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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

My 16-year-old son has passed an ability-to-benefit (ATB) test at a community college. He has been accepted has a regular student in a qualifying program but has not graduated from high school. The college is denying him the Federal Pell Grant because they are stating that he is enrolled in high school. My position is that in Florida he has passed the age of requirement to attend high school and his school high will be over at the end of May (tenth grade). He has no statutory requirement to attend high school in the fall. Therefore he does not have to be enrolled in any high school. Therefore by the ATB test he meets all the requirements to receive federal student financial aid. He wants to go to college during the summer term. Then he can decide if he wants to attend high school or college in the fall. — Brian S.

Generally, students who are simultaneously enrolled in both high school and college are not eligible for student financial aid for college.

Section 484(a)(1) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 [20 USC 1091(a)(1)] requires that a student must “not be enrolled in an elementary or secondary school” in order to be eligible for federal student aid for college. This requirement as was added by the Higher Education Technical Amendments of 1991 (P.L. 102-26) effective for periods of enrollment beginning on or after July 1, 1991. The regulations at 34 CFR 668.32(b) parallel the statutory requirements.

Students who are simultaneously enrolled in high school and college, regardless of whether through a formal dual enrollment program or their own doing, are not eligible for federal student aid. This requirement is in addition to the requirement that the student have the academic qualifications to pursue a college degree, such as a high school diploma, GED or a passing grade on an ability-to-benefit test. In other words, there are two separate criteria, one relating to dual enrollment and one relating to academic qualifications. Satisfying the criteria concerning academic qualifications does not necessarily mean that the student has also satisfied the requirements concerning dual enrollment.

The following is an excerpt from page 1-5 of the 2010-11 Federal Student Aid Handbook:

A student enrolled in elementary or secondary school is not eligible for aid from the FSA programs, even if she is simultaneously enrolled in an eligible college program. A student is considered to be enrolled in secondary school if she is pursuing a high school diploma or if she has completed the requirements for a diploma, has not yet received it, and either she is taking college coursework for which her high school gives credit or her high school still considers her to be enrolled there.

If a student is no longer enrolled in high school and also beyond the age of compulsory school attendance in the state, he should be eligible for federal student aid. Both conditions must be currently met for the student to be eligible for federal student aid. Colleges are required to award aid based on the student’s current eligibility, not the student’s future eligibility.


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