What Disqualifies You From Student Aid (and How to Pay for College If This Happens)

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how to pay for college

If you need help paying for school, you know federal student aid is the best place to start. Beyond grants and work-study programs, the federal government also offers low-interest student loans with flexible payment plans and even forgiveness programs. Utilizing your federal aid options can help make college more affordable.

However, it’s possible to lose your eligibility for federal aid. In certain circumstances, you might not be able to apply for grants or even take out federal loans. If you’re struggling to figure out how to pay for college, here’s what you need to know about losing and regaining your federal aid eligibility.

3 situations that disqualify you from federal student aid

If you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you likely qualify to receive federal aid. However, you don’t necessarily stay eligible forever. It’s possible to lose your eligibility in the following situations.

1. You’ve been convicted of a drug offense

If you were convicted of a drug offense while receiving federal aid, such as grants, loans, or a work-study program, you’ll no longer be eligible to receive future aid.

If you do receive federal aid after a drug conviction and the government finds out, you’ll have to repay any financial aid you received.

2. You’re in default on your federal student loans

If you have federal student loans in default, you’re ineligible to receive federal aid. Your loans are considered to be in default if you fall behind on payments by 270 days or more.

Entering default has serious consequences. Besides no longer qualifying for federal aid, you could also face wage garnishment or even lose your tax refund.

3. You haven’t made satisfactory academic progress

To continue to qualify for federal student aid, including student loans, you need to make satisfactory academic progress. That means you must be earning good enough grades and completing enough credits to earn your degree within an acceptable time frame.

Each school has its own policies on what counts as satisfactory progress for financial aid, including:

  • What GPA you need to maintain

  • How quickly you move toward graduation

  • How often the school will evaluate your progress

  • What happens if you don’t make satisfactory progress

Check your student handbook for guidance on what criteria you need to meet. You can also contact your school’s financial aid office.

How to pay for college if you’re ineligible for federal aid

Finding out that you don’t qualify for federal student aid can be devastating. But it’s important that you don’t give up hope. You can still achieve your academic goals by exploring these alternatives.

1. Fix your situation

Losing your federal aid eligibility is a big deal. However, it’s not always permanent. In some circumstances, you might be able to regain eligibility.

Here’s what you can do to fix your situation in the following scenarios:

  • If you were convicted of a drug offense: If your status was suspended because of a drug conviction, you can regain eligibility ahead of schedule by completing an approved drug rehabilitation program or by passing two unannounced drug tests.

  • If you defaulted on your loans: You can become eligible for federal aid by getting out of default. You can do so by entering a loan rehabilitation program or by paying your debt off in full. For more information, check out this article on ways to get out of default.

  • If your grades slipped or you didn’t complete enough credit hours: If you didn’t meet your school’s academic progress requirements, contact your financial aid office about how to get back on track. You might be able to regain eligibility by completing a semester with a full course load and maintaining good grades.

2. Research scholarships and grants

When you’re thinking of how to pay for college, make sure you explore options beyond federal aid. There are a number of private scholarships and grants you might qualify for despite any issues you’ve had in the past.

Best of all, most grants and scholarships are “free money.” That means you usually don’t have to pay them back like you do with student loans. Scholarships and grants can help reduce how much you have to spend on your education and how much you need to borrow in loans.

Here are the best places to find free money for college.

3. Consider private student loans

If you’ve exhausted your other options, private student loans can help you fill the gap. Unlike federal loans, private student loans come from private banks or financial organizations. They have different eligibility requirements, so you might be able to qualify for a private loan even if you’re ineligible for federal ones.

Private loans do tend to have higher interest rates and stricter repayment terms than federal loans. However, if you need money to complete your degree, private loans can be an important tool to get an education.

Financing your education

Figuring out how to pay for college can be overwhelming, especially if you find out that you no longer qualify for federal student aid. However, it’s important not to let those setbacks keep you from finishing your degree. By researching your available options, you can get back on track and get your diploma.

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.