The Financial Consequences of Failing a Course While Receiving FAFSA

Allison DeGrushe - Author

Dec. 14 2023, Published 1:22 p.m. ET

A student is unhappy with his failed exam paper.
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The Gist:

  • FAFSA is a document that college students fill out to assess their eligibility for financial aid.
  • Failing a college course can have various repercussions on your financial aid.
  • If you fail a class, you may become ineligible for future financial aid or be required to repay a portion of the aid received for that semester.
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The primary go-to for student financial support from the government is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA program. Federal Student Aid data reveals that a whopping 17.5 million FAFSAs were submitted during the 2021-22 application cycle.

Now, the FAFSA isn't shy when it comes to dolling out the dollars, offering undergraduates and graduates nearly $150 billion in student financial aid annually. But, hold on a second — what happens if one or more of these students hits a little academic road bump and ends up failing a class? Read on to find out!

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What happens if you fail a class in college with FAFSA?

In the unfortunate event that you fail a college class and happen to be benefiting from FAFSA's financial aid, prepare yourself for some not-so-great consequences. Keep scrolling to learn more!

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Let's start off with the fact that almost all schools and financial aid programs have a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) policy. This typically involves maintaining an acceptable GPA and completing a certain percentage of attempted credits. So, flunking a class could throw a bit of a wrench into the financial aid works.

College students taking a test in the classroom.
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Should you dip below the SAP requirement, your school might kindly give you a heads-up and place you on academic probation. During this probationary period, you can still tap into federal funds, but here's the deal — your grades are expected to take a turn for the better.

If, by the end of your probation, you haven't hit those SAP benchmarks, you may become ineligible for future financial aid. Be prepared for the possibility of disqualification or suspension of federal, state, or institutional aid.

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Some educational institutions have an appeal process that allows their students to explain any circumstances that led to academic difficulties. If your failure results from outside your control, such as a medical emergency or family crisis, filing an appeal could potentially reverse the suspension and reinstate your eligibility for financial aid.

A frustrated student at work in a classroom
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In some cases, however, if you receive federal student aid for a college course and later withdraw or fail the class, you might be required to repay a portion of the funds. This is particularly true if the student does not complete a specific percentage of the coursework requirements.

With that said, keep studying and stay on top of those grades!

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