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Having access to federal financial aid can make it easier to afford a college education. But if you lose your eligibility for aid, you may be on your own. Fortunately, there may be options for regaining financial eligibility after its suspension. Here's what you need to know.
Possible Reasons for Financial Aid Suspension
There are several reasons why the Department of Education or your school may revoke or suspend your eligibility for federal financial aid:
- You don't meet basic eligibility requirements. The Office of Federal Student Aid maintains a list of basic eligibility requirements to receive federal financial aid. It includes things like being a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, being enrolled or accepted to enroll in an eligible program and more.
- You've fallen below half-time status. You must be enrolled at least half time to receive federal aid. Each school has its own definition for half-time enrollment, but it's generally six credit hours per semester for undergraduate students and four and a half credit hours for graduate students.
- You haven't maintained satisfactory academic progress. To be eligible for aid, students must maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) set by their school and be on a path to complete their program of study within 150% of its standard length, or within the maximum period allowed by the school for graduate programs.
- Your or your parents' income has increased. If you or your parents are earning more money, you may no longer be eligible for certain types of federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants and subsidized federal student loans. In this instance, however, you may still be eligible for other types of aid, such as unsubsidized loans.
- You're incarcerated. If you're incarcerated in a federal or state institution, you won't be eligible for Pell Grants or federal student loans, and opportunities for other forms of federal aid will be limited. If you're incarcerated in another type of institution, you can still get Pell Grants but won't be eligible for federal loans.
- You've defaulted on federal student loans. If you're trying to go back to school, but one or more of your federal student loans are in default, you won't be able to obtain more federal aid.
How to Get Back Your Financial Aid Eligibility
Unfortunately, it isn't always possible to regain your financial aid eligibility. But depending on the reason you lost it, you may have some options available to you:
- Contact your school's financial aid office. Speak with someone about the reasons for your suspension and the steps you'll need to take to get back on track.
- Appeal the suspension. If your grades slipped due to extenuating circumstances, such as a death in the family, an illness or other reasons outside of your control, you may be able to appeal your financial aid office's decision and regain your eligibility.
- Improve your grades. If you fell behind in school for other reasons, you may need to pay for tuition out of pocket or rely on other ways to pay for college while you work to improve your grades. In some cases, it might make sense to transfer to a less expensive school, such as a community college, to get back on track.
- Get out of default. If you have federal student loans in default, consider your options to get them out of default, which include rehabilitation and consolidation.
- Be patient. If you've lost eligibility due to incarceration or another reason that you can't control right now, you may simply need to wait until your situation changes before you can apply again.
Ways to Afford College Without Financial Aid
While federal financial aid can make a huge difference in your ability to afford a college education, it's far from the only way to do it. Here are some alternatives to consider:
- Look for private scholarships and grants. Websites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb maintain databases of millions of opportunities for scholarships and grants offered by private organizations. Amounts and eligibility criteria can vary greatly, but with enough time and research, you may be able to receive a significant amount of assistance.
- Switch to a less expensive school. If you're struggling to cover the costs at your current school, it may make sense to switch to a less expensive option, even if only temporarily.
- Attend school part time. While it may take longer, attending college part time while you work full time can make it easier for you to afford your educational expenses.
- See if your employer can help. Many employers offer tuition assistance programs that can help you cover the cost of some or all of your tuition and related expenses. Just keep in mind that some may require you to work for a minimum amount of time before you're eligible for the program.
- Consider private student loans. Private student loans can be difficult to obtain for college students who haven't had the chance to build a credit history or earn income, but it can be possible if you've gotten those opportunities. If not, you may consider asking a parent to cosign a parent student loan.
If you're looking for ways to pay for school without the help of federal financial aid, consider all of your options to determine the best fit for you.
Build Your Credit to Expand Your Borrowing Options
While there are ways to pay for college without borrowing money, it's no small task. As you work to find the right path for you, take some time to work on building your credit history so that you'll have more opportunities to borrow in the future, if necessary.
Experian Go™ is a free service that can help you by providing resources, insights and tools to help you build a healthy credit history. You'll also get access to your FICO® Score☉ and Experian credit report, so you can track your progress.