Starting in spring 2019, Texas A&M University-San Antonio will evaluate financial aid eligibility at the end of every academic year instead of each semester.
Jeannine Tovar, financial aid compliance officer, announced the change Monday, Oct. 22 at “Keeping Your Financial Aid,” part of the G.R.O.W.L. workshop series by the Student Academic Success Center. The 45-minute seminar featured two other speakers: Denise Sanchez-Pickett, financial aid adviser II, and Michelle Anguiano, an academic success coach.
Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP, determines a student’s eligibility for financial aid.
To qualify for financial aid, students must have a GPA of 2.0 for undergraduates or 3.0 for graduate students. Transfer GPAs are not considered in calculating SAP.
Students also must complete 67 percent of their classes and have fewer than 180 attempted hours.
“SAP is what drives financial aid, and SAP is up to you,” Tovar told the 16 students who attended the workshop.
When financial aid was determined by semester and a student did not satisfy SAP requirements, they received a warning. The warning allowed them to have financial aid for the following semester, but if they continued to not meet the requirements then the student would be denied financial aid.
Fall 2018 will be the last individual semester in which students receive warnings.
“Students are either going to be good or they will be bad, no more warnings whatsoever,” Tovar said.
Students who were interviewed Thursday, Nov. 8 had differing opinions about the change.
“It’s nice to know, even though I do my best at school, that if I had a bad semester I still have a whole other semester to get back on track,” said Angelica Maldonado, general business junior.
Education sophomore Genesis Gamez disagreed. She said if students lose eligibility under the new system, they will be without financial aid for the entire academic year. However, she said she doesn’t think it will affect her because she stays on top of her schoolwork.
There is hope for those who have become ineligible for financial aid. Students can submit an appeal, even students who have already attempted 180 hours including drops and transfers.
To file a SAP appeal, students should provide documentation to show the appeal is valid, Tovar said at the Oct. 22 workshop. That could include a letter of recommendation from an academic success coach or documents that prove special circumstances have affected the student’s grades.
All appeals are final, and the decision process takes two to four weeks, but up to six weeks during peak times. The earlier appeals are submitted, the better.
“You can submit a SAP appeal, and remember, every case is different,” Tovar said. The student will need to make an effort to demonstrate what they have been doing to improve. It is not a guarantee that the status will change, but academic success coaches can help if students are interested.
Students who are struggling in classes should remember the university offers tutoring, counseling and skill-building sessions, and there are disability support services as well.
Anguiano said students should not only keep up with academics, but keep their advisers and academic success coaches in the loop so they can advocate for them.
“We are here to be bugged. We are here to help and make a plan,” Tovar said of students who have questions or are needing assistance.
It is important to stay informed about the process, said Maldonado, the general business junior.
“If I lost financial aid, it would really affect me and my daughter, so I am always on top of my stuff when come to the requirements,” Maldonado said.
Scholarships are another option for financial help, and A&M-SA makes it easy to apply, said Tovar. Students go to one place and fill out one form, which sends the application to eligible scholarships.
If students want to apply click scholarships, and click on the red button that says “Scholarship Application Log In Here” and follow the steps. First-time users will need to create an account. Applications for the 2019-2020 school year are available until June 30.
For SAP information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For scholarship assistance, email email@example.com. To contact the Student Academic Success Center, email Student.Success@tamusa.edu.
Cece Colon, Jaclyn Campbell, Aaron Reff and Megan Golenski contributed to this story.