Summer financial aid needs a revamp

Financial aid should be available for any number of credits.

As some students head into the summer looking for jobs, others stay around the University and make extra progress on their degree with summer classes. These can be a great benefit – class sizes generally are smaller, and with fewer classes to manage at once, students often feel they can concentrate more on each class and get more out of them. Unfortunately, the catch is that often they come at a hefty price.

Summer financial aid is only available if a student takes at least six credits, which is half time. But often students want to take only a couple of credits to help get them on track for their degree programs, and a “full” summer load often interferes with jobs and other summer activities. This system needs to be revamped.

Students should be able to apply for summer financial aid for fewer than six credits. Perhaps evaluation criteria are needed for this to happen – students could fill out an application including information about their summer activities, such as jobs, internships and volunteering. Combined with the academic history, such as taking a full load of courses in a degree-granting program for all spring and fall semesters, students could qualify for financial aid.

Students taking summer classes to help finish their degree programs should not be punished for trying to graduate earlier than they would if they could not take summer classes. Some students are comfortable taking 17 or more credits in a semester; others struggle with the minimum 13. These students should be allowed financial aid during the summer for courses they could have taken during the previous semesters but chose not to so they could focus on other classes.

Currently, a student choosing to take a four-credit summer course instead of the same course in the spring would have to pay for those four credits. Had he or she taken it with the other 13 credits, those four credits would have been “free.” This is not a very fair system for a student motivated to do well.

Summer classes can be a positive addition to University students’ education, but there needs to be a way to pay for them without punishing those trying to get off the seven-year plan.