Frequently Asked Questions from MHEC's Virtual Financial Aid Open House
FINANCIAL AID PROCESS
Question -How the scholarships are awarded, explaining the process from when the student submits the documentation, and how it circulates through the institution back into MHEC?
Answer - Once a student submits all required documents a specialist reviews all documents and determines eligibility. When the initial around of awards starts, all eligible students are notified and awarded. OSFA continues to award all eligible students until funds are exhausted. Each institution is provided with a certification roster listing all eligible students for the specific award. Usually two (2) weeks into the semester certification opens up for institution to certify that each eligible student is attending the institution full-time and confirming that each student has the correct cost of attendance as well as housing status. Once an institution certifies the student they can request payment. OSFA runs the payment process on a weekly basis and provides a payment report to MHEC Finance Office which processes payments on a weekly basis as well. All payments are processed through Maryland's Comptroller's Office which sends funds to each institution. MHEC has no control on the amount of time it takes for the Comptroller's Office to send payments to each institution. Each institution can choose to process the payment internally and be reimbursed for the funds or wait until payment is received from the Comptroller's Office and then complete its internal process. Once the institution completes its internal process then funds are paid towards the students' institutional account.
Question - The FAFSA will not be released until December. Historically, it was released in October. MHEC's state deadline is March 1st each year. – Will that be moved back because of the Federal delayed start date?
Answer- It would take legislation to change the deadline, but in the meantime. MHEC, is working closely with our counselors and all of our financial aid leadership across the state to ensure they are helping students to create an account and user name under StudentAid gov. This will help all of our students statewide to get ahead of the timeline when filling out the full FAFSA when it is released in December.
Question - If the FAFSA is delayed, when is the MSFAA going to open?
Answer - MHEC is currently in the process of updating the MSFAA to match the information and formula within the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to calculate each applicants Student Aid Index (SAI) correctly. To be sure the MSFAA is accurate, the MSFAA will open when the FAFSA becomes available. Additionally, MHEC is working to incorporate the MSFAA into the new “MD One App" which will not only allow MSFAA students to complete the application, but all students will be able to complete one application to apply for all programs. Students who are eligible to complete a FAFSA will only be required to answer questions related to the programs they are applying for.
Question- Why it's so important that students complete and submit their FAFSA?
Answer - It allows all the info to come into our system (which we will talk more about later and notifies MHEC the students eligibility for STATE scholarships based on information they submitted in their FAFSA. Many students are eligible for scholarships they didn't even know were available.
Question - Will this new application pre-populate like what is saved now in the FAFSA?
Answer - The Department of Education Federal Student Aid (FSA) has informed us that the 2024-2025 FAFSA will not pre-populate student's information due to the new “authentication" process. However once a student completes the 2024-2025 FAFSA the students information will pre-populate for following years.
Question - Why is it so hard for me to start my FAFSA application? I'm a returning student after years of being out college.
Answer - If a student is having a hard time completing the FAFSA, he/she can visit www.studentaid.gov which has a “Help Center" with tutorials and other tools to assist the student in completing the FAFSA. Additionally, MHEC's webpage www.mhec.maryland.gov has many tools including “Applying for Financial" aid to assist students and parents with completing the State aid application.
Question - Most financial aid info for higher education is targeted at parents and recent high school graduates. Is there a central place to find financial aid for adults over the age of 26?
Answer - Maryland has several grants, scholarships, and loan assistant repayment programs for adults over the age of 26. The first place to start is mhec.maryland.gov. Individuals can click “Need Money for College" at the top of the webpage which will take them to a list of all of our programs and provides a detailed explanation of each program including eligibility requirements and application process.
Question - Is there financial aid for residents if they go to a college in another state? or What options are there for adult students that live in MD but attend school part time virtually out of state?
Answer - If you are attending an out of state institution (virtual/remote or in person) because your major is not offered at any institution in Maryland, you may be eligible to receive assistance through the Academic Common Market, which is a tuition-savings program that operates on the premise that if public institutions (not including private institutions) in a student's home state do not offer a degree program major (undergraduate or graduate) that a student intends on pursuing, then the student may attend a participating ACM out-of-state institution offering the degree of interest through the ACM and be granted a waiver of out-of-state tuition charges.
Question - Any possibilities for a social work assistance and internship program? As a foster care caseworker there's no state social work internship programs to assist.
Answer - During the 2023 Legislative Session, Governor Moore implemented a one-of-a-kind service year program for graduating seniors, which establishes a Pilot Program for Human Services Careers. The purpose of the Scholarship is to provide tuition assistance to students who are enrolled in a program at an eligible institution that will enable the student to obtain a credential or degree that is necessary to work in or further a career in a targeted position in the Department of Human Services. "Targeted positions" have been identified as the following: (1) Child Support Specialist Series; (2) Family Investment Specialist Series; (3) Family Support Worker Series; (4) Family SVS Caseworker Series; and (5) Social Worker Series. The Department of Human Services is currently in the process of developing information to publicize the availability of the Scholarship.
Question - What are ways that "un-official" adult mentors can help students fill out their FAFSA?
Answer - “Un-official" adult mentors can help students complete the FAFSA or MSFAA by helping them interpret the questions to provide answers and information. Depending on the student's situation, “un-official" adult mentors can advocate for the student to assist the student in obtaining the information needed based on the student's particular circumstances.
Question - What do I need to do to be eligible for financial aid in Maryland?
Answer - There are multiple financial assistance programs (i.e. grants, scholarships, etc.) offered through Maryland Higher Education Commission. Each program has different eligibility requirements.
The best way to determine what programs an applicant is eligible for is to review MHEC's State Financial Aid Programs webpage at https://mhec.maryland.gov/preparing/Pages/FinancialAid/descriptions.aspx, which provides a detail explanation including eligibility guidelines for each program.
Question - Will the transcript requirement for Guaranteed Access Grant be removed since the GPA is no longer a part of eligibility?
Answer - Yes, the transcript requirement will be removed for the Guaranteed Access (GA) Grant program.
Question - Has MHEC considered not requiring returning students to go through verification who were previously approved for independent status?
Answer - Answer: Returning students who were previously approved for independent status are not required to go through verification again unless conflicting information arises in the subsequent year. However, students are required to identify that their situation has not changed, which is also a requirement of Federal Student Aid.
MARYLAND COLLEGE AID PROCESSING SYSTEM (MDCAPS)
Question - Al can you explain the process and the critical need to fill it out correctly
Answer - Students can go to www.mhec.maryland.gov which has a MDCAPS link, which will take the student to a webpage that provides more in-depth information about Maryland's MDCAPS system and access to MDCAPS. Once the student is on the MDCAPS website the student can select to create an account. It is necessary for a student to take their time in creating an MDCAPS account as well as using an email that will be accessible after graduating from high school. A students MDCAPS account is not only used to accept an award but also submit any and all required documents that may be requested prior to the student being awarded.
Question - There's even a greater concern once the students have filled out their MDCAPS accounts and are awarded several scholarships, but do not go on to accept the awards What advice can you offer the students.
Answer - Yes, that is the most frustrating and unfortunate outcome for students who do not go in and actually accept the award. They lose any award for that year, may lose the opportunity to achieve their higher education goals.
Question- Regarding the MCAPS process from our institutions: Can you add a show password option on MDCAPS login?
Answer - MHEC is working with our systems team to see if the current system has the capability, if so, MHEC will update.
Question - What is MHEC's plan to ensure everyone shares the same correct information?
Answer - MHEC requires that each institution certify all eligible applicants before funds are paid out. MHEC holds each institution responsible for verifying each applicants eligibility and updating each students record (if applicable) to confirm that all information is correct and up to date.
Question - Please give us more information on how MHEC is supporting our students through workforce related scholarships?
Answer - The Workforce Development Sequence Scholarship (WDSS) for short, provides financial assistance to students enrolling in a registered apprenticeship program or approved non-credit licensure or certification. The award amount is up to $2000 to pay toward tuition, mandatory fees, or costs to participate in a registered apprenticeship program. Maryland residents or Maryland high school graduates may apply.
The Workforce Shortage Student Assistance Grant, (WSSAG) for short, is for students who plan in working in specific career/occupational programs upon graduation. Eligible fields include: child care, human services, teaching, nursing (mental health), physical and occupational therapy, social work, and public service. Recipients of this award are required to complete a service obligation after completing the degree program in which the recipient must work in the field related to their degree program at an organization within Maryland. The timeframe of service is dependent on the program and number of times the recipient received the award.
More information on both of these program can be found on MHEC's website at www.mhec.maryland.gov, just click on “Need Money for College? Start Here!"
Question - More specific questions regarding workforce needs in Maryland, is for us to share current grants that are open and available for nursing students
Answer - The Workforce Shortage Student Assistance Grant (WSSAG) and the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship. Check with Nurse Support Program II for more information nursesupport.org
Question - What about teaching scholarships available?
Answer - Maryland has a great “Teaching Fellows Scholarship" that pays 100% tuition and mandatory fees, plus room and board for students attending a Maryland public institution and a percentage of tuition and fees, plus room and board for students attending a Maryland private institution. Recipients are required to complete a service obligation which requires the recipient to teach in the State of Maryland as a public school or public prekindergarten teacher in a high-needs school or a grade level or content area in which there is a shortage of qualified educators, as identified by Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).
STUDENT LOAN DEBT
MHEC has several programs that can benefit Maryland residents challenged by student loan dept. One of those is the Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit Program originated in 2017 and is a tax credit, which is claimed on your Maryland income tax return when you file your Maryland taxes.
If the credit is more than the taxes you would otherwise owe, you will receive a tax refund for the difference. This program offers Maryland residents a critical advantage when looking for options to pay off student loan deb
Question - During the previous year, residents were eligible for the Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit without being a graduate. This year, the graduation requirement was implemented, why the change?
Answer - The Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit helps Maryland taxpayers free up funds that they would otherwise pay towards college loans so that they can use the funds in other ways, such as for purchasing a house.
In order to apply for the tax credit, Maryland residents must have already graduated from an institution of higher education. The tax credit application process opens each year on July 1st. We encourage you to apply for the tax credit once you have graduated.
Since the tax credit year 2023 application process closed on September 15, 2023, no changes can be made to it.
Question - So many residents like myself have over $20k in student loan debt and still couldn't afford to graduate. What should I do?
Answer - If you are working in your field of study you may be able to benefit from the Loan Assistance Repayment Programs (LARPs) found on our webpage which offers assistance with loan repayments for the following occupations:
✔ Fire Fighters
✔ Nurse Faculty
✔ Licensed Clinical Counselors
✔ Physical and Occupational Therapists
✔ Social Workers
✔ Speech Pathologist
✔ Teachers at any level or subject field who are employed in a public school within the state
Follow up answer - The Maryland General Assembly continues to support Maryland workforce development needs by identifying critical areas to support those students who are struggling with student loan debt. In fact, the Maryland Higher Education Commission is working in coordination with the Maryland Department of Human Services in order to provide financial assistance in the form of internships for high school students and scholarships to current employees in order to recruit and retain individuals interested in becoming Child Support Specialists, Family Investment Specialists, Family Support Workers, Family Services Caseworkers and Social Workers. This funding was provided by House Bill 982 last year after passage during the Maryland General Assembly session.
This will be updated as more questions are submitted to MHEC following the program