Drops and Withdrawals â€“ How Both Affect Your Federal Student Aid
After registering for classes, if you decide a class (or classes) is not a good fit, you have two different options for removing yourself from the class. You can either drop the class or withdraw from the class. Keep in mind that each school has their own policies on drops and withdrawals, but drops typically are only acceptable in the first week of classes, while a withdrawal can occur throughout the duration of the class. Dropping or withdrawing from a class is an option if you do not feel like you are going to be successful in the class, but please keep in mind that any decision you make could have a significant impact on your Federal Student Aid (FSA).
As stated before, a drop is typically only allowed during the first week of classes. When you drop a class, it does not affect your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). However, it can affect your enrollment status, which in turn can affect your FSA. Changing enrollment status can have an impact on your prior student loans, deferments, and grace periods. Here are a couple examples.
Kevin starts out the semester with 12 credit hours. After the first meeting for his Math 101 class, he feels that he is not going to be able to succeed and he drops the class. If Kevin does not pick up another class, his enrollment status drops from full time to three quarter time (please keep in mind that three quarter time will be reported as half time until changes take effect July 01, 2014). This could potentially cause Kevin to lose part of his FSA, as he was packaged for full time attendance. If he does add another class within the appropriate time frame (the first week), his enrollment status will go back up to full time and his FSA will not be affected.
On the other hand, you can withdraw from a class any time during the duration of the class (again, check your school’s policy for specifics). A withdrawal WILL affect your SAP, and unless a passing grade is not salvageable, withdrawing is rarely recommended.
If Kevin was in the same scenario as above, but it took him four weeks of class meetings to decide he was not going to be successful in Math 101, Kevin would withdraw from the class and drop to three quarter time enrollment status. This would affect his FSA in the same way — he would potentially lose some of his FSA for changing his enrollment status. At this point, he may not be able to add another class, thus resulting in his enrollment status for the semester never reaching Full Time again.
Dropping or withdrawing from classes frequently is not encouraged. Not only will it affect your FSA, but withdrawals will affect your SAP (which in turn could possibly make you ineligible for future FSA). In addition, if your enrollment status ever falls below half time, you are required by the Department of Education to complete Loan Exit Counseling. Therefore, it is sound practice to select your courses carefully. Also, if a class becomes hard or unmanageable, you should exhaust every other option (tutoring, talking with your professor, better time management) before withdrawing from or dropping a class. The best way to maximize your FSA usage is to complete your entire course load each semester.
By Ryan Laspina
Compliance and Default Prevent Specialist at American Public University System