By Lindsey Maeda
The East Los Angeles College Financial Aid Office will require 149 students to pay back unearned funds after reviewing the transcripts of Fall 2013 and Winter 2014 federal student aid recipients. Federal regulations require ELAC to return $131,108 of unearned financial aid within 45 days.
Students who received financial aid but did not complete their courses will be required to pay back the money, or they will lose their eligibility from ELAC and every other school in the United States.
The Los Angeles College Community College District’s Return of Funds to Title IV (R2T4) policy was revised so that students who received all Fs, NPs, Ws or any combination of the three during the last two semesters, are considered unofficially withdrawn from the term.
The R2T4 revision surfaced after federal program reviews covering the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years at two LACCD colleges revealed that the entire district did not enforce an unofficial withdrawal policy.
With the revision, a total of 834 financial aid recipients from LACCD unofficially withdrew from classes during the last two semesters, costing the district $238,000.
ELAC Head of Financial Aid Lindy Fong, said that the new policy encourages students to continue attending classes after receiving their second stipend at the midterm of the payment period.
“I know each student has different circumstances. Regardless of the circumstances, they receive federal funds. They need to be responsible,” Fong said.
Students who received an F or NP, but made an effort to attend class, complete assignments and take the final, are not considered unofficially withdrawn. These students can ask the instructor to fill out a Course Attendance Verification Form.
This form will be used to prove that a student completed the course, but did not meet the instructor’s requirements for a passing grade. To represent an unofficial withdrawal on transcripts, the financial aid office recommended the use of a new grading symbol, “FW.”
The new grading policy will distinguish students who stop attending classes after the last drop date with a W from those who earned an F due to inadequate academic performance. If ELAC is not in compliance with the revisions to RT24, the DOE has the option to remove financial aid from the school. “Fourteen thousand one-hundred forty-four students from (ELAC) got financial aid last school year. We don’t want to jeopardize it for everyone,” Fong said.
The financial aid office will notify students about the revisions to R2T4 through the LACCD email accounts. “It’s going to be a total shock to students. We’re willing to work with them, and we’ll try to see how we can help them,” Fong said.