Deciding to make the transition from a full-time to a part-time student or vice versa is a choice that can significantly impact degree completion time, financial aid eligibility amounts, the amount of financial aid that they are eligible to receive and eligibility for certain tax benefits. Anyone considering a change in student status needs to be as informed about the possible effects of this change as possible.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time Student Status

In terms of classes and course work, the difference between a full-time and a part-time student is determined by the number of credit hours she is enrolled for each semester. A full-time student is a student who is taking the amount of credit hours that the college or university that they are attending considers a full course load. The amount of credit hours varies by institution, but for undergraduates, 12 to 14 credit hours and above, per semester, usually qualifies a student for full-time student status. Any amount of credit hours below the full-time amount is considered to be part-time.

Financial Aid Differences

The financial aid differences between a part-time and full-time student are important for decision-making. Students enrolled on a full-time basis are usually entitled to more financial aid and grant money then part-time students. A student who drops to part-time student status during the course of a semester may be required to repay funds from grants and loans they received at the beginning of the semester.

Tax Benefits

Full-time and part-time students are eligible for certain tax credits under federal law provided they meet the necessary income and eligibility requirements. Students can check with their school’s financial aid office, their state's Department of Education and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to determine eligibility. In terms of financial aid requirements. Students decreasing from full-time vs. part-time student status during the course of a school year or semester may lose their eligibility for certain tax credits.

Other Benefits and Considerations

Both full-time and part-time students can qualify for student discounts on movies and products by showing a valid student ID. The difference between full-time and part-time students may mean eligibility for benefits that part time students don't have access to like living in off-campus or on-campus student housing. Check with your school's financial office first to find answers to any questions about full-time and part-time student status. Also, inquire how a change in status mid-semester or mid-year might effect your financial aid benefits and scheduled graduation date.

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