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Monday, August 15, 2011

Important Facts For Double Majors!

If you pursue a double major or concurrent major keep this in mind.  Never, ever, finish one of your degrees before the other (even if you will only have one or two semesters left for the second degree)!

Why you may ask?  Well there are two simple reasons.  The first is that this will affect your federal financial aid.  The government and most colleges/universities, have this silly idea that if one degree is finished you have graduated. Congratulations!  Oh, wait you still have a semester or two left? Too bad, because despite the fact that you may not be done with school and you have declared the fact that you are a dual major, your financial aid will be messed with. This is because technically you could graduate right then.  You may still qualify for student loans (see the previous post "Learn From My Mistakes"), but grants and work-study will not be given to you from this point on.

The other reason is that some institutions also think that the fact that you have “graduated” (even though you haven’t really graduated yet) is a great excuse to jack up your tuition rate.  This is especially true at colleges and universities that will hold your tuition rate at the amount of money it initially costs when you enter school. For example, my institution of higher learning has a policy just like this in effect.  I finished one of my two majors and my tuition is now $620.00 higher per semester, plus I am subject to an additional $400.00 fee that goes along with the current incoming freshman’s tuition group.  That is a total of $1020.00 more per semester just for “graduating” (even though I haven’t graduated yet)! 

Check with your college or university to find out their policies regarding tuition rates based on graduation status. Some schools also have a policy on tuition rates with time frames attached. For example if I hadn’t “graduated” I would have been given three years (because when I was readmitted I was a junior) to finish my degree at the tuition rate from the 2009-2010 academic year. Freshman at my institution are given five years from start until their tuition rate goes up. If it takes you longer (because you decide to go to part-time, or you have some other good excuse) too bad. 

If you are nearing completion on one degree but still have time with the other just spread out the coursework from your first major across semesters/quarters (or even don’t take any classes in that major) until you catch up with the second major. Don’t allow yourself to have nothing left in one major when you still have classes left in the other!  If you are nearing that time limit (which may be more likely for you students who are attending school part-time) try to keep track of the costs of current tuition rates because you might just end up paying those.

So watch your step!  These are often not facts that anyone will tell you but you still need to know.  These policies and procedures often will never be mentioned in any way unless you encounter them from a misstep you make. 

You may think that the particular institution I attend is cold hearted and cruel.  The reality is that these are policies that are in effect in many colleges and universities (the financial aid policies are in all colleges and universities that receive federal financial aid).  Don't fall into the thinking trap that your school will somehow be nicer or that you won't have to deal with this problem at your school. Maybe you won't have similar circumstances to me; maybe you won't double major, but that doesn't mean that these policies don't exist.

Like I said before in “Under 24 and Your Parents Don't Pay? Sucks to be you!” it is your responsibility to know and understand the financial aid and tuition policies at your higher institution; no one will sit you down and explain how each policy affects you individually, and no one will warn you of possible negative consequences of innocent actions (like finishing one major first). Be informed!

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