Financial Aid, as well as the system used to sign up for classes, has caused mixed emotions for both the student body as well as the professors who teach their courses.
While financial aid is beneficial and useful for students to be able to afford attending the courses toward their major, new changes in the method of how this aid is disbursed has caused a bit of an uproar. This new system of disbursal is only paying for the credits that actually go toward a student’s major, which is an understandable tactic to tighten the potential loopholes that could be abused. While good intentions motivated the changes, NIC students now find they have fewer choices when it comes to enrolling in classes that financial aid will cover and forces students to pay out of pocket for any courses that are outside of the boundaries of their degree emphasis.
While the new policy streamlines and tells students exactly what they need to do to be able to graduate, it eliminates all of the possibilities to explore potential interests and experiment with what could be the best work field or passion for a student to pursue. It could be a singular “extra curricular” class that could determine a new career, hobby or whole new perspective that can change a person’s life forever.
How does this change in financial aid affect instructors at the college? Sure, a student should be able to choose a few classes and experiment, but what does that have to do with those directing the classes?
Due to these changes, the classes have gone through a re-evaluation of sorts to determine which ones are “necessary” to complete a major. With this method, a lot of classes that would have counted toward a physical education or art class have been turned into mental health and wellness, which could lead to a major drop in attendance for some of these more experimental classes. Not only that, but it also restricts attendance of a class to only one to two semesters.
Understandably, some course work should only take two semesters to get done, and granted, they should be that way. However, take into account that some of these “unnecessary” classes can introduce students to a new discipline or skill set.
One of the professors who has noticed the biggest decrease of attendance from these changes is Paula Phelps, teacher of the bowling classes held at Sunset Bowling Alley. She said she approached the situation originally with expectations that there might be a small dip in attendance in the winter semester until she compared enrollment from last year to this one. She said it was alarming.
This semester she said she has a headcount of 11 students in one class. The normal attendance for her classes is 48 over the span of two classes, with waitlists of up to 20 people eager to join.
“The thing that most people don’t consider is that bowling is a P.E. class, with mental game like any other sport,” Phelps said. “But it’s still considered one of the easy P.E. credits.”
Due to this mindset in the evaluation, her class has been changed to a health and wellness class. Students may only receive financial aid to cover the course once, even if students wish to retake it to hone their skills. While the college is planning on offering bowling next semester to at least see how the class goes by means of enrollment, it may be the end of the lane for this class at NIC, as well as the many other classes that have lost too many students to continue to be offered.
The Sentinel is also one of the classes experiencing a large drop in enrollment since non-journalism majors without any remaining electives must pay out of pocket. The decrease in headcount affects the quality of the paper’s coverage for the student body and local area who pick it up to see what is happening in the college community.
NIC’s Faculty Assembly passed resolutions expressing their desire to disassociate financial aid from degree programs and reinstate block tuition, not only to help themselves but students who need to explore all their options.
I sincerely hope that the problem gets solved so that everyone can benefit from returning back to the way things were. While this newer system has its flaws, it also has its benefits, and if nothing else, perhaps it could come to a happy medium between so that NIC can graduate more students without forcibly narrowing their course options due to Financial Aid.