The U.S. Department of Education requires that schools are able to document that students are actually in attendance to finalize their Federal Pell Grant eligibility. For example, if a student doesn't begin attendance in all of his or her classes, the school must recalculate the student's award based on the lower enrollment status. A student is considered to have begun attendance in all of his or her classes if the student attends at least one day of class for each course in which that student's enrollment status was determined for Federal Pell Grant eligibility. In a distance education context, documenting that a student has logged into an online class is not sufficient, by itself, to demonstrate academic attendance by the student. A school must demonstrate that a student participated in class or was otherwise engaged in an academically related activity, such as by contributing to an online discussion or initiating contact with a faculty member to ask a course-related question.
South Texas College documents attendance for Federal Pell Grant purposes by collecting on-line rosters from all instructors before census day. The instructors use the rosters to indicate whether a student has attended or not. Students must attend each class that they are enrolled in at least once between the first day of school and the census day of each term to be counted as being in attendance in that class for Federal Pell Grant eligibility purposes.
In cases where students do not attend class at least once, Federal Pell Grant eligibility will be adjusted based on the enrollment status for the number of credits that they are actually attending. If this adjustment results in a student not having sufficient grant funds to pay for any charges or advances that they have incurred or received, that student will be responsible to pay South Texas College for the difference between their adjusted eligibility and the original amount of the cost of their tuition and fees as well as any advances that the student received.
The U.S. Department of Education provides the following definition of attendance for financial aid purposes:
Attendance must be "academic attendance" or "attendance at an academically-related activity".
Examples of this include:
- physically attending a class where there is an opportunity for direct interaction between the instructor and students,
- submitting an academic assignment,
- taking an exam, completing an interactive tutorial, or participating in computer-assisted instruction,
- attending a study group that is assigned by the school,
- participating in an online discussion about academic matters and
- initiating contact with a faculty member to ask a question about the academic subject studied in the course.
Examples of acceptable evidence of academic attendance and attendance at an academically-related activity in a distance education program include:
- student submission of an academic assignment,
- student submission of an exam,
- documented student participation in an interactive tutorial or computer-assisted instruction,
- a posting by the student showing the student's participation in an online study group that is assigned by the institution,
- a posting by the student in a discussion forum showing the student's participation in an online discussion about academic matters, and
- an e-mail from the student or other documentation showing that the student initiated contact with a faculty member to ask a question about the academic subject studied in the course.