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How can a student on academic probation pay for college with no aid?

Mark Kantrowitz

January 18, 2010

My son has brain damage along with seizures and a reading learning disability. With all the doctors appointments, hospital stays and seizures he is on academic probation this semester. So that means, well you know what that means, he will not be allowed to apply for FAFSA this semester. My question to you all is how can I afford to pay for his college semester this time without the FAFSA? Is there any financial help out there for him? — Linda C.

Students who fail to maintain satisfactory academic progress (meaning at least a 2.0 GPA at the end of the second year) lose eligibility for federal student aid including both grants and loans. They can restore eligibility by improving their grades.

The regulations at 34 CFR 668.34(c), however, allow colleges to find that the student is still making satisfactory academic progress if the failure to make satisfactory academic progress is due to the death of a relative of the student, an injury or illness of the student or other special circumstances. You should contact the school to ask about their appeals process. Be polite, as they are not required to grant an appeal.

You should also ask the college about any accommodations they can make for your son’s disability. Reasonable accommodations do not include treating half-time enrollment as though it were full-time enrollment. But perhaps they can provide your son with a tutor to help him improve his reading ability.

If the college does not demonstrate any flexibility, your son should consider transferring to Landmark College. Landmark College specializes in providing a college education to students with learning disabilities and ADHD. They will be more understanding of the difficulties your son is experiencing. Unfortunately, Landmark College is also one of the more expensive colleges in the country.

I am 24 and I have previously taken out loans as a dependent student. I married this year and wonder if my eligibility changes since I would now be considered an independent student. I have completed an associate’s degree at a community college and have approximately three semesters until I earn enough credits for my bachelor’s degree. What is the maximum amount I can get from either subsidized or unsubsidized federal loans? — Twyla G.

You are independent because you are age 24 and because you are married. Either is sufficient for you to be considered an independent student. (Note that the FAFSA cannot be updated for changes in an applicant’s marital status. So if you were under age 24 and got married after filing the FAFSA you would still be considered a dependent student.)

Independent students are eligible for higher annual loan limits on the unsubsidized Stafford loan. An independent student qualifies for an additional $4,000 a year during the freshman and sophomore years and an additional $5,000 a year during the junior and senior years. This means that the unsubsidized Stafford loan limits for an independent student are $9,500 during the freshman year, $10,500 during the sophomore year, $12,500 during the junior year and $12,500 during the senior year. Aggregate loan limits are also higher. You can borrow a total of $57,500 in unsubsidized Stafford loans as an independent student instead of the $31,000 aggregate limit for dependent students.

The subsidized Stafford loan limits remain unchanged. Freshmen can borrow $3,500 in subsidized Stafford loans, sophomores can borrow $4,500, juniors can borrow $5,500 and seniors can borrow $5,500. The aggregate loan limit for subsidized Stafford loans is $23,000. Any amounts received as subsidized Stafford loans are subtracted from the loan limits for unsubsidized Stafford loans.

Since you are an independent student your parents will no longer be eligible to borrow from the Parent PLUS loan program on your behalf.


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