Important Information about PHEAA’s Distance Learning Policy

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has a distance learning (education) policy for its Pennsylvania State Grant program. The policy can impact students in two ways:

1. Students enrolled in an online program of study are ineligible for PHEAA Grants. These Penn College distance learning programs are ineligible: PDA/BDA, BAM, PDD/BDD, BHI, NRB/BSN/BNS, BDM, BDT, and BWM.

2. For students enrolled in all other programs of study: If you take more than 50% of your credits as distance learning you are ineligible for PHEAA Grants. As of the Summer 2013 Semester, PHEAA’s Distance Learning policy requires colleges to measure the percent of credits that students enroll in on a semester basis. (Previously, the College calculated distance learning credits on a program basis.) At least 50% of a student’s credits each semester must be ‘in the classroom’ to remain eligible for a PHEAA Grant, assuming all other eligibility requirements are met.

Semester examples
Classroom Credits Distance Credits Eligible for PHEAA?
Lamar 7 7 Yes*
Shawn 8 7 Yes*
Amy 7 8 No

*If Lamar or Shawn drops or withdraws below seven classroom credits, they will become ineligible because their distance learning % will rise above 50%..

Developmental credits, in most cases, cannot be used toward the calculation. Only when a student has been granted a Remedial Exception for a semester can (some) developmental credits be included in the calculation. PHEAA policy permits Remedial Exceptions when:

  • A full-time student has 6-11 non-developmental credits.
  • A part-time student has 3-5 non-developmental credits.
  • A student’s prior number of Remedial Exceptions** is not greater than .50 for full-time students or .75 for part-time students.
Examples with developmental credits
  Total Credits Developmental Credits Remedial Exception? Classroom Credits Distance Credits Eligible for PHEAA?
Courtney 15 3 No
(full-time with 12 non-developmental)
6 6 Yes
Jon 15 3 No
(full-time with 12 non-developmental)
5 7 No
Marissa 12 6 Yes
(full-time with 6 non-developmental)
6 6 Yes

**0.50 = 1 full-time semester exception. Students with prior Remedial Exceptions can view the cumulative total of exceptions from the ‘PHEAA Breakdown’ section of the ‘View Financial Aid Information’ page of SIS.

Hybrid Courses

Hybrid courses combine classroom and distance learning and are identified by Penn College course section numbers of 98 or 99. As long as a hybrid course consists of 50% or more classroom instruction, it is considered (by PHEAA) as a classroom course. Hybrid courses that consist of more than 50% distance learning instruction are considered as distance learning courses. Refer to the instruction breakdown provided for hybrids on the College 'Course Offerings' information provided on the Registrar's Web page and my PCT Portal page.

If you have questions about PHEAA’s Distance Learning policy and/or how it might impact your eligibility for PHEAA Grants, don’t hesitate to contact the Financial Aid Office.

PHEAA's Distance Education Pilot (DE) Program

This PHEAA program began in the Fall Semester of 2013. It allows students taking primarily distance education classes to be considered for special 'DE Pilot' state grant awards. Penn College recognizes the importance of distance learning to many students, so we are happy to participate. Students who are ineligible for 'regular' state grant awards due to either of the two reasons explained in the above policy and who meet all other PHEAA eligibility criteria are nominated by the Financial Aid Office for DE Pilot awards. We identify students eligible for nomination; students do not need to contact the Financial Aid Office.

There is limited funding for the DE Pilot Program so please understand that neither PHEAA nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that any student nominated for a DE Pilot award will receive it. Distance education students need to be taking classes only in their official program(s) of study to be considered for nomination.

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