With the cost of higher education these days, more and more families are relying on financial aid in order to put their kids through college.
When you receive your financial aid package, make sure you take the fine print seriously!
You don’t just need to know where the money is coming from, how much will have to be paid back, and when. It is also essential that you understand that the support is conditional.
College students who struggle to keep their grades up run the risk of losing their financial support. A poor GPA can lead to financial aid probation or even suspension.
The Differences Between Financial Aid Probation and Suspension
When you sign a financial aid agreement, you are not simply receiving free money.
You agree to pursue a college degree with the money you are given and to do it at a reasonable pace with demonstrated effort.
These expectations are officially known as the Standards of Satisfactory Progress.
Generally, students in an undergraduate program must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 and stay on track to complete their degree within five years.
The requirement is even more stringent for graduate students, who must maintain a 3.0 GPA and also have five years to complete a Master’s program.
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Those given the honor of a scholarship will likely face even higher GPA demands.
Anyone who runs afoul of the Standards of Satisfactory Progress will face the consequences in the form of either financial aid probation or financial aid suspension—which means you risk losing your financial aid funds.
It’s important that you understand the differences between them so you can be aware of your options and how to fix the problem if you are faced with one of these penalties.
If a student violates the standards in some way, then they are put on financial aid probation.
Probation is somewhat less severe than suspension. In essence, this is your first warning that you need to improve your marks.
Those on financial aid probation can still receive their funds, but they must use their next semester to pull up their grades, and they must finish three consecutive terms in which they complete 100% of their credits.
Anyone who cannot achieve these requirements will be placed under financial aid suspension and lose all of their monetary assistance.
Students can also have their aid suspended if their GPA drops below a 1.75 or if they fail to complete 75% of the credits they take.
Financial aid suspension varies from school to school, but it will affect your aid across the board (federal, state, other) and it makes regaining your eligibility for aid quite difficult.
In many cases, you will have to wait for a long period of time before you can apply to merely have the right to receive financial aid. In the meantime, you must demonstrate that you are working hard to improve your grades while you are forced to pay for college out of pocket.
The Right To Appeal
Luckily, if you find yourself facing financial aid suspension, you do have the right to appeal the decision.
Start by writing a very professional and fact-based letter to the Director of Financial Aid at your school. Explain in your own words the reasons for your decline in performance.
Don’t attempt to make excuses for yourself, but do provide evidence to help plead your case. For example, if your GPA dropped because of medical reasons, including a doctor’s note describing your condition.
Most importantly, explain the specific steps you are going to take, or have taken, since your suspension in order to improve your performance and maintain the Standards of Satisfactory Progress.
A few days after sending your letter, follow up with the financial aid office to make sure they received your materials. This shows that you are taking it seriously and that maintaining your financial aid is important to you.
If your appeal to the Financial Aid Director fails, you can also send an appeal letter to the Academic Dean.
However, your safest bet will always be to work hard to maintain your grades and complete your degree in a timely fashion so that you won’t have to deal with probation or suspension in the first place!