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Federal Student Aid Myths That Christian Colleges Believe

Among the student aid myths sometimes believed in Christian colleges are ones suggesting the government will tell the school that it cannot teach from a Biblical worldview.

We are frequently asked, “How will my institution be negatively affected by participating in the Higher Education Act Title IV student financial assistance programs?” Student aid myths abound.

Many negative tales are spread by well-meaning people that convince some institutions to not participate in these programs. We have even heard of college presidents, directors, and other leaders who not only repeat but also embellish these myths, turning them into horror stories.

Here, we will debunk these myths as well as address some valid concerns by relying on our 15 years of providing Title IV financial aid services to small Bible Colleges, Seminaries, and Christian Colleges. We currently serve over fifty of these institutions and truthfully have never heard any of these myths being true.

Debunking Myths of Title IV Federal Student Aid Participation

Myth:  “Our institution will be required to abandon its Biblical foundations in favor of secular philosophies.”

Not correct! In fact, the reality is exactly the opposite. To participate in Title IV programs, an institution must be accredited by an accrediting agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education. The two most prominent Evangelical accrediting agencies are the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges (TRACS). Each of these organizations have accreditation standards which require that accredited institutions must have “Biblical Foundations” or “Tenets of Faith” that specifically state the institution’s religious doctrines and statements of the institution’s Christian beliefs and foundations.

An institution in either of these two associations cannot be accredited and, therefore, cannot be approved by the U.S. Department of Education without professing these Christian tenets of faith.  If the institution is not accredited, it cannot participate in the federal programs. Therefore, this student aid myth is just untrue.

Myth:  “Our institution will be required to teach more secular beliefs and abandon our Biblical foundations and curriculum.”

Also, not true. What is taught and how it is taught is approved by the various state licensing agencies and the institution’s accreditor. In my extensive experience in financial aid and higher education, I have not seen any such interference with what is taught if the curriculum leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate which leads to potential employment.

Myth:  “Our institution will be required to employ a financial aid officer whose lifestyle and beliefs do not agree with the philosophies and beliefs of the institution.”

Also, not true. While your institution will not be allowed to discriminate regarding a person’s, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other such factors there are no specific requirements regarding who your institution employs.

Myth:  “Our institution will not be allowed to teach the tenets of the Bible and our institution’s faith statements as a part of the curriculum of our institution.”

Also, not true. Your institution’s curriculum and educational programs are approved by your accrediting agency, and the U.S. Department of Education does not meddle or make educational object demands upon the institution.

 

Alleviating Concerns of Title IV Federal Student Aid Participation

Valid Concern:  “Our institution is experiencing bureaucratic fear of participating in federal programs.”

That fear is very common but with proper guidance, it can be overcome. I don’t desire to make this article a sales gimmick but it is true that an experienced third party, such as Weber & Associates, can help to alleviate these fears at a very reasonable cost.

Valid Concern:  “Our students are preparing to become ministers or missionaries and we do not want to burden them with student loan debt, so we just don’t participate.” 

This is a very valid concern, but what is not known is that participation in the federal student loan programs is optional. You can participate in the Federal Pell Grant, the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and Federal Work Study (FWS) programs without participating in the Federal Direct Loan program. By avoiding the FSEOG, your students are losing out on grants up to $5,920 for two semesters or three quarters of attendance. This amount could increase with participation in the FSEOG and FWS programs.

Valid Concern:  “If we make mistakes with managing the Title IV programs, our institution may have to repay thousands of dollars and be punished by the U.S. Department of Education.”

Yes, that is a valid fear, but with the proper guidance and assistance, mistakes do not have to happen and can be avoided. That is what an experienced third party such as Weber is all about: help and prevention.

Valid Concern:  “We have heard that employing a qualified financial aid officer is very expensive and far beyond our small institution’s budget. In addition, our institution is not in a large city and finding a qualified person, we are told, is very difficult.”

That concern is most definitely true, and not exaggerated. But that too can be resolved by using an experienced third party such as Weber & Associates to manage your Title IV programs and to train a person to work with the service to carry out the duties of a financial aid officer.

If any of our readers have questions about student aid myths, concerns, and how you can provide students with financial assistance, please call us at 888-857-8690. The consultation regarding any of these matters is free of cost. We are here to help spread the WORD and make the process easy for you.

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