Small Steps, Big Impact Episode 13 – Financial Aid and EDI

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Our guest today is John Lucas, Director of Financial Aid here at UNCG. Our conversation today focuses on the intersection of EDI and financial aid.  

Music, A Short Walk, from

Link to full Transcript.

Major Takeaways

There is a significant difference between official and unofficial student withdrawals that faculty need to understand. See below John’s distinction between the two.

About our Guest

John Lucas headshot

John Lucas

John Lucas is the Director for the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at UNC Greensboro.  He has worked in Financial Aid and at UNCG since 2000. He has held many different positions in Financial Aid including leading the scholarship department, supervising front-line staff, and overseeing the verification process. Before becoming the Director, John served as the Associate Director for Students Services in Financial aid, and prior to working in Enrollment Management, he worked in Student Affairs by way of Housing and Residence Life at the University of Connecticut, Lehigh University, and the University of Arizona.

John has a B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Connecticut (Go Huskies!) and a M.A. in Higher Education from the University of Arizona.

Resources from the Episode

The difference between Official vs. Unofficial Withdrawals

When a student executes a total withdrawal (i.e., drops all courses) from UNCG, federal regulations require the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships to do a calculation to determine if any financial aid funds need to be returned to the Department of Education.  At the same time, the Cashiers and Student Accounts Office will use the published refund calendar to determine the appropriate adjustment to the student’s tuition and fees.  Both of these processes are predicated on the student’s withdrawal date.  Because UNCG’s refund policy mirrors the Department of Education’s Return of Title IV (R2T4)  policy, the amount of the tuition and fees refund will be roughly the amount that needs to be returned to the federal government.  The end result may leave the student with a small balance owed to UNCG or a small refund from UNCG.

When a student just stops attending classes, without executing a total withdrawal, they are considered an Unofficial Withdrawal.  This type of withdrawal can result in massive financial ramifications for the student.  For students who fail to earn any academic credit, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships is still responsible for completing the R2T4 calculation based on the documented Last Date of Academic Activity (LDAA). The earlier a student stops participating in their courses, the larger the required amount of aid to be returned will be. However, because the student did not execute a total withdrawal, there is no tuition and fees adjustment.  In these cases the student may be left with a large student account balance as well as F grades that damage their GPA rather than a negligible balance and W grades that will not impact their GPA.

It is critical to engage with students who stop attending class and cease to participate in academic activities.  If withdrawing from the university is in the student’s best interest, they should officially withdraw to avoid the negative consequences of simply walking away from the semester. The financial and academic impact will be felt most keenly when the student tries to re-enroll at a future date. The lack of academic progress and the prior account balance will be significant roadblocks for the student to overcome.