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Lottery Scholarship shaky for intersession students

The time she spent in the classroom, however, may not have been worth it financially, as Frias and other UNM students taking intersession courses discovered.

“It was the week before school that I got an email informing me that I did not meet the requirements to maintain my Lottery (Scholarship),” Frias said. “The system bypassed the fact that I was still completing classes.”

After finding that she wasn’t doing as well as she’d hoped in her fall psychology course, Frias decided to prioritize her education and registered for an intersession course to ensure she met the Lottery requirements for the spring semester, she said.

Recent Lottery revisions changed the minimum that students must complete per semester to 15 hours. Frias completed 14 in the fall, and was working on six through intersession courses. But the system would not count those additional hours, she said.

“I freaked out. I didn’t know what was going on,” Frias said. “Like many students here at UNM, I need the Lottery. I was in a panic; I can’t pay for school without the help of the Lottery.”

Frias said she blamed herself at first.

“I felt like it was my fault,” she said. “Then I found out that I was not alone.”

Most of the students in her intersession class were having the same issue: They were notified that they wouldn’t be getting the scholarship in the spring despite their efforts to retain it, she said.

“At that point, the blame shifted to the school,” Frias said.

She said that after talking to the financial aid office she learned that she needed to petition to get her scholarship back. In addition, she has to write a letter explaining her situation, essentially pleading her case.

“Frankly, it’s annoying. I don’t understand why I am needing to petition to get it back for taking an intersession course that counts in my fall semester,” she said.

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Terry Babbitt, associate vice president of enrollment management at UNM, said that the petition process is one that students taking intersession classes should expect. He also justified the structure of the courses and why they exist.

“This has been the process for many years and intersession courses have always counted towards Lottery eligibility,” Babbitt said. “Their work will count. The petition is just a formality to ensure there is a review of their updated academic record after intersession classes or grade changes.”

According to UNM’s website, the point of intersession courses is partly to “fulfill financial aid or scholarship requirements.” Some students also use them as GPA boosters when a particular class during the semester didn’t go as they might have planned.

According to UNM’s enrollment management division, 2,653 students signed up for intersession classes on main campus over the break. That is a 29.3 percent increase from the 2013-2014 academic year, in which 2,052 students registered for intersession. Babbitt said that the bump in enrollment is largely due to the increase in the credit hour requirement to maintain the Lottery Scholarship, which was established in the spring of 2014.

Of the 2,653 students who took intersession courses this fall, 2,495 — 94 percent — received holds on their scholarships, which may have included the Lottery.

Babbitt said that final grades for intercession courses were due from professors on Thursday.

“We are releasing as many of these (holds) as we can while the grades come in,” he said.

Frias said she doesn’t think she should have to go through the ordeal of petitioning when UNM can wait until intersession courses are over to inform students about the state of their scholarships.

“There are students who rely on the intersession courses to keep the Lottery,” Frias said. “It is supposed to be a safety net for them.”

Darby Anderson, a sophomore nursing major, is enduring the same ordeal. She said that she didn’t even know about the absence of her scholarship until she heard about it from peers in her intersession course.

“I never received an email or any notification telling me I lost it,” Anderson said. “It just disappeared from my financial aid awards (online).”

She added that she has no way of paying for her education if she is unable to retain the lottery. She is also working to get it back, and said she is hopeful that it will work out.

“I’m definitely frustrated with UNM and the way their financial aid department works,” she said. “I appealed for my Lottery back and should find out a decision this week.”

David Lynch is a staff reporter at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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