Financial aid makes it easier for college students to afford tuition and other educational expenses, but there are some scenarios where you may lose your financial aid. While you can get it back in some circumstances, you may need to consider alternatives in the meantime.

Here’s what to know about financial aid suspension, how losing financial aid can impact you and what steps you can take to get it back.

Reasons why you lose financial aid

There are a handful of situations that can cause you to lose financial aid:

  • Your income or your parents’ income increased: Certain forms of financial aid are dependent on your income and your parents’ income. If that income has increased beyond a set threshold, your financial aid package may be reduced accordingly.
  • You didn’t maintain satisfactory academic progress: One of the many requirements you need to meet to keep your financial aid is to maintain a certain GPA set by your school. If your grades dipped below that or you have an incomplete class or withdrawal, it could cause you to lose access to all financial aid, including federal loans.
  • You’re not enrolled half time: You need to be enrolled at least half time in order to access some forms of federal financial aid. If you’re taking a lighter course load this semester, you may not qualify for federal student loans unless you add more credits to your schedule.
  • You’ve advanced in your program: Some schools offer certain types of financial aid for incoming freshmen, but once you’ve advanced in your program, those school-specific forms of financial aid may no longer be available.
  • You’re incarcerated: If you’re incarcerated in a federal or state institution, you won’t be eligible for most forms of federal financial aid. If you’re incarcerated in an institution that’s not federal- or state-run, however, you may be able to get a Pell Grant.
  • You don’t meet other basic eligibility requirements: The U.S. Department of Education maintains a list of basic eligibility requirements for federal financial aid. It covers things like citizenship, enrollment, student loan default and other criteria. If your school’s financial aid office finds that you’re missing one or more of these requirements, you may lose your financial aid altogether.

Different schools have different programs for their students, but federal financial aid suspension carries from one school to another because it’s coming from the federal government, not the educational institution. If you lose eligibility for aid at one school and then transfer, you won’t automatically regain eligibility.

How to get your financial aid back

Depending on the situation, you may have had your financial aid reduced or removed altogether. Regardless, the process of regaining it will depend on the reason you lost it.

In some instances, such as when your school doesn’t offer certain scholarships to upperclassmen or your parents’ income has increased and likely won’t go back down, you may not be able to get back what you’ve lost.

But in other cases, the steps you need to take are directly related to the reason for suspension. For example, if you’re incarcerated, you’ll need to wait until you’re released. If you’ve defaulted on a federal student loan, you’ll need to get the loan out of default. And if you’re not enrolled at least half time, you’ll need to add more classes to reach that threshold.

If you’ve lost your financial aid because of academic issues, you can appeal the decision with your school’s financial aid office. There may have been extenuating circumstances, such as a death in the family or a long-term illness, that made it difficult for you to meet the university’s requirements, and providing that information could help you overturn the decision.

If you’re unsure about the reason for losing financial aid or how to proceed, reach out to your school’s financial aid office for details and assistance.

How to pay for college without financial aid

There are a handful of ways you can get the funding you need to pay your tuition and other expenses even if you’ve lost your federal financial aid.

Scholarships and grants

Depending on the situation, you may still be able to get scholarships and grants from your school. If not, take some time to search various scholarship search engines and apply for scholarships and grants from private organizations.

These programs are separate from the federal financial aid program, so you don’t have to worry about your financial aid suspension affecting your eligibility.

Student loans

If your income or your parents’ has increased or you’ve simply lost school-specific financial aid, you may still be able to take out federal student loans.

However, if your situation has caused you to lose access to all federal financial aid, you may have to consider private student loans instead. Unlike federal loans, private student loans require a credit check, which means that you may need a parent to co-sign the loan.

If you don’t have a co-signer, you may also consider an income-share agreement, which provides you with the money you need right now in exchange for payments based on a percentage of your income after you graduate.

Part- or full-time work

Depending on your course load and other factors, you may be able to get a part- or even full-time job while you’re in school. Even if you can’t work much during the school year, you could work full-time during the summer to earn some money to pay for at least part of your college expenses.

Consider a more affordable option

Remember, federal financial aid suspension will carry over to another school. But if you transfer to an online school, a community college or a state university, you may be able to reduce your expenses enough to make college more affordable. And if you’ve lost your eligibility due to poor grades, you can use this opportunity to work hard to bring your grades back up.

Before you transfer, though, check to see how many of your credits will transfer from your current school and whether they’ll still count toward your degree. In some cases, one school’s required course may be considered an elective course by another.

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