Federal Student Aid Policies and Procedures

Unusual Enrollment History (UEH)

Effective with the 2013-2014 award year, the Department of Education has implemented new federal regulations in an effort to prevent fraud and abuse in the Federal Pell Grant Program by identifying students that have received federal Pell Grants at multiple institutions for the 2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 funding years.

A financial aid application flagged “2” and “3” will be reviewed by the Office of Financial Aid for unusual enrollment history (UEH) to determine whether or not the student is enrolling only long enough to receive cash refunds of federal student aid. The Office of Financial Aid at Columbia Southern University will access the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) for a complete enrollment history to include name of each college or university and dates of attendance. Students will be required to provide academic transcripts or grade reports from all colleges and universities attended during the review period. If federal Pell Grants were received and credit hours were not earned at each of the institutions attended, a student may be determined ineligible for federal student aid.

How to resolve:

  • If your Student Aid Report (SAR) includes a UEH flag 3, please complete the Unusual Enrollment History Form pdf and submit to the Office of Financial Aid along with all required documentation. Documentation may be faxed to (251) 224-0590 or emailed to financialaid@columbiasouthern.edu.
  • If your SAR includes UEH flag 2, the Office of Financial Aid will notify you if anything further is needed.

All required documentation must be received and the UEH flag must be resolved before a student is eligible to receive federal student aid.

Unusual Enrollment Appeal
If after reviewing all supporting documentation a student is determined ineligible for federal student aid, he/she may appeal the determination by completing the Unusual Enrollment History Appeal Form pdf and submitting any additional supporting documentation to the Office of Financial Aid. Students will be notified via email of the outcome of the appeal within 14 business days of receipt of all required documentation.

Regaining Federal Student Aid Eligibility
A student determined ineligible for federal student aid as a result of UEH will have the opportunity to regain their eligibility. To be considered for financial aid reinstatement a student must be unconditionally admitted to the university; earn credit in three 8 week Terms without officially or unofficially withdrawing from any attempted courses; and meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards. If all requirements are met, a student must contact the Office of Financial Aid to determine reinstatement eligibility.

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Verification Policy

CSU must check the accuracy of all applications the Central Processing System (CPS) selects for verification, with the exception of students receiving unsubsidized loans only. The CPS will select applicants for verification based on edit checks which identify inconsistencies and/or potential errors. CSU must also verify any application the university has reason to believe is incorrect or discrepant.

All financial aid applicants are encouraged to file federal income tax returns for applicant, parent and/or spouse as applicable, prior to completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will allow students and prospective students to utilize the IRS Data Retrieval tool when completing the FAFSA. The IRS Data Retrieval tool saves time and increases the accuracy of the financial information collected on the FAFSA. The IRS Data Retrieval tool is also the fastest and most secure solution for meeting verification requirements if applicable.

Students selected for verification will be sent an email notification with a secure username and password directing them to login to the CSU Financial Aid Portal. This portal will allow students to view all required financial aid documents, check the status of their financial aid application and view their financial aid award once complete. If CSU receives a subsequent FAFSA for a student selected for verification after they have been initially awarded federal financial aid, all future disbursements will be placed on hold. The student will be notified of the verification requirements and will have 30 days to complete the process. If verification is not complete, all previously disbursed federal financial aid will be returned which will result in a balance due on the student account.

The data reported on the verification worksheet, federal tax transcript and other supporting documentation provided is checked against the appropriate data elements on the FAFSA. All conflicting information will need to be corrected on the ISIR by the school or student as applicable and a new expected family contribution (EFC) will be calculated. Students will not be awarded federal financial aid until verification is complete. If CSU receives a subsequent ISIR affecting overall financial aid eligibility, the financial aid award will be adjusted as applicable. The updated information may require a return of already received federal student aid funds resulting in a balance due on the student account. A student will be notified via email of any changes and directed to login to the CSU Financial Aid Portal to view the updated award information and/or additional requirements.

Referrals will be made to the Office of Inspector General should there be allegations of fraud or other criminal misconduct in connection with an applicant’s application for financial aid.      

Financial Aid Deadlines
CSU offers several 8 Week Term start dates throughout the award year. Below are the deadlines in which an unconditionally admitted student must have all required financial aid documents on file in order to enroll in applicable Term.

Term Start Date Financial Aid Documents Deadline
2A15 – Sept. 17, 2014 Aug. 26, 2014
2B15 – Oct. 15, 2014 Sept. 23, 2014
3A15 – Nov. 19, 2014 Oct. 28, 2014
3B15 – Dec.17, 2014 Nov. 25, 2014
4A15 – Jan. 28, 2015 Jan. 06, 2015
4B15 – Feb. 25, 2015 Feb. 03, 2015
5A15 – April 01, 2015 Mar. 10, 2015
5B15 – May 06, 2015 April 14, 2014
6A15 – Jun. 03, 2015 May 12, 2015

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Undergraduate Grade Level Determination

Any student pursuing an undergraduate degree must be classified by grade level, as well as meet grade level progression in order to comply with the requirements of FSA and the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program.  Graduate students do not have grade level requirements.

Please refer to the table below to determine the grade level or the progression rate of an undergraduate student.

Number of Credits Completed Student’s Grade Level
0 to 24 credits Freshman
25 to 48 credits Sophomore
49 to 72 credits Junior
73 or more credits Senior

Grade level progression occurs after 24 semester hours are successfully completed.  This is based off of the federal requirement that an academic year must meet minimum requirements.  At CSU, this means a minimum of 24 semester hours and a minimum of 30 weeks of instruction.

Any new student entering CSU wishing to use FSA must first be fully accepted into an approved program.  The results of the evaluation will determine what credit will transfer into CSU, which will also determine the student’s current grade level.  While attending CSU, the student will need to submit a course transfer request form if subsequent coursework is completed outside of CSU.  Then the student’s grade level would be recalculated using the additional transfer credit to ensure that the student’s account and grade level will be accurate.

Regarding loan limits associated with a student’s grade level, a student will only progress to a higher grade level once he/she begins a new academic year.

 

Loan Counseling

Loan Entrance/Exit Counseling (Required)

The U.S. Department of Education requires that any student receiving a direct loan complete loan entrance and exit counseling. Loan entrance counseling provides information to students concerning how to manage student loans, both during and after college. Exit Counseling is generally required once a student drops below half-time enrollment status, withdraws or graduates. The student must notify the CSU Office of Financial Aid prior to withdrawal or graduation for loan exit counseling. The purpose of loan exit counseling is to inform the student of their tentative total loans received while in attendance at CSU and to provide the student with an estimated payment schedule.

Borrower Rights & Responsibilities

The borrower has the right to receive the following information before leaving school.

  • The amount of the student's total debt (principal and estimated interest), what the student's interest late is, and the total interest charges on the loan(s)
  • A loan repayment schedule that lets the student know when his/her first payment is due, the number and frequency of payments, and the amount of each payment
  • If the student has FFEL Program Loans, the name of the lender or agency that holds the student's loan(s), where to send the student's payments, and where to write or call if the student has questions
  • The fees the student should expect during the repayment period, such as late charges and collection or litigation costs if delinquent or in default
  • An explanation of available options for consolidating or refinancing the student's loan
  • A statement that the student can repay his/her loan without penalty at any time

The borrower has a responsibility to do the following.

  • Understand that by signing the promissory note, the student is agreeing to repay the loan according to the terms of the note
  • Make payments on the student loan even if the student does not receive a bill or repayment notice
  • If the student applies for a deferment or forbearance, he/she must still continue to make payments until notification that the request has been granted
  • Notify the appropriate representative (institution, agency, or lender) that manages the student's loan when the student graduates, withdraws from school, or drops below half-time status; changes his/her name, address, or Social Security Number, or transfers to another institution
  • Receive entrance counseling before being given the first loan disbursement, and to receive exit counseling before leaving school

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FSA Disbursements

When a student applies for financial aid, the package awarded is based on an academic year. The academic year consist of 4 terms (32 weeks). FSA awarded for the academic year will be divided into four payment periods that will cover each term.

Federal loans to students and Pell Grant disbursements will not post to the students’ accounts until after day 14 of the term. After the first week of the term has ended, CSU will verify that the first week of assignments have been completed in all courses enrolled for that term. It is very important that a student completes the first week of instructional requirements; otherwise it will result in the student being institutionally dropped from the course(s). Any Pell eligible student institutionally dropped from a course(s) will have an adjustment to their award.

Once federal funds have been disbursed, students will receive a disbursement notice via email from the CSU Office of Financial Aid.

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Financial Aid Refunds

If there is a credit balance remaining on a student’s account after all obligations are paid, a financial aid refund will be generated. Financial aid refunds are not generated until the instructors have completed their attendance verifications. The attendance verifications must be completed for each class that a student is registered for or the financial aid refund will be delayed.

Automated Clearing House (ACH) is the University’s preferred method for processing student refunds. The ACH method allows the University to deposit your refund directly into a U.S. checking or savings account. This is the most efficient and expeditious way to process a refund.

You may enroll in ACH deposit via mycsu.columbiasouthern.edu. You will need your bank routing number and your checking or savings account number. This information is available on the bottom of your checks or directly from your banking institution. We understand that many people may not carry checks. In this case, you should obtain a letter from your financial institution on their letterhead with the pertinent bank account routing information on it and return it with the ACH form.

PLEASE NOTE: International students may only receive ACH deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account.

If you do not sign up for the ACH method, a check for the credit balance will be mailed to your current address in our database.

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Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4)

If a student receiving Title IV funds ceases to be enrolled in a term, the Federal government mandates that CSU must determine the amount of Title IV earned as of the date the student officially or unofficially withdraws. The portion of Title IV a student is entitled to receive is calculated on a percentage basis by comparing the total number of calendar days in the term to the number of calendar days completed prior to withdrawing. For example, if a student withdraws from all courses after completing 20% of a term, they would be entitled to 20% of the aid awarded for the term and 80% of the aid awarded would be unearned and returned to the Federal government. If the percentage of aid earned is greater than 60%, the student is considered to have earned all aid for the term in which the student withdrew.

Return of Unearned Aid
In accordance with federal regulations, CSU is required to return all funds that were disbursed to the student in which the student was determined to be ineligible for based on the R2T4 calculation. A return of federal student aid funds could result in a balance due on a student account. The unearned aid will be returned to the Federal government in the following order:

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loan
  • Direct Subsidized Loan
  • Direct Parent or Graduate PLUS Loan
  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)

Withdrawal Date
The withdrawal date used to perform the R2T4 calculation is the date the student officially notifies CSU of their intent to withdraw.

Unofficial Withdrawals
The withdrawal date used to perform the R2T4 calculation for students who unofficially withdraw from all courses will be the midpoint of the term, or the last date of academically related activity; whichever is greater.

Post Withdrawal Disbursement
A student may be eligible to receive a post withdrawal disbursement if after performing a R2T4 calculation it is determined a student has earned additional awarded aid not yet disbursed. Students eligible to receive a post withdrawal loan disbursement will be sent an email notification and must  provide authorization prior to the institution posting funds to a student account . All funds will be applied to any outstanding charges related to tuition and fees prior to issuing a stipend to the student.

This policy is subject to change in order to comply with administrative and regulatory requirements. Questions regarding this policy should be addressed to the Director of Financial Aid.

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Leave of Absence Policy

Students enrolled in term enrollment programs that are unable to enroll in one or more terms may apply for a temporary Leave of Absence (LOA) from the university. This policy is designed to allow a student the flexibility to take a temporary break from their academic program and upon return a student will not be required to apply for readmission to the university. A student will not be granted a LOA in the middle of a term, therefore for purposes of Title IV a student granted a temporary LOA will be considered withdrawn from the university during this time. A student is expected to complete all courses if currently enrolled in a term and apply for a LOA to begin at the start of the next term in the academic program. If a student is having difficulty or unable to complete all courses in the term they may apply for an incomplete, an incomplete for special circumstance or withdraw, in which case a Return of Title IV calculation may be required.

A student may apply for a LOA by submitting the Leave of Absence Request Form located in the myCSU Student Portal. All requests must be submitted a minimum of 3 weeks prior to the start of the term a student will be unable to attend. A temporary LOA from the university will only be granted to a student planning to return to their academic program at the end of the LOA. In addition, for undergraduate and graduate students the LOA request may not exceed more than two consecutive terms within a 12 month period. A student may request more than one LOA during their academic program not to exceed two terms within a 12 month period. Doctoral students who are enrolled in term enrollment programs may request to take a LOA for one term only within a 12 month period not to exceed three terms during their academic program. Doctoral students who are enrolled in Per-course enrollment programs may request to take a LOA for one enrollment period within a 12 month period not to exceed three enrollment periods during their academic program. A student may return from a LOA early and resume enrollment in the next available term or enrollment period.

Important facts concerning a Leave of Absence:

  • For purposes of Title IV a student will be considered withdrawn from the University while on a LOA; therefore federal student loans are not eligible for an in-school deferment;
  • A student will not be eligible to receive federal student aid while on a LOA;
  • A student who fails to return from a LOA will be required to reapply for admissions to the University after a period of 12 months of inactivity in their academic program.

Military/Special Services Leave of Absence Provision

Undergraduate, Graduate and Doctoral students requiring a military or special services deployment may request a provisional LOA for the designated deployment period up to 12 consecutive months. A student may apply for a provisional LOA by submitting the Leave of Absence Request Form located in myCSU Student Portal. In addition, a student must provide supporting documentation regarding the nature and period of deployment from their commanding officer or supervisor. If the military or special services deployment occurs during a course, the student may be required to withdraw from the course or request an incomplete for special circumstances.

Students should contact their Academic Advisor and the Office of Financial Aid to discuss potential academic and financial implications prior to taking a LOA from their academic program.

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Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy for Title IV Students

Term Programs

Federal regulations require CSU to establish and apply reasonable standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for eligible students to receive financial assistance under the programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act. CSU students who wish to be considered for financial aid must:

  • Be in good standing at the university and
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress in their program of study as set forth in this policy.

SAP is an eligibility requirement and is administered by the university in addition to the academic standards of performance required under the CSU Academic Progress Policy. The SAP policy is reviewed annually by the Office of Financial Aid.

Students are evaluated for SAP at the end of every payment period, which is equivalent to eight weeks of instruction. All students are evaluated on three standards: grade point average (qualitative measure), pace of completion (quantitative measure), and maximum timeframe. To maintain eligibility under SAP, students must meet all three standards.

Standard 1: Grade Point Average (Qualitative Measure)

Students must maintain a minimum qualitative measure of progress defined as the cumulative GPA. The requirements are listed below:

  • Students in undergraduate programs must maintain a 2.0 cumulative GPA.
  • Students in graduate programs must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA

Standard 2: Pace of Completion (Quantitative Measure)

Students (either full-time or part-time) must achieve a passing rate of at least 67 percent of all hours attempted. Hours attempted include completed courses, repeated courses, withdrawals, and incompletes. Transfer credit, if applicable, is also calculated in the pace of completion.

Standard 3: Maximum Timeframe

Students must complete their degree program within 150 percent of the semester hour requirements for the degree. Students must complete an associate degree within 90 semester hours, a bachelor’s degree within 180 semester hours, a master’s degree within 54 semester hours and a doctoral degree within 92 semester hours. Students who are unable to complete their degree program within the timeframe limitation will no longer be eligible to use federal student aid to cover any costs associated with completing their degree program. Transfer credit, if applicable, is also calculated in the maximum timeframe calculation.

Maximum Timeframe is measured cumulatively for students pursuing multiple degrees at the same degree level. For example, a student pursuing a second Bachelor’s degree with CSU is subject to the 150 percent maximum time frame requirement for obtaining the second Bachelor’s degree.

SAP Policy Notification

Students are notified of the SAP policy in the CSU catalog, website and during the initial financial aid application process. All periods of enrollment at CSU are calculated in SAP, including periods of enrollment during which a student did not receive financial aid. Cumulative GPAs are calculated using grades earned at CSU.

Transfer Credits

Transfer credits accepted toward the student’s degree program will be included when calculating the SAP maximum timeframe and quantitative progress. This includes credit for English as a Second Language (ESL) and remedial courses, if accepted toward the degree program.

Repeated Courses

Students receiving Title IV Aid may repeat a course, as allowed under CSU academic policy. Repeated courses will count toward the quantitative and maximum timeframe SAP standards.

Incomplete Grades

Students receiving federal student aid may receive incomplete grades, as allowed under CSU academic policy. Incomplete grades will count toward the qualitative, quantitative and maximum timeframe standards of SAP. Students who do not complete course requirements after an incomplete grade is assigned will receive a course grade based on the assignments completed with zeroes being assigned for non-completed assignments.

Change of Program

Generally, all periods of enrollment count when assessing satisfactory academic progress. All attempted hours will be included in satisfactory academic progress determination when a student changes degree programs (majors) at the same degree level (e.g. Bachelor’s to Bachelor’s).

SAP Evaluation

SAP is evaluated after every payment period. Students who fail to meet SAP standards will be placed on SAP Warning for one payment period and will be expected to work with their academic advisor to discuss enrollment options. Students placed on a SAP Warning will be sent an email notification from the Office of Financial Aid. A Warning period lasts for one payment period during which a student is eligible to receive federal student aid.

Students on SAP Warning status who fail to meet SAP standards at the end of their Warning period will not be eligible to receive federal student aid unless they successfully appeal and are placed on SAP Probation.

Appeal Guidelines

Students not meeting SAP at the end of a Warning period may appeal if they have extenuating circumstances, such as injury or illness, the death of a relative, or other special circumstances. The appeal must explain why the student was not able to make satisfactory academic progress during the period of substandard academic performance and what has changed that will allow a student to meet satisfactory academic progress requirements at the next evaluation. Appeals will not be considered without supporting documentation.

Appeals should be in writing and addressed to: Columbia Southern University, SAP Appeals Committee, Office of the Registrar, 21982 University Lane, Orange Beach, AL 36561. Appeal letters should include reasons for failing to meet SAP standards, supporting documentation, and a plan of action describing what has changed that will allow a student to meet SAP standards at the next evaluation. The committee will make every effort to consider each appeal carefully and provide a decision within seven to 10 business days.

SAP Probation

Appeals that are approved will result in a student being placed on SAP Probation, and will require collaboration with the assigned academic advisor to develop an academic plan that will lead to successful degree completion. While on SAP Probation, students will continue to be evaluated for SAP at the end of each payment period to ensure the student is meeting the standards of the academic plan. If the student is meeting the requirements of the academic plan, the student is eligible to receive Title IV as long as the student continues to meet those requirements.

Reestablishing Aid Eligibility

To regain eligibility for federal financial aid, a student must do ALL of the following:

  • Successfully complete a minimum of 12 semester hours in undergraduate program or 6 semester hours in graduate program at Columbia Southern University without using federal student aid;
  • Complete 100 percent of attempted semester hours; and
  • Meet quantitative, qualitative and maximum time frame standards.

Students who satisfy the above requirements must contact the Office of Financial Aid to request reinstatement.

Drug Convictions Policy

According to federal law, a student who has been convicted of the sale or possession of illegal drugs under any federal or state law during a period of enrollment for which the student was receiving financial aid (grant, loans, and/or work-study) is not eligible for federal student aid. A conviction that was reversed, set aside, or removed from the student's record does not affect federal student aid eligibility, nor does a conviction received when the student was a minor, unless the student was tried as an adult.

If a student is convicted of an offense involving:   Possession of illegal drugs Sale of Illegal drugs
1st offense 1 year from date of conviction 2 years from date of conviction
2nd offense 2 years from date of conviction Indefinite period
3+ offenses Indefinite period

If the student was convicted of both possessing and selling illegal drugs and the period of ineligibility are different, the student may be ineligible for federal student aid for a longer period of time.

A student regains eligibility the day after the period of ineligibility ends or when he successfully completes a qualified drug rehabilitation program. Further drug convictions will impact federal student aid eligibility as well.

For more information, please review FAFSA’s Student Eligibility Worksheet.