HIGHER EDUCATION LEGLISLATIVE PLAN FOR NEEDY STUDENTS (HELP)

Program Overview:
Created by the Mississippi Legislature, this program is designed to provide tuition assistance to qualified students whose financial need, as demonstrated by federal student aid eligibility, will not be met with gift aid from other sources.  The program provides full tuition to qualified students for up to four years.

Rules and Regulations:
HELP Rules and Regulations

Important Dates:

  • Application dates: October 1- March 31
  • Supporting Documents (including certified HELP Core Curriculum): April 30

Initial Eligibility Requirements for the Graduating High School Senior:

  • Be a legal resident of the State of Mississippi for one year prior to application.
  • Have a high school cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Score a minimum of 20 on the National ACT.
  • Complete a specific high school core curriculum.  Learn about the HELP Core Curriculum below.
  • Meet income limitations.*
  • Demonstrate need by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and qualifying for a full or partial federal Pell Grant.
  • Enroll full-time at an approved postsecondary institution in Mississippi in a program of study leading to a first certificate, first associate’s degree, or first bachelor’s degree.

*The maximum Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for eligibility was scheduled to increase from $39,500 in 2015-16 to $42,500 in 2016-17.  However, SB2956 (FY2018 Appropriation for Student Financial Aid) freezes the income threshold at the 2015-16 level of $39,500.

Initial Eligibility Requirements for Students Currently Enrolled in College:

  • Be a legal resident of the State of Mississippi for one year prior to application.
  • Be within one year of high school graduation (current college freshman).
  • Score a minimum of 20 on the National ACT before enrolling as a first-time college student.
  • Graduate high school with a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA and have a minimum 2.5 cumulative college GPA.
  • Complete a specific high school core curriculum.  Learn about the HELP Core Curriculum below.
  • Meet income limitations.*
  • Demonstrate need by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and qualifying for a full or partial federal Pell Grant.
  • Attend an approved postsecondary institution in Mississippi in a program of study leading to a first certificate, first associate’s, or first bachelor’s degree
  • Enroll full-time and maintain full-time enrollment (complete with passing grades) each semester. Full-time enrollment is 15 hours per semester or 9 hours per trimester.

Award Amount:

  • Tuition and required fees at a public institution
  • Participants attending a private institution will receive an award amount equal to the award of a student attending the nearest comparable public institution.

Length of Eligibility:

  • Max 8 semesters (12 trimesters) or bachelor’s degree completion, whichever comes first

To Apply – New Applicants:

  1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is required for all applicants and will serve as one of two required residency documents.
  2. Complete the online application. The online application must be completed each and every academic year for which the applicant seeks aid.
  3. Submit required supporting documents.
    Residency Documents:
      New applicants and some renewal applicants with a break in enrollment will be required to submit two forms of residency documentation.  The FAFSA will serve as one form.  The preferred second form is the Mississippi driver’s license, which can be submitted electronically during the online application.  The following alternate residency documents will be accepted in lieu of the driver’s license:
    State Tax Return (NOT Federal) for the current tax filing year.  Dependent students would provide a signed copy of the first two pages of the parent’s return. Independent students would provide a signed copy of the student’s return.  Am I dependent or independent?
    — Homestead Exemption
    — Voter Registration
    — Vehicle Registration

    Income Documentation: FAFSA and HELP Worksheet (also known as Household Verification Worksheet)

    Academic Documentation: The high school counselor must certify completion of the HELP Core Curriculum.  Learn more about the HELP Core Curriculum below.

How to Submit Supporting Documents

To Apply – Renewal Applicants:
Renewal Applicants are applicants who have previously received an award through the program.

  1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  2. Complete the online application. The online application must be completed each and every academic year for which the applicant seeks aid.
  3. Complete the HELP Worksheet (also known as Household Verification Worksheet)

How to Submit Supporting Documents

HELP Core Curriculum:

REQUIRED CPC + 1 – The HELP Core Curriculum is seventeen and one-half (17-1/2) units of high school course work that includes the REQUIRED IHL College Preparatory Curriculum (CPC), plus one (1) additional advanced elective unit.

Required CPC: http://riseupms.com/apply/#1/

Download a HELP Core Curriculum Checklist.

The IHL Office of Academic and Student Affairs maintains a complete list of courses that can be used to satisfy the CPC requirements here: http://www.mississippi.edu/admissions/curriculum.asp.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Do students have to have COMPLETED all of the courses in the Core Curriculum by the April 30 document deadline?
    No.  Students must be enrolled and must complete the core curriculum before the end of the spring semester.  The core curriculum may not be completed through courses taken in summer school following the student’s senior year.
  2. Why must I reapply for HELP every year?
    Current legislation requires “…the board shall create a renewal application for each student who received the award for one or more terms during the immediately preceding academic year.” At a minimum, a student must file the following renewal document no later than the close of business on the deadline date.
  3. What if I have to withdraw from school during a semester?
    A student must maintain continuous full-time enrollment during the fall, winter (for trimester schools only), and spring during each successive academic year, unless granted an exception for cause. Examples of exception for cause may include personal injury or death of an immediate family member, participation in a cooperative program, internship program or foreign study program. If a recipient fails to maintain continuous full-time enrollment, unless granted an exception for cause, that student is ineligible to receive funds during the next semester or trimester of full-time enrollment of a regular academic year. Summer semester enrollment is not considered part of the regular academic year.
  4. What if I drop below full-time enrollment during a semester?
    A student must maintain full-time enrollment. If a student drops below full-time status during a semester or trimester of the academic year, that student is ineligible to receive funds during the next semester or trimester of full-time enrollment of a regular academic year.
  5. Is my grade point average (GPA) checked at the end of each semester or at the end of the academic year? Besides my GPA, what else is checked?
    Continuing eligibility based on GPA will be assessed at the end of each semester/trimester of the regular academic year. HELP recipients will also be monitored for continuous full-time enrollment at the end of each semester/trimester.
  6. I have lost eligibility for HELP. How can I regain eligibility?
    If a student loses HELP eligibility due to less than full-time enrollment status, that student must attend, without the benefit of HELP funds, one full-time semester or trimester during the regular academic year, before regaining eligibility, unless an exception for cause has been granted. If a student loses HELP eligibility due to having less than a cumulative 2.5 GPA, that student will regain eligibility when the cumulative GPA is improved to the required minimum.
  7. I graduated from high school three years ago and just learned about HELP. Am I eligible to apply?
    No. HELP applicants must apply and qualify for HELP within one year of high school graduation.
  8. Is HELP available to me for summer school?
    No. HELP is available during the regular academic year only.
  9. My HELP award was cancelled because my institution reported that I was not enrolled full-time.  Can the HELP award be reinstated.
    Yes. Your HELP  award can be reinstated but you must get your institution to submit an official enrollment verification report verifying that you are full-time by the applicable deadline for the term of enrollment.  The deadline for Fall term is October 15, for Winter term is January 15, and for Spring term is March 15.  Please contact our office prior to these deadlines if there are any unusual circumstances that you feel should be considered.
  10. My HELP award for the Spring term was cancelled because the institution reported that my Fall semester cumulative GPA was below the required 2.5.  Due to grade changes, my cumulative GPA is now 2.5 or better.  What must I do to have my award reinstated?  Your institution must submit an official grade verification report demonstrating that you earned the minimum required GPA. The grade verification must be received by March 15. Please contact our office prior to this deadline if there are any unusual circumstances that you feel should be considered.
  11. How do I submit supporting documents to the Office of Student Financial Aid?
    How to Submit Supporting Documents