Important: Federal Financial Aid and Distance Learning
All faculty teaching in online or hybrid sections: please read the following information carefully. Compliance with these federal regulations is necessary to ensure that our students may maintain their federal financial aid awards.
In all courses (including distance and hybrid course sections), Texas State University must demonstrate and document that students are actively academically engaged. The italicized part of the preceding phrase has a very specific definition under the federal standard, and this web page is designed to help faculty understand this definition and our obligations related to it, especially as it relates to courses delivered using distance and hybrid learning designs. Please take care to note that compliance with this federal financial aid requirement involves awareness of the following:
- Critical Timelines,
- Information Retention Requirements, and
- Qualifying Engagement Strategies.
To be in compliance with Federal Student Financial Aid requirements, students must be actively academically engaged in all courses in which they are receiving financial aid. This active academic engagement must be documented by our census date each semester. In the Spring and Fall terms, census day is typically the twelfth day of class and is the fourth day of class in Summer terms. Students who cannot document active academic engagement by census day will be required to repay any federal financial aid they have received.
More information about critical timelines is available on the Financial Aid and Scholarship web site (look under the Non-Attendance heading).
Faculty should plan to provide and document qualifying active academic engagement activities before census day to assist students in maintaining their federal financial aid. Faculty teaching distance and hybrid courses should take special care to understand how this is accomplished in these delivery modes.
Information Retention Requirements
Faculty should plan to retain records of student engagement in academically engaging activities on or before census day for the entire semester. Even if a student drops a course late or withdraws, the documentation of qualifying active academically engaging activities in which the student participated may assist in making a correct determination about how much if any of the federal financial aid a student must repay.
For faculty teaching distance and hybrid delivered courses, please do not delete the qualifying academic engagement assignment from your records or the learning management system (TRACS).
Qualifying Engagement Strategies
Face-to-face courses and some hybrid delivered courses may rely on documentation of attendance in on-campus classroom meetings as qualifying academic engagement when documented on or before the semester census date. Fully online courses or hybrid courses that do not meet in a physical classroom prior to the semester census day must include a qualifying active academic engagement activity during the critical timeline period to meet the Federal Student Financial Aid requirements.
Qualifying academic engagement under the federal definition when the activity is delivered online must be academic in nature and in many cases must be graded and counted toward a final course grade. Examples of qualifying academic engagement would include the following:
- submitting an academic assignment including an assessment or test, survey, or discussion as long as the assignment is graded and related to the academic subject of the course,
- interaction between the faculty member and the student addressing a question about the academic subject studied in the course,
- participating in an interactive tutorial, and
- attending an online study group.
Documentation of the engagement is also required and, as noted above, should be retained to at least the end of the semester by the faculty member.
Examples of non-qualifying activities are the following:
- simply logging into the learning management system (TRACS);
- submitting an ungraded assignment or an assignment or activity that is not related to the academic subject studied in the course, such as a syllabus or practice quiz or a discussion board posting in which students introduces themselves to their classmates; and
- participating in academic counseling or advisement.