We’ve all suffered through a boring class or lecturing teacher. If this happens in college, you might be tempted to drop the class from your schedule completely.
But if you’ve already received financial aid after submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), dropping a class could threaten it. With the average full-time student receiving $14,400 in aid during the 2016-2017 academic year, according to The College Board, this loss could seriously hinder your ability to pay for school.
So, before you upset your FAFSA by dropping a class, you first need to find out how your financial aid could be impacted. Although the details might vary from college to college, here’s why your class schedule matters when it comes to financial aid.
How are the FAFSA and dropping a class related?
Federal financial aid is available to just about anyone who’s a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and enrolled in a qualifying school. To get your hands on federal student loans, grants, or work-study, you must fill out and submit the FAFSA.
But the eligibility requirements for financial aid don’t end once you submit the FAFSA. In order to keep your aid year after year, you must maintain “satisfactory academic progress” throughout your college career.
So, what is satisfactory academic progress? It’s usually defined in two ways. You must do the following:
Be on track to finish your degree on time. This means you’re taking enough classes and earning enough credits each year to graduate within a defined period of time.
Earn passing grades in your courses. For most schools, this means you’re maintaining at least a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
Some colleges allow you to drop a class without consequence in the first week or two of the semester. But after that period, your schedule is pretty much fixed. If you drop a class after that period, you could lose credits and hurt your GPA.
Dropping a class, then, can disrupt your academic progress and, as a result, cause you to lose your financial aid.
Every college uniquely defines satisfactory academic progress
Although the Office of Federal Student Aid requires you to maintain satisfactory academic progress to keep your aid, it’s actually up to each college to set a standard.
You’ll need to check with your school’s financial aid office to learn how many credits you need to take each semester, as well as what GPA you must earn to stay eligible for aid.
For example, New York University (NYU) states that its students must earn an average of 32 credit points each year, as well as maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0. Plus, anyone in a four-year program must complete all the requirements for their degree within four years.
So make sure you ask your financial aid office how the FAFSA and dropping a class are related before proceeding. If this move could disrupt your academic progress and cost you your financial aid, you’ll either need to keep the class or figure out how to regain your eligibility.
You could regain your financial aid
Sometimes, falling behind on your academic progress is unavoidable. In the case of a medical issue, family emergency, or financial hardship, you might need to drop some classes or withdraw completely.
But even if you lose your eligibility for financial aid due to dropping a class, don’t lose hope. It’s possible to regain your eligibility.
In most cases, you’ll need to get back on track academically by adding courses to your schedule and boosting your GPA. NYU will even give you an extra semester of aid if you fall behind, but only if you can restore your academic progress within that time.
Whether you’ve already fallen behind or expect you will soon, you should communicate with your financial aid office about how to get back in good standing. And if you had a good reason your grades slipped, such as a family or medical emergency, it might be possible to file an appeal.
Stay in touch with your school’s financial aid office so you have all the information you need to regain your student loans, grants, or work-study.
Consider your financial aid before dropping a class
Dropping a class won’t necessarily affect your FAFSA and financial aid award. If you’re taking extra classes, for instance, you could probably afford to remove one from your schedule.
But if dropping a class costs you essential credits or harms your GPA, you might not meet the FAFSA’s requirement of satisfactory academic progress.
So before cutting courses from your schedule, find out how your FAFSA and dropping a class are related. And if you’ve already lost financial aid, take steps to regain your eligibility.
Whatever you choose, make it a priority to get back on track in school. That way, you can graduate with your degree in a timely manner.
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