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How Course Participation Impacts Financial Aid

Whether or not you participate in a course can determine how much financial aid you receive for your education.

Education is an investment. But while it’s a smart way to spend time and money, it’s not typically cheap. That’s why 85% of college students attending 4-year universities receive some sort of financial aid.1 If you’re considering enrolling in a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree program, you may be looking for financial aid too.

The good news is, there are many different kinds of college scholarships, graduate school scholarships, and federal student aid programs available. Before you choose what’s right for you, you’ll want to review eligibility requirements and application guidelines. And you’ll want to be aware of what it will take to maintain your aid. For example, many financial aid2 programs require you to participate in your courses to receive full funding. This is particularly true for Title IV funds.

How Course Participation Impacts Financial Aid

What Are Title IV Funds?

Title IV refers to the Higher Education Act’s regulation of federal funding for universities. Those who are said to being receiving Title IV funding are receiving a loan or a grant from one of the federal student aid programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education, including the Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan, Direct Graduate PLUS Loan, Direct PLUS Loan, Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Federal Perkins Loan programs. When you obtain financial aid through any of these programs, you and your university have to follow Title IV regulations in order for you to receive 100% of the funding you’ve been approved for.

What Does Title IV Funding Require of You?

When you enroll in a course or courses, your university will receive your Title IV funding. Any money that doesn’t go toward the cost of your education will go to you. You can use this money for books, living expenses, and any other need. However, if you don’t participate in your courses, you may have to give the money back.

To qualify for 100% of your federal student aid, you must attend/complete over 60% of the course or courses you’ve enrolled in.3 If you attend/complete under 60%, your federal student aid will be prorated, covering only the portion of courses you attended/completed in that enrollment period.

Think of it this way: Every time you attend class and/or complete a portion of a course, you earn a percentage of your financial aid. However, if you cease to participate in a course, withdraw from a course, or drop a later consecutive course scheduled for the same enrollment period, you stop earning your financial aid. If you earn less than 60% of your aid, your university is required to return the prorated amount in excess of what you’ve earned. If you’ve received funds beyond the cost of your education, you too will be required to return the appropriate portion.

This can become a significant problem if you’ve already spent the money. So, before you apply for federal student aid or even enroll in a university, you should do everything in your power to ensure you can complete your courses.

What Do Scholarships Require of You?

There are many different kinds of scholarships for college students, from university scholarships that cover enrollment in a specific school to prestigious scholarships that offer large amounts of funding—like the ones offered through the Gates Millennium Scholars Program—to smaller, lesser-known scholarships that offer a few hundred dollars. While some scholarships have no strings attached, many require a certain amount of enrollment and/or a certain GPA for you to keep receiving your funds. If you earn a scholarship, you should check what the scholarship provider expects of you.

What’s the Best Way to Ensure You Maintain Your Financial Aid?

Keep in mind that one of the smartest things you can do is to take advantage of your university’s very skilled financial aid advisors. A higher education degree is an important investment and you should make sure you understand all the terms and options available to you. You also need to understand limits to the amount of financial aid available to you, including carryover from loans you have incurred from previous degrees

The best way to maintain Title IV funding and other financial aid is to attend your classes and complete your courses. So the real question is: how can you make it more possible to fulfill your responsibilities? One of the best solutions is to embrace online learning.

Unlike campus-based education, online education doesn’t require you to drive to a campus or even attend classes at set times. Instead, when you enroll in an online university, you’ll have more control over where and when you learn. You can complete coursework from the convenience of your home and you can choose when in the day you attend class. That makes it much more possible for you to fit a degree program into your other responsibilities. It’s what makes online degree programs such a good option for working professionals.

If you receive financial aid, you want to keep that aid. Online learning can give you the convenience and flexibility you need to ensure you can keep attending class and completing coursework.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

1National Center for Education Statistics, Financial Aid, Fast Facts, on the internet at

2For Washington State residents seeking information and resources about student loan repayment or seeking to submit a complaint relating to your student loans or student loan servicer, please visit or contact the Student Loan Advocate at [email protected].

3Information for Financial Aid Professionals, Withdrawals and the Return of Student Aid Funds, Withdrawals, on the internet as a PDF at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,