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2016 July 27 - 05:34 pm

Miss. Changes Definition of Full-Time Student

Students Required To Take 15 Credits for Scholarship Aid

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Some Mississippi college students will need to add an extra class in order to receive state scholarship money this fall.

The change comes after the Mississippi Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board modified the definition of a full-time student for the purposes of receiving state financial aid from 12 credit hours to 15 credit hours. The board approved the change June 1. It came as a result of the state expecting a $10.4 million projected shortfall this year.

Terry Dale Cruse, administrative director at Mississippi State University-Meridian, tells the Meridian Star (http://bit.ly/ 28YOZrN) that the change will cause problems mainly for nontraditional students.

“Our students are balancing a lot of different priorities while trying to go to class,” Cruse said. “This will be a big deal for them.

“For those students, this new rule means less time for students to work and spend time with their family. Another class is a huge commitment. I hope we can still encourage adult students and non-traditional students to still pursue higher education even though they have added another class. By doing that, I hope there is enough time in their schedule that they have time to really prepare and be successful.”

Meridian Community College President Dr. Scott Elliott said the new rule could lead to problems for some students.

“One downside of this change is that it could well be argued that a struggling student shouldn't necessarily be taking more than 12 hours per term,” he said, noting that the additional class load could be “setting some students up for failure. That’s the double-edged sword regarding this whole issue.”

The new rule does not affect federal aid programs, such as Pell Grants, but does impact those applying for state aid. State aid programs such as the Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students, the Mississippi Tuition Assistance Program and Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant are all affected by the new rule.

The board also agreed to give forgivable loans only to renewal applicants for most undergraduate and graduate programs. No new forgivable loans will be awarded. And, no forgivable loans — new or renewal — will be awarded for the following programs: counselor and school administrator, graduate teacher, health care professions, nursing teacher stipend and veterinary medicine for minorities.

Jim Turcotte, chair of the Mississippi Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board, said the change encourages students to “Finish in Four,” whether that's four semesters of community college or four years at a university.

“Reduced time in college ultimately saves students and their families thousands of dollars and makes college more affordable,” Turcotte said.

Information from: The Meridian Star, http://www.meridianstar.com

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