President Chopp Calls for
Revisions to Federal Financial Aid Regulations
by Nancy Nicely
President Chopp recently joined colleagues from a wide range of colleges and universities in expressing concern about the U.S. Department of Education's attempt to define a credit hour. The proposal is included in a host of proposed regulations aimed at protecting the integrity of the Title IV federal financial aid program.
Although credit hours are often used to determine a student's eligibility for aid, Chopp stressed that its primary function is as an academic, not a fiscal, measurement. The new approach, she says, could stand in the way of "the adoption of innovative methods of teaching and learning," adding:
"Now is a particularly unfortunate time to create such an obstacle. Colleges and universities are in the midst of reimagining pedagogy to include strategies as various as distance learning, laboratory and field research, internships, multimedia projects and more. Regulations right now that impose a strict definition of a credit hour based on time in a classroom would be counterproductive to developing better strategies for preparing our students to be productive citizens and leaders of a fast-changing world."
Chopp noted that while 50 percent of Swarthmore students receive financial aid, the College's aid packages do not currently contain a loan element. However, because students and their families sometimes supplement a Swarthmore award with a student loan, she stressed that "maintaining the integrity of federal loan programs and halting abuse of them is important to our community."
U.S. Department of Education officials are reviewing these and other comments over the next three months. The final rules must be published by Nov. 1 and are set to take effect July 1, 2011.