Tuition costs, student fees, textbooks, room and board, parking permits and other college-associated expenses can total thousands of dollars. Financial aid, in the form of loans, grants and scholarships, can help cover those obligations. Receiving financial aid involves meeting certain eligibility requirements, and dropping classes can negatively impact your eligibility. You probably don’t want to quit receiving financial aid, as this can make it much harder to meet college costs. Dropping too many classes can make you ineligible for financial aid.
Dropping classes can sometimes seem like a better alternative than receiving a failing grade or continuing to take a boring course. Also known as withdrawing from classes, dropping classes reduces your overall academic unit load for the semester or quarter and typically does not negatively impact your GPA. Students can drop a class without earning an incomplete grade until a certain deadline in the academic period; after that, you’ll likely need to petition to withdraw from the class.
To continue receiving financial aid, students must demonstrate what’s known as satisfactory academic progress during each academic period. This is accomplished by earning passing grades in a specified number of units each quarter or semester. Withdrawing from classes or failing classes decreases your chances of making satisfactory academic progress. This can result in being placed on academic probation, being placed on financial aid probation or having your financial aid terminated.
Financial aid termination means that you won’t be eligible to receive scholarships, grants and loans for the coming academic period. If you withdraw from classes that were paid for with financial aid money, your school may require you to repay funds that have already been disbursed. If you have a valid reason for dropping classes, such as a death in the family, divorce, serious medical emergency or custody issues, it’s possible that you can appeal financial aid termination. Otherwise, to get back in your school’s good graces, you must complete a semester or quarter of successful academic progress without financial aid. This might involve relying on savings or private loans to cover costs.
If you’d like to receive financial aid again after dropping classes, you'll need to complete your successful academic semester and then apply for reinstatement. Your school will evaluate your academic progress, noting whether you’ve repaid already-disbursed financial aid money from the semester when you dropped classes. Pending application approval, you’ll become eligible again to receive financial aid for coming academic periods.
In some instances, dropping from classes won’t result in financial aid being cancelled. Financial aid is assigned based on enrollment status, so if you were already carrying a full load of classes this may not affect your aid eligibility. For example, a student carrying 18 units who drops a 2-unit lab class will still be considered a full-time student with 16 units.