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Some Florida college students may soon be worried about being able to complete their education. Last week, the board of trustees at Florida State College at Jacksonville agreed to set their own limits regarding how much some students can take out in federal loans. This decision may not only affect a student’s ability to graduate, it may also force students to rely on credit cards or private loans in order to fund the rest of their education.

Students at the college with high levels of debt and with poor academic records could be cut off from borrowing more federal loans in the future. Even though the students may qualify for the loans under the government’s guidelines, the school has agreed that the college can use its “professional judgment” and deny the students their loans.

FSCJ’s decision was unanimously passed by the board of trustees, but the decision is unusual among other colleges. Under federal law, institutions have always been able to use “professional judgment” to make modifications to financial aid awards from the federal government. However, most schools use professional judgment to help students who are in difficult financial situations to qualify for more in financial aid and federal student loans, not the reverse.

A dependent or independent student seeking a degree at FSCJ will have a new limit of $12,000 or $20,000 respectively in federal student loans. A dependent or independent student seeking a bachelor’s degree will have their federal student loan limits set at $24,000 or $40,000 respectively. If a student exceeds those new limits in federal loans and is not performing academically, FSCJ can use professional judgment and deny the student from receiving federal student loans they would have qualified for otherwise.

Our Miami bankruptcy law blog will continue this discussion next week focusing on why the Florida college has chosen to pass this recommendation and how others argue the decision could force students to take on bad debt in order to finish college.

Source

The Florida Times-Union: “FSCJ to set ceiling for some students’ debt,” Kate Howard, 9 May 2011

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