UW Flexible Option: Financial Aid Brief
Describes the Financial Aid function pertaining to the UW Flexible Option Degree Program 2.0
University of Wisconsin Flexible Option
Financial Aid Brief
Note that the following describes centralized financial aid. Services will be centralized at UW-Extension in the future. Federal financial aid will be available upon US Department of Education approval to award aid for direct assessment programs.
The UW Flexible Option Financial Aid office provides assistance to students to meet the financial costs of pursing a degree or certificate through the UW Flexible Option by meeting the difference between tuition price and student resources. Many Flexible Option students require some form of supplemental funds to finance their degree. The UW Flexible Option Financial Aid office, located within UW-Extension Continuing Education Outreach and E-Learning (CEOEL), manages and distributes the monies that are available to them from UW System and government resources using the new direct assessment parameters outlined in the application to the U.S. Department of Education to award Title IV funds. The Higher Learning Commission accredited the first cohort of Flexible Option degree programs at UW-Milwaukee and the UW Colleges in July 2013. UW-Extension is currently coordinating submission of the direct assessment application, in collaboration with the partner institutions, to the Department of Education.
The UW Flexible Option Financial Aid office provides information to the Flex Admissions Specialists and Academic Success Coaches to use when counseling students about their payment options and guiding them through the application process.
Once a student initiates the financial aid application process by submitting the Free Application for Student Federal Aid (FAFSA), the UW Flexible Option Financial Aid office validates the student data and interfaces with the Department of Education as necessary. Using this information, Financial Aid staff determines student eligibility for federal, state, and private aid programs; calculates and awards aid packages; and disburses funds to students.
The UW Flexible Option Financial Aid office monitors student eligibility for funds according to the formulas and methods outlined in the Department of Education application, ensuring compliance with Department of Education regulations for the provision of Title IV aid for direct assessment programs.
The UW Flexible Option Financial Aid office continually monitors the risk for Financial Aid fraud, in collaboration with other UW System financial aid professionals and the Department of Education.
Roles & Responsibilities
In order to better serve students and ensure maximum operational efficiency and effectiveness, the UW Flexible Option Financial Aid Office is housed at the UW-Extension division of Continuing Education Outreach and E-Learning (CEOEL) and serves all Flexible Option programs across partner campuses.
A single Financial Aid function provides students with a single point of contact for all interactions related to financial aid. This is particularly important since UW Flexible Option students take competencies across several programs and institutions. UW Flexible Option financial aid staff members possess specialized knowledge about awarding aid in direct assessment parameters, enabling their UW System institutional peers to focus their efforts on their traditional student body who require assistance following traditional financial aid metrics, using frameworks with traditional academic year and credit hour parameters.
Non-traditional programs, particularly direct assessment programs that are not bounded by the academic calendar, credit hours, or other markers used to evaluate Satisfactory Academic Progress, require significant investments of staff time to understand and implement the appropriate procedures correctly and effectively. Providing one point of contact for UW Flexible Option students ensures the consistent application of policies, procedures, and communications. The UW Flexible Option Financial Aid Office serves as the authority in this area and provides guidance to other institutional staff, as needed, thereby minimizing the risk of additional strain to institutional units and compromised service levels to existing campus populations.
The UW Flexible Option Financial Aid Office works with the UW Flexible Option Admissions Specialists and Academic Success Coaches to counsel students throughout the application process, monitor and process student applications, interface with the US Education Department as necessary, disburse aid, and perform compliance activities such as monitoring student progress. The Office implements the processes outlined in the submitted Education Department application to award financial aid for a direct assessment program.
Together, the UW Flexible Option and the partner institution Financial Aid offices coordinate the data transfer required for institutional registrars to satisfy institutional, System-level, state, and federal reporting requirements.
Partner institution staffs will have access to UW Flexible Option student data in the central SIS. Additionally, timed data transfers will take place between systems at appropriate intervals to ensure that campuses have the data they need to complete their reporting activities and that the Flexible Option Financial Aid team knows the amount and availability of award funds.
The UW Flexible Option Knowledge Base will provide a central repository of information about all aspects of the Flexible Option program and will serve as a 24/7 resource for students, staff, and faculty in the UW System.
Connections to Other Briefs
As described in the Registrar Brief, the UW Flexible Option Financial Aid office relies on data from the Registrar to award student aid, measure Satisfactory Academic Progress, and conduct other important compliance and reporting activities.
The UW Flexible Option Financial Aid office works closely to align its processes with those outlined in the Bursar Brief to ensure that student account standing is not adversely impacted by a delay in payment due to processing of financial aid funds.
The roles described in the Advising Brief rely on the information and data that the UW Flexible Option Financial Aid office provides to help students maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress and reduce the risk of unintentionally losing financial aid eligibility. This information also helps the Academic Success Coaches to advise students and assist them in managing their educational finances and understanding the terms and conditions that attend various types of aid.