Failing a college class is never a good thing, and only serves to complicates matters. It can make life stressful and damage your grade point average. However, the impact it will have on your federal student aid varies. In some cases, it doesn't matter where financial aid is concerned. In others, it could be a major problem. Always work closely with your school's financial aid office and your academic adviser to determine your options for handling a class you might fail, sooner than later.
Satisfactory Academic Progress
Your school’s financial aid office monitors your academic progress. It is required to set standards for evaluating whether you are making satisfactory academic progress, or SAP. Your progress must be evaluated at least once each year. Failing a class or classes will impact your SAP status. As long as you meet SAP, you will remain eligible for financial aid. If you do not pass a course, you can receive financial aid to repeat it – once you pass with a D or better, you can only retake it once again.
The Three Pillars
Failing a single class in an entire four-year college run is not the end of financial aid. Your school will likely evaluate you based on your cumulative grade point average, the number of attempted credits you complete and whether you complete your degree within a required time frame. Check with your financial aid office for specific details. Generally, you must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher, complete 67 percent of all classes attempted and complete your degree within 150 percent of the credits required for the degree.
Failing All Classes
Failing all classes can be devastating. You may have to repay your school for financial aid you received, depending on whether you attended enough classes and made an effort to pass. Your school may notify you that you or your professor must verify your last date of attendance in a failed course. If your professor didn’t take attendance or you never attended, your school may report that you did not attend and should not have received financial aid. This usually happens if you do not pass a single credit. You will be unable to register for future classes, receive additional financial aid and obtain your transcripts from your school until the money is repaid.
Always check with your financial aid office to find out what impact failing a class will have. While there are some general rules that you must abide by to keep your financial aid, there are some exceptions that apply in certain situations. For example, if you are on an academic plan with your financial aid office, you may have to successfully complete all classes on the plan to comply with the requirements. Additionally, it may make more sense to withdraw from a class rather than fail it – if the deadline for a “W” has not passed. If you do fail and are suspended from financial aid, you can appeal the decision if you had extenuating circumstances that caused you to fail.
- University of Minnesota: Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards for Financial Aid Recipients
- U.S. Department of Education: Program Integrity Questions and Answers -- Retaking Coursework
- Dallas County Community College District: Will I Have to Pay Back Financial Aid Funds if I Drop or Fail Classes?
Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.