Written by: Matthew Mannai, Tamula Lewis, Ryan Volkert, Austin Carpenter, Michael Dancler, Juan Alvarez & Micheala Pattison
Frank O’Bannon recipients and 21st Century Scholars may be at risk of losing all or some of their state aid if they do not complete 30 credits each academic year.
Recipients of the grant can receive a maximum of $3700 for one academic year for 15 credit hours each semester, which covers about 57 percent of the tuition costs. Students who take 12 credit hours per semester or 24 in an academic year will receive a maximum $3,367. Those completing fewer than 24 credits will not receive the grant.
The requirements of the 21st Century Scholarship also states students will lose their scholarship if they are unable to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours per academic year.
Both types of state aid recipients will no longer be eligible for state aid if they do not complete a degree within four years.
The changes to state aid were made as part of Indiana House Enrolled Act 1348. Governor Pence signed the legislation in May 2013 and only applies to students who have been enrolled since 2013.
According to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the purpose of HEA 1348 is to increase the number of students who are graduating within four years by encouraging them to take more classes.
These changes are where made to encourage the students already capable of graduating in four years, who are choosing to take the “scenic route” and graduate in five or six years, according to Julie Creek, director of the office of diversity and multicultural affairs.
There are 894 active 21st Century scholars and 976 active Frank O’Bannon recipients at IPFW.
The changes also require all state universities to assist students with graduating in four years by providing a four-year academic map, IPFW uses My Blueprint to meet this requirement.
My Blueprint is an online service provided to IPFW students and faculty to map out degree completions and is accessible through the enrollment section of My IPFW.
Departments like communication, education and nursing has provided students with a four year academic plan before the changes went into effect.
O’Bannon recipient Cassidy Eichmann said, the nursing department helped her plan out her four year degree completion. “I will have summer classes. I will have four credits over the summer with my clinical time.”
However, not all of the IPFW departments have created four year completion plans for their students.
According to Assistant Director of Student Success and Transitions Corrie Fox, IPFW academic advisers were retrained on My Blueprint at the beginning of the Spring 2016 semester.
According to Fox, there has been a lack of campus uniformity in informing faculty and professional academic advisors on the new requirements.
Faculty advisors on the IPFW campus reported knowing very little about changes made to state financial aid.
According to Rhonda Meriwether, academic advising center director, there is no current effort to inform faculty and professional advisors on the financial implications that the changes to state aid may have on state aid recipients.
“We are very concerned about this policy direction. It has the potential to very much impact our student’s ability to continue to receive state support”, George McClellan, IPFW vice chancellor of student affairs said.
However, some students simply cannot take 15 credit hours or more because of other life responsibilities like, working or taking care of a family, according to Fox.
For the majority of those types of students graduating in four years is just not going to be possible or practical, Creek said.
Fox said, she would only advise students who can handle taking 15 credit hours or more to do so.
“If it’s right for you I think it’s great” Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Success and Transitions Krissy Creager said. “If it’s not right for you, I don’t think it is something students should feel like they have to do.”
“If 15 doesn’t work for you don’t do it,” said doermer school of business academic advisor Karen Casazza. “Some people work full time and part time and they can’t do it. If that is your sweet spot, stick with that. It doesn’t matter to us how long it takes you.”
However, some students and advisors are not aware of the financial impact not graduating within four years could have on their state aid, Fox said.
The majority of IPFW students do not fully understand the requirements of the financial awards and loans, Associate Director of Financial Aid, Michael Carpenter said.
According to Fox, it is the student’s responsibility to understand and seek out help about financial aid.
According to Christopher Pine, a financial aid advisor, every student can schedule a meeting with a financial advisor but such meetings are rare.
Pine said students can access information about the requirements for the O’Bannon grant at any time through My IPFW or when they accept the award.
The Frank O’Bannon requirements are not explained to students when they are accepting the award, Fox said.
According to Fox, students don’t even have to accept the O’Bannon grant to receive it. It is automatically awarded and students must opt out of it, if they don’t want it, Fox said.
The only information about the O’Bannon requirements can be found at IN.gov under the higher education state awards and grants tab.
Compared to O’Bannon recipients, the majority of 21st Century Scholars at IPFW are aware of the award requirements when they accepted it in middle school or high school, Fox said.
Students receiving the 21st Century Scholarship are required to sign a pledge. The pledge includes acknowledging the students have read and understanding the 30 credit hour each semester requirement, according to Cicelle Beemon, a support specialist for 21st scholars.
The pledge also includes the academic and personal conduct requirements the students must adhere to in order to keep the award. The 21st Century scholars have to sign the pledge each year they receive the award.
Beemon said 21st Century Scholarship advisors at the high schools and on the IPFW campus remind the students about the 30 a year credit requirement throughout their high school and college careers.
The difference between 21st Century Scholarship and Frank O’Bannon grant is how the state distributes information about the aid requirements, Fox said.
Fox said, she recommends students do their homework on the financial aid they receive and then meet with a financial aid advisor with questions.
These requirements make it more difficult for students receiving the 21st Century Scholarship and the Frank O’Bannon Grant to navigate through their degree completion, according to McClellan.
These changes do very little to help the students who are already struggling to graduate on time, Creek said.
The majority of O’Bannon recipients and 21st Century Scholars are first generation college students with little to no family contribution to their college expenses, Fox said. Many of these student don’t know what question they should be asking in the first place, or how their financial aid works.