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Does Withdrawing From a Class Affect Financial Aid?

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Withdrawing from a class could affect your financial aid if it means you are no longer making “satisfactory academic progress.” Each college defines satisfactory academic progress differently, but wherever you go to school, you must maintain it to keep receiving financial aid.

Even if you can’t stand the class, be cautious about dropping it before understanding the impact it could have on your financial aid. Let’s take a closer look at four things you should know:

Withdrawing from a class can affect financial aid

Federal financial aid is available to just about anyone who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and enrolled in a qualifying school. But the eligibility requirements for financial aid don’t end once you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In order to keep your aid year after year, you must maintain satisfactory academic progress throughout your college life.

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.

So if you’re wondering what happens to your financial aid if you drop a class, you can see that dropping a class could disrupt your academic progress and, as a result, cause you to lose your financial aid.

Every college has its own definition of 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 complete at least 67% of their attempted credit hours and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0.

So make sure you ask your financial aid office if dropping a class affects your financial aid 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.

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 programs.

You should consider your financial aid before dropping a class

Dropping a class with financial aid 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 withdrawing from a class has already affected your financial aid, take steps to regain your eligibility.

In the meantime, you might need to find other ways to pay for college, whether it’s earning income through a part-time job, taking on a side hustle or applying for a private student loan.

Whatever you choose, make it a priority to get back on track in school. That way, you can graduate with your degree on time.


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