Question: Do my class grades affect my availability to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and to earn federal financial aid? What things contribute to not getting less financial aid from years before?
First, you should always apply for the FAFSA
or renew your FAFSA each year, regardless of your circumstances. Billions of dollars in financial aid
are distributed to U.S. students each year.
Additionally, the Coronavirus pandemic has placed unforeseen burdens on students and their families—the Federal Government is aware of this. Universities, colleges, and the federal government are actively working to ensure students don’t miss out on financial aid because of the Pandemic
. if you don't submit the FAFSA, you won't know if you qualify for financial aid unless you try.
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Bad Grades & Federal Financial Aid
Yes, earning bad grades can hurt your federal financial aid availability. You must make satisfactory academic progress to remain eligible to receive and continue earning financial aid to help you pay for school.
According to StudentAid.gov
, “...you have to make good enough grades, and complete enough classes (credits, hours, etc.), to keep moving toward successfully completing your degree or certificate in a time period that’s acceptable to your school.”
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Your school establishes what qualifies as Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for students. Each college and university has an academic policy specific to financial aid.
This policy should include five key elements:
- The GPA you must maintain.
- The number of credit hours you’re expected to complete each academic year.
- How course changes such as withdrawals, incomplete classes, transfers or a major change affects your SAP.
- The timing your college or university will evaluate your SAP progress.
- What happens if you don’t meet your school’s SAP rules. This portion should also detail if you can appeal the decision and how to regain your FAFSA eligibility status.
Check with your college’s financial aid office to find out where you can find the full SAP guidelines and eligibility requirements for your school.
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Expected Family Contribution & Total Financial Aid
One of the biggest factors that can influence the amount of financial aid from year to year is your Expected Family Contribution. The FAFSA uses your Expected Family Contribution to determine how in need you are of funds in order to pay for college. Your college also uses your EFC to determine your financial aid award package. Meaning the more money your family makes, the less likely you are to need federal financial aid money to pay for college.
If your family income has increased, you may find you receive less federal financial aid from years past. Your college will also look at this increase and adjust your school financial aid award package too.
Some students look to part-time work to help them offset the cost of college; helping pay for college textbooks, rent and other college student essentials. However, if you recently took on a part-time job or picked up a few more hours of work each week, your increase in income can influence your EFC.
Nerd Wallet reports that any independent student can earn $6,660 without being penalized on the FAFSA. If you’re looking for a part-time job in fast food this summer, be mindful of the hours you work so you don’t change your EFC. You’ll be expected to report this income on your tax return and your FAFSA the following year.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay in 2019 in the food and beverage service industry was $11.06 per hour. A student would have to work 20 hours per week from May to September to make more than the $6,660 FAFSA cap. Any additional money (above the $6,660) would affect your EFC.
If you’re concerned about your income or your family’s income changes, use FinAid’s EFC Calculator to estimate your financial aid eligibility. From this, you can adjust your working hours to optimize the amount of federal financial aid you receive.
Scholarships to Pay for College
Financial aid and scholarships are not the same thing. While both pay for school, some instances of financial aid must be paid back, except for the Pell Grant and Federal Work Study Programs.
Federal Pell Grants are a form of financial aid for students from low-income families. In most circumstances the Pell Grant does not have to be paid back. If you qualify for Work Study, another form of financial aid, you’ll have the chance to work on campus or other approved Work Study jobs to help you pay for the cost of attendance.
Federal student loans are also considered financial aid. However, these must be paid back after college graduation.
Scholarships are won or earned by students and do not have to be paid back. Students should actively apply for scholarships throughout high school and college. This is free money given to you that you will not have to worry about paying back after college.
Just like completing the FAFSA, applying for scholarships takes effort. Consider making applying for scholarships a habit—some even recommend treating the scholarship application as a part-time job. Set a weekly or monthly scholarship goal and make it happen today.
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If you have financial aid questions or concerns, Finaid.org is a helpful resource. Check out their “Answering Your Questions” section to see if your concern has already been addressed, or to ask a new question.