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Is a Student Who is Enrolled Simultaneously in High School and College Eligible for Federal Student Financial Aid?

Mark Kantrowitz

May 02, 2011

It is not sufficient for the student to be beyond the age of compulsory school attendance. The student must also no longer be enrolled in high school. If a student reaches the age at which compulsory school attendance ends in the middle of the school year, the student is still considered enrolled until the end of the current academic year.

The student may also need to take additional steps to terminate secondary school enrollment beyond merely reaching a particular age. For example, section 1003.21 of the Florida Statutes requires students to file a formal declaration of intent to terminate school enrollment with the school district in addition to reaching age 16 by February 1 of the school year. This declaration must be signed by both student and parent. Laws vary from state to state, but most have similar requirements for active termination of secondary school enrollment.

Accordingly, a student cannot receive federal student aid to attend college in the summer and then decide later whether he wants to attend high school or college in the fall. If the student has not terminated secondary school enrollment, the student will be considered as still enrolled by his school district and ineligible for federal student aid due to the restrictions on aid for dually-enrolled students. If the student has terminated secondary school enrollment, the student will not be able to attend high school in the fall. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Also potentially relevant is whether the college is in the same state. If the college is in a different state than the student’s state of residence, the Higher Education Act of 1965 does not specify whether the student must have passed the age of compulsory school attendance in the student’s home state or in the college’s state. A college could require that either or both sets of requirements be met. In most cases colleges will require compliance with the requirements of the student’s state of residence due to reciprocity considerations.

The maximum age of compulsory school attendance is 16 in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming, but 17 in Arkansas, Colorado Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington (state) and 18 in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington DC and Wisconsin. The dates within the year by which the age is measured vary from state to state. Some states require completion of a specific grade level in addition to reaching a specified age. These ages are in a continual state of flux, with legislation introduced each year in several states to raise, lower or repeal the age of compulsory school attendance.


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