Many students get to the last academic year in their program and find that disbursements and refunds appear to be handled differently than they had been in the past. This situation can occur if your last academic year is 24 credits or fewer.
A full academic year
My article about credit balances explains that federal student aid (FSA) funds are awarded on an academic year basis. The length of an academic year varies by program level, version, and course length.
Generally, an academic year consists of two payment periods. The University is required to disburse FSA at least twice per academic year, usually at the beginning of each payment period.
Any FSA funds in excess of tuition and electronic course materials fees that are required to be sent to you will be provided no later than 14 days after they disburse.
Academic years between 12 and 24 credits
When less than a full academic year remains at the end of your program, your last academic year will be a partial one. In that case, your FSA award will be prorated based on a reduced number of credits. This will result in an FSA award that may be lower than expected.
You are eligible to receive the first disbursement of FSA funds when the University confirms you are enrolled in courses for the payment period and have met certain eligibility requirements. The second disbursement may not be disbursed until you successfully complete half of the required weeks of instructional time, half the required credit hours in the first payment period, and continue to meet the aforementioned eligibility requirements.
Academic years between six and 12 credits
If your last academic year is between six and 12 credits, federal regulations require that the entire academic year be treated as one payment period. Although the University is still required to disburse FSA funds at least twice in that academic year, tuition and electronic course materials fees for the entire academic year must be considered when calculating a credit balance.
It is possible that the first disbursement will not be enough to pay for all your tuition and electronic course materials fees. In that case, the second disbursement must post to your account before a credit balance is available.
In some cases, funds from the first disbursement are enough to pay all of your tuition and course materials fees. When this occurs, some credit balance funds can be released at the time of disbursement. Any additional credit balances will be available once the second disbursement posts to your account.
Between the prorated loan amount and the difference in the way funds are disbursed, your experience with FSA funds at the end of your program may be different from what you are used to.
Academic years with fewer than six credits
If the last academic year in your program is fewer than six credits, you will be considered a less than half-time student. You must be in attendance at least half-time to be eligible for Direct Loan, so Direct Loan funds cannot be awarded for these credits. Pell Grant funds may be awarded if you’re eligible.
Awards, disbursements and refunds for academic years of fewer than six credits will be prorated and calculated as described above.
If you have questions or concerns about eligibility, disbursements or credit balances in your program’s last academic year, please contact Financial Services at email@example.com or 888-346-8679.