Students work hard to get into college. They do their best to earn good grades, participate in extracurricular activities, study for the SATs® and ACTs®, and get great letters of recommendation.
If they cannot afford the hefty price tag for a college education, they can apply for federal financial aid using the FAFSA®, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 86% of undergraduate students received some form of financial aid during the 2017 to 2018 school year.
However, students aren’t guaranteed to receive financial aid. If students receive it one year, they might not get it the next.
It can be taken away for a variety of reasons–and sometimes the student has absolutely no control over it. But if they do lose their financial aid, there are options to help them try to get their aid reinstated.
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What Is Financial Aid Suspension?
Financial aid suspension occurs when financial assistance given to a student stops coming in.
Financial aid can come in the form of scholarships, loans, grants, and work-study programs. When students fill out the FAFSA®, they are applying for federal student aid.
After their application is reviewed, students will generally receive information on what aid they are eligible for, if any. When financial aid is being suspended, students will be notified as well, generally by the financial aid office at the school where the student is enrolled.
Common Reasons for Financial Aid Suspension
Financial aid suspensions can occur for a variety of reasons. Here are a few reasons a student may find there are issues with their aid.
Not Making Satisfactory Academic Progress
For example, in order to be eligible for certain financial aid and college financial aid, students need to be making Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP).
This means that students are required to be enrolled in a certain number of credit hours and be earning grades that are considered good enough to be working towards completing a degree or certificate in a certain time period.
SAP policies will often vary by school. Typically, SAP policies require students to maintain at least a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, which is a “C” average in classes.
If students receive scholarships, they may have to maintain a higher GPA than 2.0. To find out the SAP policy at a specific school, take a look at their website or the financial aid office.
Taking Too Long to Complete Degree
A student may experience financial aid suspension if they’ve been in school for too long. Federal financial aid is generally restricted based on the length of the program the student is enrolled in.
This information is generally listed in a school’s catalog. For example, federal aid is generally limited to six years for a Bachelor’s degree and three years for an Associate’s degree.
Not Applying for Aid Each Year
Students must apply for federal student aid by submitting a FAFSA each year that they are enrolled in school. Failing to submit the FAFSA means students may not receive federal aid for that year.
Additionally, when the FAFSA is filled out annually, a student may not receive the same amount or type of aid should their family’s financial situation change.
Making a Change to the Course of Study
Students could also lose federal aid if they switch majors and the aid was tied to their original major, they switched schools, they are not taking enough credits to qualify for the aid, or they previously defaulted on other student loans.
Not Meeting General Eligibility Requirements
In order to continue receiving federal aid, students will also need to continue meeting the general eligibility requirements set by the Department of Education.
If a student is not a citizen of the United States and their eligible noncitizen status expired or was revoked, then they would need to reinstate their status to keep receiving aid.
A student could also potentially lose federal financial aid if they were convicted for a drug offense or became incarcerated.
If it comes to light that a student’s high school diploma is not valid, or they have property subject to a judgment lien, that could also cause financial aid suspension.
Even though it can be frustrating and worrisome to lose financial aid, there are steps that students can take to hopefully get it back.
Appealing a Financial Aid Decision
One of the first things that students could do after they are notified that their financial aid is being suspended is to visit their school’s financial aid office. There students will generally be able to learn more about why they might be losing financial aid and if there is anything they can do about it, like file an appeal.
The appeals process will generally vary based on the school. In general, students can fill out a form and write an appeal letter to their college. In the appeals letter, students may consider sharing details about the circumstances surrounding their financial aid suspension.
For example, if a student’s loved one passed away that semester, the student may have become upset and unable to concentrate on their grades. Sometimes, students experience tough circumstances that have nothing to do with school, but their grades suffer. Schools understand that this happens and they may be willing to work with students who show they are still dedicated to their studies.
After writing the appeal letter, students can mail it or hand it into their financial aid office, depending on preferences and the process determined by the school. It can help to confirm that the office received it. In addition to writing an appeal letter, there are other ways that students can qualify for aid again, depending on the issue that caused the suspension of aid.
They may be able to study harder and bring their grades up, for instance. They could also enroll in more classes and get back on track to graduate in a certain amount of time. If they are an eligible noncitizen, they could figure out how to reinstate their status.
If they switched majors, they could look into other forms of financial aid for their new course of study. There are many ways to go about it–asking the financial office for guidance can provide insight to help the student get back on track.
In some scenarios, students may lose financial aid for the year and then be able to reapply through FAFSA the next year. If they still don’t receive aid, then students may need to look into alternative options to pay for their education.
Avoiding Financial Mistakes in College
If students went through financial aid suspension and couldn’t appeal the decision, they should figure out ways in which they can pay for school without hurting their financial future.
For instance, they may want to reconsider staying in the dorms and on an expensive college meal plan if they can’t afford it. If they do continue to live and eat on campus, they could run up a huge bill that in and of itself could take years to pay off.
While it may be tempting to put extra expenses on a credit card, debt can add up quickly. Students who use a credit card but are unable to pay off their balance every month could end up graduating with student loan debt and credit card debt. Credit card debt can have relatively high interest rates which can make them difficult to pay off.
Additionally, while going to an expensive private school may seem more prestigious, state schools can also be solid options, offering rigorous programs as well.
I Lost My Financial Aid–How Do I Pay For School?
There are many students wondering how to pay for school if they no longer have financial aid–and thankfully, there are a number of ways to pay for school.
One option for students is to consider cheaper schools and possibly transfer to a school that offers a lower tuition or where they may qualify for a more competitive aid package or scholarship.
If a student isn’t able to transfer, or already goes to a less expensive school, then they could try to find a job on or off campus and start earning money to pay for their education.
Students might also consider budgeting and cutting costs as needed. A few options to cut expenses might include opting to use public transportation instead of driving, moving to cheaper housing off-campus, cooking meals at home instead of eating out, or limiting how much they spend on entertainment.
They also may consider turning to family members for help. If their parents are able to help pay for their college or take out loans to pay for it, this could be an option.
Another option some students may look into is borrowing private student loans. Before applying for a private student loan, it is important to compare different lenders and loan terms. Each lender will generally have their own eligibility requirements for lending so it’s worth looking around at different options.
Unlike federal student loans, private student loans generally require a credit check. Lenders will use this information, and other factors, to determine the interest rate and loan terms the applicant will qualify for.
Students interested in borrowing a private student loan could consider SoFi as one option. There are no fees for an application, origination, or prepayments. Students can find out if they qualify, and at what rates, online in minutes. Applicants can also add a co-signer entirely online. Borrowers will also be able to access SoFi’s valuable resources like career coaching and member events at a time when they need it the most.
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