Undergraduate Financial Aid Policies
The staff at Concordia University Chicago’s Office of Financial Aid is committed to the highest standards of professional conduct. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 requires educational institutions to develop and comply with a code of conduct which prohibits conflicts of interest for its financial aid personnel [HEOA § 487(a)(25)].
As members of the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), we abide by their code of conduct which states that our staff is expected to always maintain exemplary standards of professional conduct in all aspects of carrying out his or her responsibilities, specifically including all dealings with any entities involved in any manner in student financial aid, regardless of whether such entities are involved in a government sponsored, subsidized or regulated activity.
The CUC Financial Aid staff adheres to the following:
- Refrain from taking any action for his or her personal benefit.
- Refrain from taking any action he or she believes is contrary to law, regulation, or the best interests of the students and parents he or she serves.
- Ensure that the information he or she provides is accurate, unbiased, and does not reflect any preference arising from actual or potential personal gain.
- Be objective in making decisions and advising his or her institution regarding relationships with any entity involved in any aspect of student financial aid.
- Refrain from soliciting or accepting anything of other than nominal value from any entity (other than an institution of higher education or a governmental entity such as the U.S. Department of Education) involved in the making, holding, consolidating or processing of any student loans, including anything of value (including reimbursement of expenses) for serving on an advisory body or as part of a training activity of or sponsored by any such entity.
- Disclose to his or her institution, in such manner as his or her institution may prescribe, any involvement with or interest in any entity involved in any aspect of student financial aid.
Degree-seeking students who desire to withdraw from the University are to consult with the Office of the Dean of Students and complete the University Withdrawal Form. Withdrawal is not official until specific responsibilities have been met. Failure to follow this procedure will result in a grade of “F” rather than a grade of “W.” After the tenth week of the semester, grades of “W” will be granted only for extraordinary circumstances as approved by the Dean of Students.
Students who do not maintain continuous enrollment at Concordia University Chicago from semester to semester (excluding the summer term) will be withdrawn automatically from the University as of their last semester of attendance, unless the student is eligible and files for a Leave of Absence status.
Return of Title IV Financial Aid Policy:
The amount of Federal Title IV financial aid that a student receives is based on the completion of all registered coursework. If a student officially or unofficially withdraws from the semester on or before the 60 percent of the payment period and received Title IV federal aid, the Office of Financial Aid is required to review eligibility for the funds received. The federally mandated formula called “Return of Title IV Aid” calculation is used to determine the amount of federal funding the student “earned” up to the time of withdrawal. Title IV federal funds include the following: Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), Iraq Afghanistan Service Grant, Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Direct Loan, or a Federal Parent PLUS Loan.
In order to determine the amount of financial aid earned up to the time of withdrawal, the Office of Financial Aid determines the percentage of the payment period the student attended. The percentage is then used, in addition to the student’s institutional costs and federal funds received or eligible to receive, to determine the amount of aid the student is eligible to keep. If the amount earned is greater than the student’s institutional cost, the Office of Financial Aid will send the student a written notification confirming the student’s authorization to either accept the credit in a refund to the student or to return the loan amount to the lender. The student has 14 days to reply. If the amount disbursed to the student is less than the amount the student earned, and for which the student is otherwise eligible, the student is eligible to receive a post-withdrawal disbursement of the earned aid that was not received. The post-withdrawal disbursement of a loan(s) will be offered to the student within 30 days of the date the school determined the student withdrew. The post-withdrawal disbursement of any Title IV grants are processed within 45 days of the date the school determined the student withdrew.
In addition, the unearned amount of aid is also determined by the percentage of the payment period the student attended. The student may have officially withdrawn from classes or, in the case of an unofficial withdrawal, the Office of Financial Aid will use the last date the student was involved in an academically related activity. Official withdraws must be initiated by the student by contacting Student Services. Official withdrawal dates will be determined based on last date of attendance as provided by the faculty for face-to-face courses and/or last activity submission date via Blackboard for online courses. Any unearned Title IV federal funds that were disbursed must be returned to the federal government by the University within 45 days of the date the school determined the student withdrew. If the student received a refund from financial aid, he/she may be required to return a portion of those funds to the University.
Federal Title IV funding that must be returned by the student and/or parent or the University must be returned in the following order:
- Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loan
- Federal Subsidized Direct Loan
- Federal Perkins Loan
- Federal Direct Parent Loan (PLUS)
- Federal Pell Grant
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
- Iraq Afghanistan Service Grant
Students will be considered to have earned all of their federal financial aid after the completion of sixty percent of the payment period. Students who need to withdraw from all registered course work should make an appointment with a Financial Aid Counselor to determine if a portion of unearned federal funds will need to be returned to the federal aid programs.
Federal and state governments require that each college have Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for determining continued eligibility for student financial aid. SAP standards measure both the qualitative and quantitative progress of coursework completed. SAP includes the following three elements: grade point average, course completion rate and maximum time frame. SAP is reviewed at the end of each payment period.
Undergraduate Student Policies
Grade Point Average
The Satisfactory Academic Progress policy contains a qualitative component which requires that undergraduate students maintain a 2.0 grade point average by the end of their first year of full-time study (24-30 credit hours of coursework). A cumulative 2.0 grade point average must be maintained from that point forward.
Course Completion Rate
The Satisfactory Academic Progress policy contains a quantitative component which requires that undergraduate students make steady progress toward their degree by completing two-thirds (67 percent) of all credit coursework attempted. The completion rate is calculated as a percentage of completed coursework over the student’s entire enrollment at CUC. Students must maintain a cumulative 67 percent course completion rate. For example, if a student attempts 16 hours per semester during the academic year (32 cumulative attempted hours), the student would be expected to satisfactorily complete at least 21.44 of these hours (10.72 hours per semester) in order to comply with the minimum quantitative standards. The completion rate applies to all semesters (including summer), regardless of whether the student received aid during the semester.
Attempted Credit Hours
All credit-bearing courses are calculated into the “hours attempted” and counted toward the maximum time frame for financial aid purposes. Grades of W, F, I, or U, are considered as coursework attempted but not completed. In addition, repeated courses are counted in the “hours attempted” calculation.
Successfully Completed Credit Hours
Courses with a passing grade (A, B, C, D, or P) are considered to be successfully completed. Courses with a grade of F, W, I, or U, are not considered to be successfully completed.
Incomplete grades (I) are considered as coursework attempted but not completed. An incomplete grade must be resolved within six (6) weeks of the end of the term (summer, fall, spring) in which the grade was received; at that time, the instructor will assign a grade. Permission for additional time beyond the six-week deadline may be granted only with the approval of the instructor and the Office of the Registrar. Students must contact the Office of Financial Aid once the grade change has been processed in order to re-evaluate their SAP status for the semester they did not meet SAP. The Director of Financial Aid will review and make necessary changes to SAP status.
Repeated courses are counted in the “hours attempted” calculation for financial aid purposes. The repeat grade is treated in the cumulative GPA. Students are eligible to repeat a course regardless of whether or not they receive a failing grade during the first attempt. According to Federal and State Regulations, students are allowed to repeat coursework as long as the student has not previously passed the course and meet Satisfactory Academic Progress. A passed course is considered any grade higher than an “F” or its equivalent. Once a student passes the course, he/she can only receive Federal and/or State funds to repeat the course one more time. Eligibility for repeat coursework is monitored at the time of awarding and again prior to disbursing funds.
Audit courses are not counted in the “hours attempted” calculation for financial aid purposes. Students do not earn any academic credit and may not receive financial aid for these courses since they are not going toward a degree program.
Maximum Time Frame
The Satisfactory Academic Progress policy also contains a maximum timeframe component which specifies that the number of credit hours for which a student may receive federal financial aid may not exceed 150 percent of the credit hours required to complete their degree program at CUC. Since the minimum number of credit hours needed to complete the bachelor’s degree is 128 hours, students may not receive financial assistance upon attempting more than 192 credit hours. Undergraduate students are normally expected to complete their degree program by the end of four years of full-time study. Therefore, students will lose their federal financial aid eligibility after six years of full-time enrollment (4 x 150% = 6). Students need to complete an average of 10.667 credits per semester (not including summer or non-CUC hours) in order to complete within six years (maximum time frame). Credits transferred into CUC are included as credits attempted for SAP purposes. Students completing a second bachelor’s degree are subject to the maximum timeframe component for undergraduate study. They must complete their program within a total of 192 attempted credit hours. Students who are double majoring or changing majors are also subject to the maximum timeframe component and must not exceed 150 percent of the credit hours required to complete their degree program at CUC. Students in degree programs exceeding 150 percent of the credit hours required to complete their degree program and/or enrolled in a second bachelor’s degree may appeal to the Director of Financial Aid for an extension, if necessary. In addition, grades of “W” are counted in attempted credit hours and counted toward the maximum time frame. Remedial courses do not earn any credit and therefore are not included in the student’s grade point average. However, they are or are not considered in the maximum timeframe component. Pass/fail courses do earn credit and therefore are included in the attempted hours and maximum timeframe, but are not included in the grade point average.
Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Requirements
SAP is reviewed at the end of each semester. Students who do not meet SAP are notified by receiving an official letter from the Office of Financial Aid and via email. There are two repercussions in the event a student does not meet one or more of the above requirements: Financial Aid Warning Status or Financial Aid Disqualification Status.
Financial Aid Warning Status: Students who do not meet the standards of satisfactory academic progress will be on Warning Status for his/her next term of attendance. During this period, the student is still allowed to receive their federal/state/institutional financial aid. Certain merit scholarships, which require the student to maintain a specified grade point average, may be affected.
Financial Aid Disqualification Status: Students who fail to meet the standards of satisfactory academic progress after a semester on probation will become disqualified from receiving further financial assistance from federal, state and/or Concordia-Chicago funds. This includes eligibility for grants, student loans, parent loans, CUC need-based and merit scholarships and CUC faculty/staff waivers.
Appeal for Reinstatement of Financial Assistance
If a student has mitigating circumstances which contributed to their inability to meet the required Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress, appeals for reinstatement of financial assistance may be submitted to the Director of Financial Aid. Mitigating circumstances that will be evaluated include medical condition, death in the family and additional documentation provided by the Dean of Students. The appeal must be a written letter explaining their circumstances and what measures they will take to improve their ability to succeed in future coursework. Students must meet with their Academic Advisor and together create an Academic Plan that will guide the student to successfully complete future coursework. In addition, students will be expected to submit supporting documentation.
Students will receive an official letter from the Director of Financial Aid regarding the approval or denial of the appeal.
If the appeal is approved, the student will be placed on probation status for the next semester. Students must follow the Academic Plan provided by their Academic Advisor in order to successfully complete all coursework in their program. Students will need to meet Satisfactory Academic Progress by the end of that semester or they will be placed back on disqualification status. If students meet Satisfactory Academic Progress by the end of the probationary status, they may continue to receive aid, but are expected to continue to fully meet SAP requirements in future semesters.
If the appeal is denied, the student may submit another appeal after successfully completing the following semester(s). A significant improvement must be evident in the academic history for the future semester(s) after receiving disqualification status. Students must continue to follow the Academic Plan provided by their Academic Advisor in order to successfully complete all coursework in their program.
Verification is the process of confirming the accuracy of student reported data on financial aid applications. The Office of Financial Aid at Concordia University Chicago verifies those students selected for verification by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). However, the Office of Financial Aid may choose to verify a student if a discrepancy is detected or if a condition exists that is unusual and warrants further investigation.
Students are initially notified that they are selected for verification on the FAFSA Student Aid Report (SAR). Once the Office of Financial Aid receives the electronic ISIR, an automated Banner overnight process will create missing items for those students selected for verification based on their verification tracking group. A Document Request Letter is generated for new students and all students (new and returning) receive email notifications informing the student that they have been selected for verification and lists the required verification items needed to complete their financial aid file. New undergraduate students receive an Estimated Financial Aid Award Letter along with the Document Request Letter. The Financial Aid Award Letter is stamped “estimated” pending review of final verification items. Any student with a rejected FAFSA and/or C-Flags will not be awarded until verification process has been complete. The letter/email notification informs the student how the information can be submitted; by mail, fax, or scanned and sent electronically. All verification items must be submitted by the last day of classes of the final semester of enrollment for the academic year.
All verification items are tracked on Banner’s financial aid tracking system as received by the Financial Aid Coordinator. Verification items must be legible, acceptable and must include the student’s ID number. Verification items are then forwarded to the appropriate Financial Aid Counselor according to alpha section (last name). If documentation is incomplete or additional supporting documentation is necessary, students will be notified by their Financial Aid Counselor via email and a phone call. Financial Aid Counselors will review each file by date order (date received) and submit FAFSA corrections as applicable. Once the subsequent ISIR correction is received, the Financial Aid Counselor will upload the new ISIR transaction confirming that all corrections were processed successfully. If the file is complete, the Financial Aid Counselor will update the verification status on Banner to “Verified.” The final verified ISIR transaction will be locked; subsequent ISIR transactions will have to be reviewed by Financial Aid Counselors as they appear on the ISIR Discrepancy Report. The Financial Aid Counselor will then manually repackage new students who were previously sent an estimated Financial Aid Award Letter to determine any changes to their eligibility. The Banner overnight awarding process will then package returning students. Financial Aid Counselors will review the UG Returning Student Packaging Report generated the following day to ensure that students have been awarded accordingly.
There are certain circumstances that excuse students from completing verification. The Financial Aid Counselor must document (in student’s file or within Banner system) why the student is not required to complete verification. The following circumstances apply:
- Death of student during the award year
- Not a financial aid Title IV recipient
- Student who is eligible to receive only unsubsidized loans
- Student was selected for verification after ceasing to be enrolled at the school and after all Title IV aid has disbursed
Data Elements to be Verified and Required Documentation
- Adjusted Gross Income, Taxes Paid, and most Untaxed Income can be verified using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS tax information is imported directly to FAFSA). If a student and/or parent cannot or will not use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, they must submit an IRS tax transcript for the student and parent (if dependent), or spouse (if independent, if applicable). If a student/parent/spouse did not file a tax return, he/she must submit all W-2s and complete/sign the Verification Worksheet listing any income for which a W-2 was not received.
- Household Size is verified by comparing the Verification Worksheet to the ISIR household size data. If student is considered dependent, student and parent must sign the Verification Worksheet. If student is considered independent, student and spouse (if applicable) must sign the Verification Worksheet. Financial Aid Counselors must correct any discrepancies before further processing.
- Family members enrolled at least half-time in college are verified by comparing the Verification Worksheet to the ISIR Number in College data. Financial Aid Counselors must correct any discrepancies before further processing.
- Receipt of food stamps – If student, parent, or spouse (if independent and applicable), indicated receipt of food stamps on the FAFSA, then the student, parent, or spouse must verify this information on the signed Untaxed Income Verification Form and must submit supporting documentation from the benefit agency.
- Child support – If student, parent, or spouse (if independent and applicable), indicated receipt of child support on the FAFSA, then the student, parent, or spouse must verify this information on the signed Untaxed Income Verification Form. The information to be verified includes: the amount paid, name of child(ren) supported, and to whom it was paid. Financial Aid Counselors may request supporting documentation to resolve any conflicting information.
Rejected FAFSA and C-Flags
Once the Office of Financial Aid receives the electronic ISIR, an automated Banner overnight process will create missing items for those students with rejected FAFSAs and/or C-Flag issues. A Document Request Letter is generated for new students and all students (new and returning) receive email notifications informing them of their rejected FAFSA and/or C-Flags. Any student with a rejected FAFSA and/or C-Flags will not be awarded until verification process has been complete. The following include the different C-Flags and C-Codes as listed on the ISIR. The Financial Aid Counselors review the SAR Comment Codes and Text for the appropriate aid year to determine appropriate resolution for C-Flags.
Common C-Flag Codes:
- Selective Service Match: 30, 33, and 57
- DHS Match: 46, 105, 109, 141, 142, and 144
- Social Security Administration Citizenship Status: 146
- Student’s Social Security Number Match: 63 and 64
- Veterans Affairs Status Match: 162, 173, and 180
- NSLDS - Including but not limited to:
- Potential Pell Overpayment: 20, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 346, and 347
- Unusual Enrollment History: 359 and 360
- Responses to Question 23/Drug Conviction: 53, 54, 56, and 58
Subsequent ISIR Transactions
Financial Aid Counselors receive an ISIR discrepancy report after ISIRS have been loaded to the Banner System every morning. The ISIR discrepancy report includes students who have subsequent ISIR transactions due to changes to their NSLDS Award and/or Loan History, changes on FAFSA done by the student or other schools, etc.
Federal Financial Aid (Title IV) Fraud Policy
In accordance with federal regulations, it is CUC policy that any student, employee, or other individual who is suspected to have engaged in fraud or criminal misconduct in terms of misreporting or altering a student’s Title IV aid application, in an attempt to increase or fraudulently obtain federal funds, will be investigated by the University. Any individual suspecting fraud must report their concerns directly to the Director of Financial Aid. Examples may include, but are not limited to: identity fraud, false claims of citizenship, false claims of independent status, forgery of signatures and false statements of income.
Upon review, if University administration believes there is credible evidence that fraud or criminal misconduct has occurred, the case will be referred to the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Inspector General (OIG) via the Complaint Form found at www.ed.gov, or via phone at 800-MIS-USED.
While an investigation is pending, processing and disbursement of a student’s financial aid will be suspended.