A low GPA or too many dropped classes raises the risk of losing financial aid.

I’ve explained in a previous post what it means when your student is placed on academic probation. That status also impacts their financial aid eligibility, including federal need-based aid.

Financial Aid FAFSA

Requirements for aid Most need-based aid requires a student maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, essentially a C average, and complete two-thirds of their required credit hours (courses). Colleges establish a minimum number of credit hours per term (semester, trimester or quarter) that qualifies as full-time status.

Students often drop classes where their grades are very low, but dropping more than one course a term usually puts them below their minimum requirement.

Merit-based aid, generally awarded as a scholarship, can require a higher minimum GPA and/or number of credit hours than need-based aid.

Warning If a student falls below a minimum requirement for any financial aid, the college will almost certainly issue a “financial aid warning” informing the student that they are not making “Satisfactory Academic Progress” (SAP). The student can keep their aid during the next term, but must show SAP during that time. In rare cases, a college will cut the aid without a probationary term.

Appeal Colleges understand that certain life events can impact a student’s academic progress, which is why they put an appeal process in place.

If serious circumstances, like a death or severe illness of a relative, or even a student’s own unexpected health issues—physical or mental—occurred during that term, there’s a case for removing the warning. But the college will want to see that those reasons don’t exist anymore or have improved.

Another reason for a student to struggle academically is that they picked the wrong major—one where the required courses are just too hard for them.

Whatever the cause, a student might need their academic adviser to weigh in on the situation and file a form supporting them and their explanation.

Appeal status If an appeal is accepted, the warning is lifted. If not, then the student is placed on probation for the next term. If they don’t show sufficient SAP during that time, they will lose their aid.

If your student receives a financial aid warning or a letter stating they’re losing their aid, they need to immediately make an appointment with the financial aid office.

Losing aid If a student doesn’t meet their required GPA or credit hours and loses their aid for the upcoming term, they may still be eligible to attend the university without financial aid. After making SAP, they will likely need to apply to have their aid reinstated.

Improving their GPA during the probationary term might not be enough to raise your student’s overall GPA to the required minimum. Depending upon the college, aid is tied either to GPA for a term or overall. It’s important that your student understands the distinction so they know their goal.

Solutions If your student receives a financial aid warning or a letter stating they’re losing their aid, they need to immediately make an appointment with the financial aid office. In this meeting they’ll receive answers to their questions about why this happened and their options. Remember, yours is not the first kid who’s been in this situation.

They should next meet with their academic adviser to discuss what happened this past term and create a more manageable class schedule, one filled with passable courses and a reasonable workload that also allows them to continue making progress toward their degree.

If the class(es) in your child’s major are the ones bringing down their GPA or that they dropped, it’s probably time for them to pick another program. Changing majors is one way to have a financial aid warning lifted now.

Transferring colleges is another solution. Those classes or credits that don’t transfer won’t be counted toward their SAP at the new school allowing your student’s financial aid to be reinstated at the transfer college.

Though a financial aid warning doesn’t mean your student will lose their aid for the upcoming term, they must take the warning seriously and work to improve their academics to keep their aid for the remainder of their time in college.

Share your experiences with financial aid warnings and probation in the comments section below.