As students plan for college and make their way through courses and major selections, they need to keep in mind a few hard truths about financial aid
. For one, qualifying for aid and keeping it are two separate things.
H2: Can a Student Be Cut Off from Financial Aid for Taking Too Many Credits?
A student can only qualify for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA
). They must complete this form every year that they are enrolled in college or graduate school.
At the same time, they have to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress
, or SAP, which is measured not just by GPA but by how well a student is progressing along their graduation timeframe. If a student begins to fall short on either of these, their financial aid could be in jeopardy.
What are the Maximum Credits for Full-Time Students?
A typical bachelor’s degree takes 120 credits, which is about 40 courses. However, there is a maximum on credit hours, meaning that if you go over that amount, you will no longer have access to financial aid.
The 150 financial aid rule prohibits students from going 150% over the normal graduation timeframe
, which is six years for a bachelor’s degree and three years for an Associate’s degree. Once a student goes over this timeframe, they or no longer eligible for federal student aid, and often, institutional aid as well.
This is especially dangerous for students who have changed majors
. Depending on how far along a student is in their major, it may be best to simply graduate with that degree to retain financial aid eligibility. Graduating resets the clock, allowing the student to pursue a certification or associate’s degree in the new field.
Another option is to transfer to a different school
. A different institution may be able to work around the 150 financial aid rule by eliminating some of the credits already taken. Perhaps they don’t transfer or don’t qualify toward the intended major. In that case, students can wind back the clock on their credit hours.
Credit Hour Requirements for Financial Aid
Just like there are maximum credit hours for financial aid per semester, there is also a minimum requirement. Students must be enrolled at least part-time to remain eligible for aid
If students are enrolled just part-time, their financial aid will be distributed at 50%. There are, however, specific grants and programs
that require students to be enrolled full-time to qualify.
What Other Factors Can Affect Financial Aid?
For students to qualify for financial aid, they must demonstrate financial need. As mentioned above, they also need to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress. There are, however, a few more factors that can affect financial aid.
At the beginning of the semester, you must prove that you are actually attending the classes to which you enrolled. For that reason, professors and teacher assistants
(TAs) will be taking attendance. If you are not coming to class at the start of the semester, your financial aid could be revoked.
Course Drops vs. Withdrawals
Financial aid can be affected if you drop a course or withdraw
. Keep in mind the differences between both as you adjust your schedule:
- Course Drop
– During the add/drop period of the semester, you may drop a course, and it will be completely withdrawn from your transcript. You will also not be charged for the course. A course drop may affect your full-time student status. Dropping below full-time can impact financial aid eligibility.
– A course withdrawal will not result in any loss of aid. However, if you completely withdraw from your college or university, your financial aid will be prorated to cover only the time that you were enrolled.
Students that intend to graduate early
– for instance, in December – will have their financial aid prorated to cover only the semester that they’re enrolled. If you’ve been awarded aid for the entire year, you can expect that your aid will be cut in half.
Full-time students will be able to take advantage of all aid forms offered to them through their aid package. Financial aid for part-time students will be limited or prorated. Finally, students attending less than part-time will not receive aid.
Repeating a Class
If, for whatever reason, you retake a class that you have already taken and passed, financial aid cannot be used to offset the cost of that particular course.
Missing FAFSA Verification Deadline
Each year, a number of FAFSAs are selected for verification, which means your form will be examined more closely for any discrepancies. Though the FAFSA verification process
will not impact your aid distribution, your financial aid will be withheld if you do not submit all of the necessary materials before your FAFSA verification deadline.
Financial Aid and Course Credits
While financial aid is discussed very generally, there are always special or unique circumstances that impact aid on an individual and institutional level. If you ever have questions about access to your aid, contact a Financial Aid Officer at your school.
They will be able to look at your schedule as well as your FAFSA to ensure that you’re on track to receiving the financial aid you need to pay for school.