Students who receive financial aid depend on their GPA to continue their academic careers at New Mexico State University.
“Financial aid needs to meet certain requirements. Students must have a satisfactory academic progress (SAP), which means they need to have a 2.0 cumulative GPA or greater,” said Cyrena Alfaro, financial aid advisor at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
A large number of students apply for financial aid every semester to deal with the cost of higher education. However, many of them are unaware of the academic requirements.
“Students must show that they are completing at least 70 percent of the courses in which they enroll. They need a complete rate in order to be eligible for financial aid,” Alfaro said.
“The way we measure the completion rate is, for example, if a freshman student takes 12 credit hours and then he/she drops from one class because it is too much work, at the end of the semester it will be nine credit hours from 12. We divide those numbers which gives the completion rate. We keep tracking from there until they graduate,” Alfaro said.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “fifty-nine percent of the 23 million undergraduate students in the United States receive financial aid or scholarships.”
The National Association for College Admission Counseling estimates the average student’s grade point average declines by .47, or half a letter grade, from high school to college.
Alfaro said that if a student gets W’s or Fs, his/her GPA will be affected as well as the completion rate requirement.
Additionally, students are suspended from receiving financial aid if they fail to meet satisfactory academic progress.
“A student who is unable to maintain a 2.0 GPA in the first term of fall may receive a ‘warning,’ which would allow him/her to receive aid for the second term of spring without automatically taking it away,” said Alfaro.
Alfaro said the office of financial aid sends a letter to the student explaining that he or she is in a warning semester due to the failure to meet the established requirements.
“In fact, if a student is not able to obtain a 2.0 GPA at the end of the warning term, they will be ineligible for financial aid. They will not be eligible until next term or several semesters depending when they come back,” Alfaro said.
The financial office sends out notifications at the end of each term to students who lose eligibility.
“I got on financial probation as a senior student in NMSU. I am a student that commutes from El Paso to Las Cruces every single day. I felt disappointed with myself at that moment because I knew I had to focus in the upcoming semester classes and the GPA as well,” said Jacob Garcia, a government major.
Students who lose eligibility and wish to appeal may do so by submitting an appeal to their financial aid advisor.
“At some point, the student has the right and the opportunity to submit an appeal. If the appeal is approved, then we have what is called financial aid probation,” Alfaro said.
Alfaro said students have a time period to meet a certain GPA for financial aid. They need to complete a certain amount of classes in order to be in a good standing.
“A student may submit only two appeals during his or her career at NMSU,” Alfaro said.
Academic probation serves as a form of penalty to encourage students to improve their performance. It is also a way to inform students about the gravity of their academic standing.
“I submitted an appeal form to review my case. I got a response in a few weeks. The agreement is to get a 2.0 or higher. I knew I had to do better because I want to demonstrate as a student that it is possible come back solid with my studies,” Garcia said.
According to New Mexico University’s financial aid office, “Most students who lose eligibility for financial aid is for the incorrect course selection or poor advice. It may put a student in a challenging situation which may result in poor academic performance.”
“My recommendation to students is to make contact with their academic adviser,” Alfaro said. “They are going to help them with (choosing the) classes they need to take.”
According to NMSU figures, in fall 2015, the number of full-time students was 11,978, and the number of part-time students was 3,512.
“It is not a requirement to be a full-time student. The minimal requirement to get financial aid is six credits. If a student struggles or has a difficulty, my suggestion is to be a part-time student,” Alfaro said.
And that is something that Garcia decided to do.
“I decided to take only six credits because I wanted to increase my GPA. I did not want to graduate with a low GPA,” Garcia said.