Vice President and Provost Ron Natale
Gaucho Gazette > October 2012 > Academic Affairs
Moving to One Summer Session
In response to recent federal regulations, GCC is moving from two summer sessions to one summer term. At the heart of this decision is facilitating financial aid so it is delivered expediently and with as much ease as possible to students.
July 2011, the federal regulations changed requiring that schools must adjust the Cost of Education (COE) and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) based on length of enrollment within a term, not just enrollment level.
My first reaction was, “OK, so what does this mean?”
For students taking courses that do not span the entire semester, their COE and EFC has to be reduced to reflect the actual financial need and cost. For students enrolled full-time in semester -long courses, nothing changed. However, if a student is enrolled in an eight-week course, his or her aid might be impacted. We all agree that we should be making decisions regarding scheduling and programs based on what is best for student success. This does not necessarily mean eliminating modular courses in a semester or restructuring the summer schedule.
In addition to the impact on students, another consideration is the effect on the financial aid process. Under the new regulations, continuing to have two summer terms will change how we award Pell Grants, not just in summer, but throughout the year. In general, it could reduce the amount of funding a student can receive during the year. Moving to one summer term, where full time equals 12 credits, would mean that we will not need to adjust how we award Pell during the rest of the year. This is good news for financial aid processing and for students. One summer term will allow more automated processing of financial aid in the summer, since the federal government already considers summer a single term term. Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is reviewed for every term of enrollment, which means it runs spring to summer I, spring to summer II or spring to fall, depending on the student's enrollment in a given term. Reducing the number of times that SAP is processed during an academic year reduces the number of messages that students will receive, which should increase clarity.
Summer is a trailer for our award year. A student is eligible for a specific amount of Pell for the year. If a student is not full-time in fall and/or spring, then Pell may be available for summer classes. Many students use up all of their Pell awards with fall and spring enrollment so loans are the only available summer aid. A single summer term can be helpful in streamlining loan disbursement. Currently, if a student enrolls in three credits in summer I and three credits in summer II, financial aid cannot disburse loans until after the summer II class starts. The single summer term provides for one census date instead of two and so, with automated packaging, we could disburse just one time.
Members of our residential faculty are no doubt wondering what this does to summer teaching. The answer is – “Nothing.” According to the 2012 Residential Faculty Policy Manual Section C.3.2., Teaching Assignments Beyond Days of Accountability: “A teaching load (following completion of 195 days of accountability in a contract year) shall consist of not more than fifteen (15.0) load hours, of which not more than nine (9.0) load hours may be concurrent.” This is precisely how we schedule faculty for two summer terms.
In review, moving to one summer term is good for students, good for financial aid technicians and has no impact on faculty. It gets even better; it means fewer complaints to Ellen Neel, Mary Blackwell and me. Without a doubt, that’s good for everyone who is on campus in the summer.
October 2012 Contents: