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Creating Pathways for Student Progress: Maximizing Financial Aid with Course Sharing

Published by Acadeum

In higher education, supporting student success is top of mind for college and university leaders to ensure students’ progress to degree completion. Financial aid plays a pivotal role in facilitating students’ pursuit of higher education by easing the financial burden associated with obtaining a degree. It acts as a crucial catalyst in enabling students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to access and complete their higher education. By making education more affordable and attainable, financial aid promotes a student’s ability to focus on their academic and personal growth, ultimately leading to increased graduation rates and a more educated workforce. In this way, financial aid is an indispensable tool in fostering educational equality and empowering students to earn their degrees.

Financial aid isn’t just about providing funding; it’s about creating pathways for student progress. Course sharing is a powerful tool that further aids students in overcoming barriers and persisting toward degree completion. This innovative approach allows students to access a wider array of courses and resources beyond their Home Institution, expanding their educational opportunities. Whether through online platforms, collaborative agreements between colleges, or cross-institutional partnerships, course sharing enhances the flexibility and availability of courses. As a result, students can more efficiently meet their degree requirements, graduate on time, and reduce the need for further debt.

Flexible Pathways to Bolster Student Success

Colleges and universities are leveraging summer and winter terms to retain students, increase online enrollments, keep students on the path to graduation, and recover lost tuition dollars with course sharing. Institutions that award Federal Pell Grants during the academic year can also accept them for summer and winter courses, as long as students meet standard Pell Grant eligibility criteria. Justin Fitts, a 2023 graduate of Allen University, was able to leverage course sharing during a winter term to help him graduate on time.Says Justin,  “Course sharing helped fulfill two chemistry courses I needed to graduate. The support I received through my Home and Teaching Institutions allowed me to succeed in both courses. Now, I can focus on completing graduate school applications to fulfill my dream of getting my master’s degree and becoming a pediatric nurse.”

The course sharing champions at Tuskegee University underscored the importance of ensuring that funding for students lines up with enrollment when taking a course offered by a partner institution in the Acadeum network. Dr. Elaine Bromfield, registrar and assistant professor, explained that, with the Acadeum Course Share platform, she is able to proactively review enrollment requests and verify if the student has enough financial aid or if they have exceeded the full-time status. Tuskegee University is realizing many benefits from course sharing, including supporting students who begin jobs and need accommodation for their schedules, empowering students returning to the classroom, and keeping students on their scheduled graduation pathway.

Timely graduation not only reduces the financial burden of prolonged education but also lessens the risk of accumulating significant student debt. In this way, course sharing contributes to a more streamlined and cost-effective educational journey, aligning with the broader goal of helping students complete their degrees and enter the workforce with reduced financial debt.

Financial Aid and Consortium Agreements FAQs

A recent webinar, “Maximizing Financial Aid: Creating Pathways for Student Progress” featuring financial aid expert Bob Evans, explored some of the top financial aid questions related to consortial course sharing. The importance of making students aware of their financial aid options is underscored when considering “The Pell Grant is the primary federal grant to help low-income students pay for college.” Ensuring students understand their financial options and how to apply for financial aid like the Pell Grant helps to remove one of the barriers facing timely student completion and graduation. Financial aid plays a vital role in consortium agreements between institutions with different term lengths. Here are some FAQs from the webinar:

Question 1: Do institutions use the Home or Teaching Institution’s calendar for enrollment reporting for consortium agreements?

Answer: The Home Institution’s calendar is often used as the basis for enrollment reporting for consortium agreements.

Question 2: How does financial aid work for half-time students wanting to take courses with course sharing?

Answer: Financial aid eligibility can be maintained for students who are less than half-time, depending on the type of aid. Students are eligible, particularly for Pell Grants, if they’re less than half-time. There are other financial aid programs, like student loans, that would not be eligible for a disbursement if they were less than half-time.

Question 3: Can funds be dispersed to students participating in a consortium agreement before they complete the course?

Answer: Yes, but the particular element that has to be considered is that the governing rules for disbursement are based on the Home Institution. The Home Institution must disperse funds for consortium students just as they would for their own students.

Question 4: How do institutions implement consortium agreements between schools with different term lengths?

Answer: Consortium agreements must be in place before the end of the Home Institution’s term to ensure timely and accurate reporting.

Question 5: Can a school retroactively pay Title IV aid when a consortium agreement is set up late?

Answer: Retroactive payments may be possible if consortium agreements are set up late, but it’s essential to follow the guidelines.

Question 6: Do courses taken with course sharing have to be completed during the same semester or trimester as courses taken at the Home Institution?

Answer: This question is often disguised around the whole issue of overlapping terms. The course doesn’t have to be completed during the same term, and we’re referring to the Home Institution as it is the one that is in the driver’s seat when it comes to the consortium agreements, particularly the consortium regulations for the Department of Education.

Strategies for Success

As educational leaders, it is important to support the whole student by understanding the current state of financial aid, implementing tested strategies to support student success, leveraging winter and summer terms, and understanding the financial aid and consortium agreements within the Acadeum network. A conversation with the Acadeum Partner Success Team can help ensure your institution employs the right strategies and initiatives that empower students to achieve their academic goals while maximizing financial aid.

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