Many people consider attending college to be an investment in their futures. Like any investment, this involves time and money. College tuition, student fees, books, housing and other costs can make earning a college degree quite expensive. One way to defray costs is to apply for government financial aid through the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Aid isn’t unconditional, however. If you fail to meet certain requirements, you may still need to repay money disbursed and may lose financial aid support for the following quarter or semester. Not passing a class isn’t an excuse for reneging on your obligation to repay certain types of aid.
The FAFSA asks students to enter information about their finances to determine how much they’ll be able to contribute to college costs. Dependent students must also list information about their parents’ finances. When determining aid awards, government calculations take into consideration your financial situation, the cost of college where you’ll be attending and your enrollment status (for example, full or part time). Financial aid packages might include loans, which must be repaid; grants, which don’t need to be repaid; and work-study arrangements.
Unsubsidized loans and subsidized loans must both be paid back eventually. Although the government subsidizes some loans by making payments on interest accrued while you’re enrolled in classes, you might choose to make interest payments on unsubsidized loans to defray future interest accrual. If you’ve used FAFSA loans to pay for college classes during a particular semester, it doesn’t matter whether you pass the class or not. Either way, you still need to repay the loans. If you’ve used FAFSA grants to pay for college classes, these don’t need to be repaid even if you didn’t pass the class. This is simply because grants don’t need to be repaid.
Not passing classes threatens your financial aid package whether you used loans, grants or both to pay tuition. Financial aid receipt is contingent upon making what’s called “satisfactory academic progress” in your classes. Students receive credit for classes in which they’ve earned an A, B, C, D or P (pass). You don’t receive academic credit for a failing grade. Enough accumulated F grades could jeopardize whether you meet credit requirements for receiving financial aid during the next semester or quarter.
Withdrawing from classes is slightly different from failing a class in that it doesn’t negatively affect your grade point average or transcripts. However, if you don’t pass a class because you’ve withdrawn instead of failing, the same rules apply with regard to FAFSA requirements. If you’ve used financial aid loans to pay for classes from which you’ve withdrawn, these loans will still need to be repaid. Grants don’t need to be repaid, but not earning sufficient credits for the academic period because of course withdrawals could still limit your access to financial aid.
If you’re worried that you might not pass a class, talk with your professor or teacher’s assistant for ideas on how to improve your grade. Visit the tutoring center for additional help. If you’re working full or part time, consider reducing your scheduled hours to devote more time to classes. If your grades are suffering because of a medical, emotional or family emergency, consider withdrawing from school and returning the financial aid money for that school year. You can try again another semester. It doesn’t make sense to go into student loan debt if there's little chance of passing classes.