Law Students – Money for summer classes: Will you have enough?

As the Fall semester is officially underway, it is never too early to start thinking about the summer courses you might take and how you are going to pay for them.  Below is some information regarding how the Tuition & Fees component for the Fall & Spring semesters can affect your Summer budget.

Financial Aid is packaged automatically for two semesters (Fall & Spring).  The budgeting process for Tuition & Fees starts six months (Feb 2013) prior to the start of the academic year (2013-2014) which is often before the actual tuition rate is determined by the Washburn University Board of Regents. The Financial Aid Office uses an estimated per credit hour amount times 31 credit hours. Historically, this estimated amount puts your budgeted Tuition & Fees amount relatively close to your actual Tuition & Fees as long as you are taking approximately 15 credit hours both semesters.

When the Tuition & Fees component of your budget is constructed for the summer semester, it is coupled with the Fall & Spring semester and your actual cost is calculated.  Your total Tuition & Fees for the Fall/Spring/Summer semester must exceed what was budgeted for Fall & Spring in order for you to receive Tuition & Fees aid in the summer.

An analysis of Fall & Spring semesters from the previous four academic years shows the vast majority of law students take 14 or more credit hours during these two semesters or will take a light semester coupled with a heavy semester. These students see little or no impact on their summer aid.  An issue can occur, however when a student enrolls in significantly less than the budgeted amount (e.g. 12 or fewer hours).

Here is how this practice impacts you by year:

1Ls – This does not usually impact a 1L student as your schedule is set -up for you. Typically, 1Ls take 15 hours in the Fall and 15 Hours in the Spring.  When the summer Tuition & Fees component is added to Fall & Spring, there is little to no difference. One exception does exist: if you have received special permission from the Associate Dean to take less than the standard 1L course load, this practice will impact you greatly. Few students fall into this exception. If you are one of them, please see the sections titled Ramifications and Actions below.

2Ls – The biggest impact of this practice falls on 2Ls who take a reduced course load. For example, if  law student ‘A’ takes 12 hours during the Fall semester and 12 hours during the Spring semester, the cost of 24 credit hours is significantly less than the budgeted amount and law student ‘A’ will have a greater refund amount than law student ‘B’ who took 15 hours during the Fall semester and 15 hours during the Spring semester. Law student ‘B’ will have additional funding available for the summer semester as law student ‘B’ earned enough hours during the Fall & Spring semester to receive those additional funds.  Law student ‘A’ will only receive funds for credit hours attempted over the budgeted amount. The difference in these two students refund amounts can be greater than $2,000 per semester. Details for handling this situation are given in the Ramifications and Actions sections below.

3Ls – The impact of this practice for 3Ls is minimal as 3Ls will be graduating at May commencement. One exception does exist: if a 3L does not graduate during the May commencement and needs to finish the degree during the summer.  There are not a substantial number of students who fall into this exception.  Details for handling this situation are given in the Ramifications and Actions sections below.

Ramifications:

The ramifications of this practice will occur during the Summer semester for law students who have received excessively large refunds due to taking few credit hours during the Fall or Spring.  These law students will receive a minimal financial aid package for the summer that will not cover the full cost of their summer expenses.  The greatest impact will be for 2Ls who take light course loads during the Fall & Spring Semesters.

Actions:

It is recommended that you take a look at your Fall and Spring course loads to identify if there could be a problem (see scenarios above). If you identify that you would fall into one of these scenarios, you will need to determine what amount you need to save back for the summer semester. You have two options:

1) Save some of your Fall and Spring refund to help pay for your Summer semester in a personal savings account; or

2) Return those funds to your lender through the Financial Aid Office. You can re-request those funds later or during the Summer semester if you meet eligibility requirements.

If you do not plan on taking summer classes, this does not affect you. If you have any further questions or concerns about your financial aid, please contact me.

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