Some students don’t receive full aid

State grant recipients get reduced aid if taking fewer than 15 credits.

by Roy Aker

Full-time University of Minnesota sophomore Tony Corradi was surprised to see a financial aid cutback after dropping a class this spring.

Despite still paying the same amount in tuition, Corradi said part of his state grant was redacted after he cut his credit load from 19 to 14.

Because Minnesota’s grant system operates under a 15-credit policy, aid is reduced for grant recipients like Corradi, who are taking 13 or 14 credits.

“It’s definitely confusing and frustrating,” he said.

One Stop Student Services bases financial aid on the assumption students will take 15 or more credits — the state’s definition of full time — although University students only need 12 credits to be considered full time and 13 credits to pay full tuition.

“I’d think that if the school says [12] is full time, then the state would recognize that as full time instead of setting their own mark,” Corradi said.

Roughly 10 days before aid is disbursed, it’s repackaged based on students’ actual enrollment, said Kris Wright, a director of the Office of Student Finance.

She said One Stop staff often see students who don’t receive all the aid they expected.

“They’ll see a drop in what they’re going to get, and that’s when the calls come,” she said.

The state’s policy on full-time students was changed in 1992 from 12 to 15 credits.

Meredith Fergus, a policy analyst for the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, said the rationale behind the state’s credit policy is that more students will graduate on time, saving them money in the long run.

“It’s not that we expect all students to take 15 credits,” Fergus said. “We just think it’s a more realistic message to send to students.”

The average University undergraduate student is taking 14.8 credits this semester, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

Larry Pogemiller, Minnesota OHE director, said switching the grant system to mirror the University’s full-time student policy “shouldn’t be the conclusion we come to.”

Pogemiller said he’d rather see more grant aid awarded instead of students taking fewer credits in order to work and pay for living expenses.

“The best way I can think about it from a policy perspective,” he said, “is that we have not kept up on the level of financial aid and that it would not be a wise result for students to take less credits.”

Pogemiller said Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal of an $80 million increase in funds to the state grant program as well as $42.6 million in direct funds to the University for a tuition freeze will help the current situation.

“We do think this would go a long way in easing the pressure off a large number of students,” he said. “I’m optimistic something significant will happen this year at the Legislature.”