HEROES Act of 2003
The Higher Education Relief Opportunities For Students (HEROES) Act of
2003 (Public Law 108-76) is intended to
ensure that service members who are receiving Federal student aid are
not adversely affected because of their military status and to
minimize the administrative burden placed on such individuals.
Free Military Education
and Career Resources
Affected individuals include the following, as well as their spouses
- Active duty military personnel serving during a war, military
operation or national emergency.
- Members of the National Guard performing a qualifying duty (i.e.,
called to active service by the President or Secretary of Defense for
a period of more than 30 consecutive days) during
a war, military operation or national emergency.
- People who reside or are employed in an area declared a disaster
area by any Federal, State or local official in connection with a
- People who suffer economic hardship as a result of a war, military
operation, or national emergency.
National emergencies must have been declared by the
President. Disaster areas can include those caused by a natural
disaster such as a hurricane or tornado.
The waivers for affected individuals include:
- Need Analysis. Schools may substitute estimated award year income
information (i.e., the first calendar year of the award year) for
prior tax year information in the calculation of the expected family
contribution (EFC). This will allow the financial aid administrator to
consider changes in the financial circumstances of the affected
individual and his/her family.
- Professional Judgment. The requirement that Professional
Judgment be applied on a case-by-case basis is waived for affected
individuals and their families. Financial aid administrators are also encouraged to
choose the method of determining financial need that is most
beneficial to the affected individual and his/her family. For example, financial aid
administrators may consider prior tax year information, estimated
award year information, and the information after applying
professional judgment, choosing whichever yields the most aid for the
affected individual and his/her family.
- Grant Overpayments. When a student withdraws from
college because of his/her status as an affected individual, the
"Return of Title IV Funds" requirement that grant overpayments be
repaid is waived.
- Verification. When an affected individual is selected
for verification, there are several additional methods of satisfying the
requirements to provide a copy of US income tax returns.
- Oral Requests in Lieu of Written Requests. Certain
requests and authorizations are required to be made in writing, such
as a request for a leave of absence. These
requests may be made orally by an affected individual. Requests may also be made by a member of
the borrower's family or other reliable source.
- Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). SAP requirements
may be waived for an affected individual.
- Exclusion of Interruptions. The time
during which a borrower is an affected individual (up to three years)
is excluded from the grace period, and affected individuals are entitled to
another full grace period upon completion of the excluded period of
service. Likewise, the in-school deferment status may be extended for
up to three years while a borrower is an affected individual. The time
during which a borrower is an affected individual is also excluded
from the 3-year cumulative limit on the length of a
forbearance. Loan cancellation requirements that service be continuous
may exclude interruptions due to the borrower's status as an affected
individual. Likewise, requirements for consecutive on-time payments
for loan rehabilitation or consolidation of defaulted loans may
exclude interruptions due to the borrower's status as an affected
- Collection of Defaulted Loans. Collection activities on
a defaulted education loan may be halted for the time period during
which a borrower is an affected individual.
- Parental Signatures. Various requirements for a parental
signature are waived when the parents are unable to provide a
signature because of their status as an affected individual. The high
school guidance counselor or the financial aid administrator may sign
on behalf of the parent.
Affected individuals and their families should promptly notify the
holders of their student loans and their schools (including the
financial aid office and VA counselor) of their status as an
affected individual in order to receive timely relief. It is best to
provide documentation, such as a copy of the order to active duty.
Members of the National Guard or Reserve who have been called to
active duty may experience problems with their schools. If they need help
resolving the problems they should contact the
Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC), a consortium of higher education associations and more
than 1,350 colleges who have agreed to intercede on their behalf.