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6/1/2016 - Jackson, Miss.

The Mississippi Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board approved the award schedule for the Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid for the academic and aid year beginning July 1 at its meeting held today in Jackson. The Board also approved a significant change to the definition of full-time enrollment for the purpose of maintaining eligibility for state financial aid.

"In this difficult time of limited state revenues and agency budget cuts, the Postsecondary Board appreciates the State Legislature for funding State Financial Aid at the same level as the previous year," said Dr. Jim Turcotte, Chair of the Mississippi Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board. "However, the number of students eligible to receive the state aid programs has increased significantly in recent years."

The Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students (HELP), the state's only merit and needs-based aid program, has experienced the greatest increase as more low-income students demonstrate college readiness and eligibility for state aid.

"We celebrate the expanded access to college for Mississippi students," said Dr. Turcotte. "The investment our state makes in these students through the HELP program will pay great dividends as they graduate, establishing a secure financial future for themselves and their families. We know earning a credential of value beyond a high school diploma will enable them to earn more and contribute more to the state economy."

For the 2016-17 year, demand for state aid is projected to exceed available resources by nearly $11 million. To reduce the Student Financial Aid operating budget and comply with state laws regarding the awarding of student financial aid, the Postsecondary Board approved the following award schedule for 2016-17.

  • Full awards will be made to all eligible applicants for undergraduate grants, including the Mississippi Resident Tuition Assistance Grant (MTAG), the Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant (MESG), the Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students (HELP), and the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers and Firemen Scholarship (LAW).
  • Forgivable loans will be extended only to renewal applicants for most undergraduate and graduate forgivable loan programs. No new forgivable loans will be awarded.
  • No forgivable loans, new or renewal, will be awarded for the following programs: Counselor and School Administrator (CSA), Graduate Teacher (GTS), Health Care Professions (HCP), Nursing Teacher Stipend (NTSP), and Veterinary Medicine for Minorities (VMMP).
  • No loan repayments will be made through the Mississippi Teacher Loan Repayment Program (MTLR).
  • The award amounts for the following forgivable loan programs will be reduced by half: State Medical Education (MED), State Dental Education (DENT), and Graduate and Professional Degree (STSC).

The Board also voted to change the definition of full-time for the purposes of receiving state financial aid from 12 credit hours per semester (9 per trimester) to 15 credit hours per semester (10 per trimester).

"Defining a full-time student with 15 credit hours rather than 12 credit hours encourages more students to 'Finish in Four,' whether that is four semesters of community college or four years at a university," said Dr. Turcotte. "Reduced time in college ultimately saves students and their families thousands of dollars and makes college more affordable."

Finally, the Board also approved changes to the HELP program rules to freeze the income threshold at $39,500 as required by law, to clarify that all HELP recipients must complete the high school core curriculum, and to reduce the length of eligibility from 10 semesters (15 trimesters) to 8 semesters (12 trimesters).

Although the award schedule has been approved, the proposed changes to the rules and regulations of state programs will take effect only after completion of the public comment period in accordance with the state Administrative Procedures Act.

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The Mississippi Postsecondary Education Financial Assistance Board has authority over all state student financial aid programs, which include undergraduate and graduate grant and forgivable loan programs. Public, private, two-year and four-year college students in Mississippi may be eligible for state aid.

The Director of the Postsecondary Board is appointed by the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, which governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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