What Happens to Financial Aid When You Fail A Class?July 13, 2023
College can be incredibly challenging. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that only 64% of students complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrolling. Others withdraw or take longer due to the difficult material, demanding course load, or difficulties juggling academics with personal responsibilities.
To maintain your eligibility for financial aid, you must meet specific academic requirements throughout your time in school. If you fail classes or need to complete more credits, you may lose your scholarships, grants or loans.
How many classes can you fail with financial aid before you lose eligibility? Continue reading to find out.
How Many Classes Can You Fail With Financial Aid Before You Lose Eligibility?
To qualify for federal, state and institutional financial aid, you must make satisfactory academic progress (SAP). SAP is a term used by the U.S. Department of Education to describe the grades and pace of completion required to maintain eligibility for financial aid.
SAP refers to earning good enough grades and enough credits per semester to make progress toward your degree. Although colleges and universities are responsible for setting their own SAP requirements, schools’ rules affect the availability of federal financial aid.
Requirements vary by school, but here are a few examples of how colleges and universities define SAP:
- College of Central Florida: At the College of Central Florida, students must complete at least 67% of all credits taken, including transfer courses accepted by the school. To calculate the percentage, divide the number of completed credits by the number of attempted credits; the result is your completion rate. For example, if you took 12 credits but only passed seven, your completion rate would be 58%, and you wouldn’t meet the school’s SAP requirement.
- Oregon State University: For example, students must complete at least 67% of all attempted courses at Oregon State University. For example, if you took courses worth ten credits and passed five, your rate is 50%, and you wouldn’t meet the school’s SAP requirements.
- University of California-Santa Cruz: Full-time UC Santa Cruz students are expected to complete 15 credits per quarter. Students must complete 12 of those credits.
Besides setting requirements for how many credits you have to complete, schools also cap how many credits you can take over your college career. Generally, you can take up to 150% of the total credit hours required for your program. For example, if a bachelor’s degree program requires 180 credits, the maximum amount of credits you can take and remain eligible for financial aid is 270.
You must meet the SAP requirements to ensure you maintain your eligibility for federal, state and institutional aid.
What Happens If You Fail a Class
You don’t have to maintain straight As to keep your financial aid. And if you fail a single class, don’t panic — there is some wiggle room in how many credits you must complete relative to how many you attempt. College is difficult, so it’s common for students to struggle in some classes.
However, if you fail multiple classes, you risk losing financial aid. But it takes time and effort. Although every school has its policies, the following events are typical of many colleges:
- You receive a warning: The school may issue you a warning for the first semester if you don’t meet SAP requirements. If you improve the following semester and meet all the requirements, there’s no impact on your financial aid package. But if you don’t meet the SAP requirements again, the school will take additional action.
- Financial aid is suspended: If you don’t meet the SAP requirements after the warning, your eligibility for financial aid is suspended. You can continue to enroll in classes, but you’ll have to find alternative financing.
Tip: The loss isn’t permanent if you lose your aid eligibility. If you take classes and perform well, you can work with the financial aid office at your college to get reinstated.
What to Do If You Lose Your Financial Aid Due to Grades
If you struggled in class and lost your eligibility because you didn’t complete enough credits, there are a few things you can do:
- File an appeal: Some schools will let you appeal the financial aid suspension. Filing an appeal can be a good idea if extenuating circumstances affected your academic performance. For example, colleges will be more sympathetic and willing to give you another chance if you had a family member who was ill or passed away, lost your job, or had some other serious events.
- Attend a less expensive school: If you aren’t eligible for financial aid but want to keep working toward your degree, one option is to attend a less expensive school, such as a public university or community college. These programs tend to be much less expensive than private schools, and if you can commute to school, you can save money on room and board too.
- Enroll part-time: You can enroll as a half-time student to take fewer credits. Reducing the course load may help you recover academically. And if you have more time free, you may be able to work part-time and use your earnings to pay for those classes out of pocket.
- Search for private grants and scholarships: Scholarships and grants are available from non-profit organizations and private companies, and you may be eligible for some awards even if you have had trouble with your grades in the past. You can search for opportunities through The College Board and CareerOneStop.
- Consider private student loans: If you’ve lost your eligibility for federal grants and student loans, private student loans can cover the cost of the semester until you can improve your grades and regain eligibility.
Using Private Student Loans to Pay for School
If you’re wondering how many classes you can fail without losing financial aid, the answer depends on your college. Schools give you a little grace as you work toward your degree, but continued issues can cause you to lose your aid eligibility.
If that happens, private student loans can be essential until you qualify for other aid. And with ELFI, you can borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance and have up to 15 years to repay your loan. You can use the Find My Rate tool to view your options online.