A new University of Iowa policy that allows professors to denote on their class roll whether a student receives federal financial aid has some students concerned.
The new policy, initiated this year, allows professors to report students on federal aid who are either failing or do not attend a class to the school's financial aid office. Reported students risk losing all or part of their aid.
UI adopted the policy because federal regulations require universities to monitor the attendance of students receiving any form of federal financial aid, said UI Assistant Financial Aid Director Cynthia Seyfer. "The money was given for a specific purpose, and we want to ensure that students are using it for that purpose," Seyfer said.
She said professors have always been able to view students' financial aid status when they reported midterm and final grades, but now the information appears on class lists throughout the semester.
But students have two concerns: that the new policy gives professors too much access to the financial status of their students and that it gives financial aid officers too much access to students' academics. "If you are going to college, you should go to class. I can sort of see how they might want to have some kind of idea," said Christopher Lavenz, a UI sophomore. "But I just don't feel comfortable with it. I don't feel like it's anybody's business whether I receive financial aid or not. Money can play a part in if you receive a good grade or not."
Seyfer said the new policy aims to help students. Because attendance is monitored from the first day of class, students who drop a class can now receive some financial aid for the time they were in class. Previously, a student who dropped a class would not receive any aid for the class.
Lavenz said he could see the benefit of giving partial aid to students. "If you are reimbursed for a dropped class, I could see where this policy might be good," he said.
But Seyfer said UI is considering changing its policy to give students more privacy. She said one possibility is obtaining student attendance records from other sources.
The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act states that university employees can access private information about students for legitimate use in completion of their responsibilities on a need-to-know basis.
But at UNC, there is no direct tie between individual class attendance and aid. The University currently checks to ensure students who receive financial aid have made satisfactory academic progress at the end of the semester but does not monitor individual class attendance.
UNC complies with the federal regulation by relying upon students to notify the registrar's office if they receive financial aid and drop a course during the course of the semester, said Shirley Ort, director of scholarships and student aid. "Because Carolina has such a rigorous standard for academic progress, as long as (students) are allowed to remain enrolled in school, we can continue to give them financial aid," Ort said.
She said universities with less rigorous standards of achievement might have to resort to policies like the one at UI.
"We monitor satisfactory academic progress, but we do this by comparing our records with the registrar's records. But we are not relying on faculty to do this," Ort said. "We have no plans to do what the University of Iowa is doing."
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