Using Financial Aid for Independent Study (Correspondence Courses)
What is Independent Study (Correspondence Courses)?
UM offers iStudy — correspondence or “home study” courses — for which the university provides instructional materials and exams for students who are studying independently and do not physically attend classes. These courses are different from traditional semester seat courses and online courses in that iStudy courses are self-paced, making them more flexible. Classes are provided primarily at the undergraduate level, but there are certain graduate level courses offered as well. Please reference www.outreach.olemiss.edu/istudy/ for full listings.
Is Financial Aid Available for iStudy Courses?
UM students may be able to use some types of financial aid to pay for iStudy courses. However, there are restrictions and requirements placed on these students, and they must work with the Office of Financial Aid (OFA) to determine their eligibility.
What are the Requirements to Receive Federal Title IV Financial Aid for iStudy?
Students who wish to receive Federal Title IV financial aid (such as Direct Loans, Pell Grants, FSEOG, or TEACH grant) during a period of enrollment that includes correspondence courses must meet the following requirements that would not otherwise apply to iStudy students:
- Full-time enrollment for federal aid is 12 credit hours per semester.
- The student must be admitted as a degree-seeking student at UM.
- The iStudy course(s) must apply toward the student’s academic program or be allowable remedial work (as confirmed by the appropriate dean’s office).
- The student must enroll and complete the correspondence course within the semester (or the combined summer term) for which the hours are being used for aid purposes.
- The student must be enrolled in a semester-based (also known as term-based) iStudy course. Full-year iStudy course credit will not be considered for federal aid eligibility purposes.
- The student must reach the midpoint of course(s) by the established deadline – two weeks after the first day of the midterm week. The exact date is posted in the Announcements section of the course in Blackboard.
- If you are only planning to enroll in iStudy courses or will enroll in more iStudy credits than regular credits during a certain term, aid eligibility may be affected – contact the Office of Financial Aid.
What are the Requirements to Receive State of MS Financial Aid for iStudy Courses?
Students who wish to receive State of MS Financial Aid – such as Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant (MESG), Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant (MTAG), or Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students (HELP) – during a period of enrollment that includes correspondence courses must meet the following requirements that would not otherwise apply to iStudy students:
- Full-time enrollment for State Aid is 15 credit-hours per semester. Students must be enrolled in 15 credit hours at the time of disbursement.
- In order for iStudy courses to be counted towards the full-time requirement for state aid, the courses must be semester-based (also called term-based).
- State Aid will not be held for midpoint completion, but dropping or failing to complete an iStudy that was counting towards the full-time enrollment requirement for State Aid will affect future State Aid eligibility.
What are the Requirements to Receive Institutional Aid for iStudy Courses?
In general, enrollment in iStudy courses will not count in the full-time enrollment calculation for full-time scholarship eligibility (for awards such as Academic Excellence, community college recruitment scholarships, and Ole Miss Opportunity).
There are limited forms of aid that are available for students taking iStudy courses, including the Faculty/Staff Scholarship, Child of Faculty/Staff Scholarship, and Agency Banked Hours. Either year-long or semester-based iStudy courses can qualify for these awards. Therefore, students may enroll in the correspondence courses at any time. Typically, students are admitted to an academic program, but can sometimes qualify as a result of their participation in the UM Independent Study program in a non-degree-seeking status.
What are the Requirements to Receive Other Aid for iStudy Courses
iStudy may also qualify students for outside aid such as veterans education benefits or AmeriCorps. For VA Benefits, students should contact the Office of Veteran & Military Services. For AmeriCorps, they should contact AmeriCorps directly about using their benefits at UM. If students are receiving any other funding, they should contact OFA.
How do I Enroll in an iStudy Course?
Registration for semester-based iStudy courses opens at the same time as registration for on-campus courses. Registration in all applicable terms (Fall/Spring/Summer) closes on the last day to add an on-campus course for that term. Semester-based iStudy courses follow all regular semester deadlines per the UM academic calendar. Registration for full-year iStudy courses may occur at any time throughout the year, regardless of the semester calendar, and they do not count towards enrollment for federal or state financial aid eligibility purposes (and most institutional aid).
Students using correspondence courses for financial aid purposes will have their iStudy application reviewed by OFA and will receive the “Independent Study (iStudy) Enrollment and Your Financial Aid Fact Sheet” sent by email. This is to ensure that the student is fully aware of and has agreed to the financial aid stipulations. Online applications for iStudy courses are available at www.outreach.olemiss.edu/istudy/.
When will my aid disburse if I am enrolled in an iStudy course?
For students who are not otherwise enrolled in at least 12 regular hours and whose iStudy course(s) count towards enrollment for federal aid eligibility purposes, no Title IV financial aid will be released until the student reaches the midpoint. The midpoint is defined by the completion of the course’s midterm exam, or upon completion of 50% of the coursework if there is not a midterm exam.
The OFA will release funds to the student’s bursar account once confirmation of midpoint reached is received from the iStudy Department. To be valid for federal financial aid, the midpoint must be reached by no later than the established midpoint deadline.
What Happens to My Financial Aid Offer if I Do Not Meet the Midpoint by the Deadline or if I Fail To Complete Coursework?
Not meeting the midpoint by the established deadline, withdrawing from, or failing a correspondence course may cause changes in the amount of financial aid that was awarded and students may have to return funds to the University. These scenarios may also impact future financial aid awards.
If an Incomplete (“I”) mark for a student has been changed to a regular grade before the 30th day of classes of the next regular semester (excluding summer terms), the student must notify Office of Financial Aid of the update so that we can manually submit the grade change to the State of Mississippi Financial Aid Office for future aid eligibility.
Cost of Attendance (COA)
The COA for a student who is taking only iStudy classes will be limited to required tuition and fees, with an allowance for books and supplies if needed for the classes. Students taking a combination of both term-based iStudy and regular courses (on-campus and/or distance education courses) will have their budgets adjusted to reflect that iStudy charges do not include Capital Improvement fees.
The housing allowance in the COA will be zeroed for individuals identified as being in the follow categories:
- Independent students who receive, or whose spouses receive, a military housing allowance (Basic Allowance for Housing, or “BAH”) or who live on a military base.
- Dependent students who are living with parents who are receive BAH, or who live on a military base.