How Your Course Load Affects College Financial Aid and Student Loan Help

If you are using college financial aid to pay for your education, you need to understand how your course load affects financing. Being approved for loans depends on several factors, including financial need, your performance/progress as a student, your expected family contribution, and the number of credit hours for which you are enrolled. See how your course load will impact your borrowing, whether it’s federal or private.

Course load and federal college financial aid

Your federal college financial aid assumes you will be attending school at least part-time. In fact, some college financial aid is given in direct proportion to the number of credit hours you are taking. The amount of a Federal Pell grant award, for example, is awarded after taking into account your expected family contribution and whether you are enrolled in school full-time, part-time or even less than that. To understand how your specific financial aid package will be affected by altering your enrollment hours, it is best to sit down with your college loan advisor.

Course load and private college loans

Many private lenders will also require you to be enrolled in school at least part-time to be eligible for student loan help. If you are borrowing private student loans, be sure to work with your lender to fully understand the borrowing terms. Carrying too few credits can cause you to become ineligible for private college loans. Additionally, dropping below the part-time status requirement means you’ll have to start repaying your loans sooner than you expected.

Leaving school and college financial aid

If you decide part way through your education to withdraw from classes, you immediately enter the six-month grace period that precedes required payments on your college loans. This is also true if you drop below part-time status. Talk with you financial aid advisor before withdrawing from classes to see how it will impact the student aid package you received. In some cases, you may even have to repay federal grants if you do not complete a required number of credit hours, and scheduled future loan distribution may be impacted.

Be an informed borrower

Even if you have no intention of dropping below full-time status as a student, it’s important to understand the terms of your federal and private college loans in the event that your plans change. Understanding the full obligation of your loans can help you make smarter decisions about your future and maintain a positive credit score.