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Karen SarverMistakes That Can Cost You Your Financial Aid

by Karen M. Sarver

Like a lot of university students, Terry (not her real name), an Arizona State University (ASU) English major and the mother of two young children, depended on financial aid to cover the costs of her education, her textbooks and some of her living expenses.

“I had grants and loans that I lived off of,” she said. “I had to budget down to the dollar."

Terry was awarded nearly $10,000 in aid for the Fall semester. But with tuition and fees totaling almost $3,600, there wasnt much left over. The next year brought her more difficulties. She went through a divorce, declared bankruptcy and lost her home.

“The last two semesters were chaos for me so I did very poorly academically,” she said. As a consequence for her poor grades, Terry was placed on academic probation for continued aid eligibility. According to Terry, “If I dropped or didn't pass any of my classes I wouldn't be eligible for federal financial aid again.” 

What happened to Terry isn't unusual. The federal government requires universities to evaluate student progress at the end of every semester. Students who aren’t making satisfactory academic progress (SAP) are placed on probation, and are at risk of losing their financial aid.

Satisfactory Academic Progress is based on three standards:  GPA (Grade Point Average), Pass Rate, and Maximum Credit Hours. You must meet all three standards to be eligible to continue receiving federal funding (scholarships are excluded.) These standards are discussed below.


To remain in academic good standing, your GPA has to increase along with your total credit hours. At Arizona State, students with 24 or fewer credits are required to maintain a GPA of not less than 1.600.  Students with 25 to 55 credits need at least a 1.750, and a GPA of 2.000 is compulsory for students with 56 or more credits. However, as some colleges set their own GPA standard, check with your academic advisor to find your college policy.

The consequences: If your GPA falls below the minimum standard, you’ll be placed on academic probation. Grades need to be raised during the subsequent semester(s), or you won’t be allowed to pursue your major. The worst case scenario is that you could lose your financial aid and be disqualified from attending the university as well.

The solution:  Meet with your advisor to sign a restricted enrollment agreement form, a contract specifying the requirements you are obligated to meet to regain academic good standing.  Get help from a tutor to raise your GPA. You can also enroll in summer and winter courses, or consider taking more difficult subjects at a community college. Credits earned at a community college count toward your degree, but not your GPA. If you have to, repeat classes in which you earned a D grade or an E.

Tip: Another option is to start fresh by changing your major. More than half of all college students do- some as many as two or three times, says Dr. Fritz Grupe, founder of Maybe you’re an accountant instead of an artist, or vice versa. Web sites like Grupe’s feature online tests that can help you find your fit.


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