforthe2010-11academicyear(34C.F.R.§§668.16(e),668.32and668.34),whichwererevisedbeginningwiththe2011-12academicyear(andnotdiscussedherein),aninstitution'spolicyfordetermining"satisfactoryacademicprogress"forfinancialaidmustbeacceptabletoDOE.Apolicywillbeconsideredacceptableif,amongotherthingsnotpertinenttothisReport,thepolicycontainsboth
qualitative
and
quantitative
standards.
 
August
7,2012
Page3Thequalitativestandardisthatastudentmustmaintaina
2.0
cumulativegradepointaverageifa4.0gradingsystemisused,whichisthecaseatFSClThequantitativestandardistwo-fold.First,thestudentmusthavecompletedatleast67%oftheclassesthestudentstarted,onacumulativebasis(the"67%Rule").Thisistoavoidthesituationwhereastudentseeminglymaybemaintaininga
2.0
gradepointaverage,butonlybydroppingcoursesinwhichheorsheisdoingpoorly.Second,astudentmustfinishhisorherprogramofstudywithinamaximumtimeframe,whichis
150%
ofthepublishedlengthoftheacademicprogramofstudy(the
"150%
Rule").Forexample,ifthepublishedlengthofanacademicprogramis120credithours,themaximumperiodinthatprogramforwhichthestudentiseligibleforaPellGrantis180hours
(120
x1.50).AtFSCJtherearetwotypesof"satisfactoryacademicprogress".Thefirstisanacademicdetermination"toclearlycommunicatetheCollege'sminimumexpectationsofacademicprogress",whichisthestandardbywhichtheCollegedeterminesastudent'ssatisfactionoftheCollege's"StandardsofAcademicProgress",whichisidentifiedas"SOAP".TheSOAPpolicywarns,"Pleasenotethatthesestandardsarenotthesameasthoseapplicabletofinancialaid."Thesecondtypeof"satisfactoryacademicprogress"isadeterminationmadebytheCollege'sOfficeofFinancialAidforfinancialaideligibility,whichisknownas"SAP".TheprocessofdeterminingSAPisknownasbeing"SAPPED".
It
isthe"SAP"determinationwithwhichthisReportisconcerned,notthe"SOAP".TheSOAPvs.SAPdistinctionisunfortunateinthattheseareslightlydifferentstandardsandtheremaybeconfusioninthemindsofstudentsastowhichappliestofinancialaid.Duringthe2010-11academicyearandpreviousyears,FSCJevaluatedSAPonanannualbasis.Whenfederalregulationschangedinlate2010,tobeeffectiveJuly1,2011,theCollegechangeditsSAPevaluationscheduletorequireSAPevaluationseachacademictermratherthanannually,effectivefortheacademicyearbeginningJuly1,2011.EveniftheverificationofinformationontheISIRIFAFSAispositiveandastudentisdeemedtohavesatisfiedthebasiceligibilitythresholds,thestudentisnotclearedforfinancialaiduntilthestudentpassesSAPIftheSAPdeterminationresultsinafindingthatastudentisnotmakingsatisfactoryacademicprogress,thestudenthasarighttoappealunder34C.F.R.§668.16(e)(5),which,asitexistedin2010-11,requiredthataninstitutionmustprovidespecificproceduresunderwhichastudentmayappealthenegativeSAPdetermination.The2010-11regulationsareconfusingastotherightofappealforthequantitativestandard(See34C.F.R.§668.34(c),whichseemstolimitappealstothequalitativestandard.)Underthatregulation,onanappeal,theinstitutionmayfindthatthestudentismakingsatisfactoryacademicprogressonlyifthestudentfailedtoattainthecumulativegradepointrequirementbecauseof:
(1)
thedeathoftherelativeofthestudent,(2)aninjuryorillnessofthestudent,or(3)otherspecialcircumstances.However,inpracticeandintheexplanatorymaterialspublishedbyDOE,astudent'srighttoappealhasbeenrecognizedforfailuretosatisfyeitherthequalitative(gradepointaverage)orquantitativestandards(67%Ruleand150%Rule).

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