/Student financial aid programs may be terminated

Student financial aid programs may be terminated

Ten Mississippi college student loans programs could be eliminated. On Monday, the Mississippi Post-Secondary Education Financial Assistance Board voted to ask the Legislature to repeal nine programs it considered “small, ineffective and outdated” state-supported student financial aid programs. It also discussed changing or ending funding for the Critical Needs Dyslexia Therapy Forgiveable Loan. The state currently authorizes 37 state financial aid programs. The Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant and Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant account for 76% of all funds granted to students each year. Only 24 percent of the remaining 34 programs, including the 10 that were reviewed by the board Monday account for the remaining 76 percent. This means that these programs serve very few students and are difficult to administer,” Jennifer Rogers, the state director of student financial assistance, says. The state offers forgiveness loans to students who are enrolled in high-demand fields such as teaching and nursing. A student must sign a contract to complete a service obligation in order to receive the money. The loan will be forgiven or disbursed if the student fulfills the service obligation. The student is responsible for paying interest if the service is not completed. These programs are recommended to be repealed: * Southeast Asia POW/MIA grant * Public Management Graduate Intern Loan * Assistant Teacher Forgivable loan * State Dental Education Forgivable loan * State Health Professions Forgivable loan * Family Protection Specialist Social Worker * Critical Needs Dyslexia Therapy Loan Forgivable Loan Speech-Language Pathologist Loan Forgivable * Graduate and Professional Degree Forgivable Loan These children would have to apply for the grant prior to their 23rd birthday. Since 1996, no awards were made and no more awards will be made in accordance with the requirements of this program. In 1996, the Assistant Teachers Forgivable loan was also created. This loan was never funded and has never received any awards. The Graduate and Professional Degree Forgivable loan has the highest default rate. Over 19% of the loans have been granted to delinquents or in default since 1999. Sen. Josh Harkins (R-Rankin), who attended the meeting, said that the Critical Needs Dyslexia Therapy Forgivable loan, which was created in 2012, is considered “a set-up to fail”. Harkins chairs the state senator’s universities and colleges committee. The financial assistance board is concerned about the potential impact of the loan program on the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi College, and William Carey University graduate programs. Rogers explains that students are signing loans contracts with the state. This requires them to work full-time as dyslexia therapists within a public school district. However, they are finding it difficult to find full-time jobs because schools cannot afford them. Students who aren’t employed as full-time therapists are subject to a 5 percent penalty and must pay the entire loan. Since 1999, 41 students have received the loan. Rogers says that 35 percent of those students have used their grace, deferment, and in-school periods to get jobs. Harkins stated, “Either they change the law to allow them teach some dyslexia therapy alongside other classes, or we stop putting money into this program to look into putting it in another program. Senator David Blount (D-Jackson), who sits on the state senator’s education committee, suggested that the board modify the loan requirements. They don’t need to be full-time teachers. They could be reading instructors in a program for third graders or younger. Blount said that there are many jobs available for such people. Dr. Ben Burnett is a board member and Dean of William Carey University’s School of Education. He says that the issue is important because it will impact the students in his school’s program. He supports the decision to examine the dyslexia therapy loans program. The Legislature will consider the recommendations of the financial assistance board during its 2017 session. The board can’t estimate the amount of money that the changes will save until the Legislature acts. Rogers assured that the operation will be simpler and more useful for students.