What Happens if You Failed a Class in College With Financial Aid? Your Options Explained
Failing a class in college is not ideal, but not the end of the world. This article dives into your next options.
College is an adjustment for many incoming students. A bad transition means you could face negative consequences, like failing a class. This could hurt anyone who benefits from financial aid.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, doesn’t just happen before you enroll in college. You’ll need to complete the FAFSA every year to continue receiving aid. So if you fail a class in college while receiving financial aid, you could lose out on future aid. Here’s what happens if you fail a class in college and how you can manage your financial aid.
What happens if you fail a class?
Failing a class is difficult for any student to process, but that doesn’t mean the world is over. If you failed one class, but received strong marks in the rest of your courses, you should be fine.
Each institution has its own satisfactory academic process, but for the most part, you should maintain a “C” average to continue receiving aid. If one “F” doesn’t bring you below that average, your aid won’t change. If you’re unsure of what is satisfactory at your school, check with your college’s financial aid office.
Will a failed class hurt my financial aid?
Since each school determines its own satisfactory academic progress, you’ll need to check with them to see if your GPA drops below satisfactory. If it does, you could lose future aid, including the Pell Grant and other federal awards.
If you can maintain your school’s minimum GPA for receiving financial aid, a failed class won’t end your aid. It will only hurt if you can’t rebound after a big enough drop.
What happens if I lose my financial aid because of a failed class?
Losing your financial aid isn’t final. If you end up becoming ineligible due to a drop in your GPA, you’ll go on academic probation.
Academic probation is for students who don’t make satisfactory academic progress after getting evaluated. Depending on your school, you might receive financial aid during your probation. But if you haven’t met the minimum requirements to regain satisfactory academic progress at the end of the probationary period, you could lose your financial aid for the next semester.
You can appeal your school’s decision on your failure to make academic progress, especially if you didn’t stay up to par based on extreme hardships, like a death in your family, you suffered a major illness, or other circumstances beyond your control. Some schools limit how many appeals you can submit.
All your aid is on the line
It’s not just federal aid that is at risk if you fail a class. If your GPA falls below a certain threshold, you could lose other types of scholarships, grants, and funding opportunities.
If you received a grant from a nonprofit, business, or other entity, they may have their own requirements for continuing to receive money. Not all scholarships and grants require this, especially if they are one-off awards. But if you're getting funding every year for a set amount of time, you might need to maintain certain standards or you risk losing that funding as well. Check your eligibility requirements to see if you’re still on track to receive those funds.
What happens if you lose your financial aid?
If a failed class results in losing your aid, you might not have enough — or any — cash on hand to pay for your upcoming classes. But there are a few ways you can explore extra funding in a pinch.
- Emergency student loans. If you only need a few hundred dollars to get by, you can ask your college or university if they offer emergency student loans. These are usually low-dollar amounts, and sometimes interest-free, but must be repaid within a few weeks or a couple months, depending on the rules set by your school. If you don’t pay back your loan on time, your school might not let you graduate.
- Private student loans. Rather than borrowing from the federal government, private student loans come from private lenders, like banks, credit unions, and online lenders. If you don’t have much of a credit history, you can ask a parent or friend who has great credit to serve as a cosigner. Keep in mind that if you fail to repay your private student loans, your credit score will tank — and so will your cosigner’s. Many lenders have minimum borrowed amount requirements, so if you need a couple thousand dollars to cover college costs, this might be a good option. But you don’t get all the same benefits as federal student loans. For instance, you’re usually responsible for all the accrued interest while you’re in school, compared to unsubsidized federal loans, which cover your interest during college.
- Get on a payment plan. While it’s not extra funding, a payment plan can help you stay in good financial standing without missing school. Talk to your financial aid office to see what you can work out.
- Find a job. If you don’t already have one, this might be time to get a job.
- Ask for help. Consider asking your friends or family to cover some expenses until you get back on your feet.
Losing financial aid not only hurts your chances of attending classes, it also devotes a lot of time and resources that could otherwise be used for coursework. Be proactive with whatever option you choose and don’t be afraid to talk to your financial aid office to explore other ways you can pay for your education.
Dori Zinn is an award-winning journalist based in South Florida. Her work has appeared in Wirecutter, Bankrate, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, Quartz, Credit Karma, Huffington Post. She has a decade of experience covering credit, debt, budgeting, investing, real estate, financial literacy, and other related personal finance topics.
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