Eligibility for Federal Financial Aid

(Please see the Eligibility for Federal Financial Aid Policy on the college's policy web site.)

Award programs affected by the federal standards include:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal College Work-Study
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG)
  • Federal Direct Loan Program – includes:
    • Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans, the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)

Good Academic Standing

Good academic standing standards for satisfactory academic progress and grade point average must be met in order to be eligible to receive federal financial aid.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

In order to be eligible for federal student aid funds, a student must meet the three federally required Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards. These standards consist of a Quantitative Standard (successful completion rate), Qualitative Standard (minimum GPA), and a Maximum Time Frame to complete the degree. A student’s SAP status is reviewed at the end of each term of enrollment at SUNY Empire State College. Students who do not meet the minimum GPA and/or Completion Rate standard will be placed on SAP Warning. While on SAP Warning students may still receive federal aid. However, not meeting these minimum standards at the end of the next period of enrollment will result in the loss of eligibility for federal aid. Students who exceed the Maximum Time Frame allowed to complete the degree will lose aid without a Warning Period.

A student who is failing to meet the required SAP standards are not eligible for federal aid even if they are permitted to reenroll. However, if there are mitigating circumstances, the student may appeal as described in the mitigating circumstance section below.

Quantitative Standard

The Quantitative Measure requires that students are successfully completing at least 67 percent of all credits attempted. Credits attempted include standard credits, repeated courses and withdrawn courses with a ZW or WD status.

Qualitative Standard (Grade Point Average)

Students are required to maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA). The grade point average calculation is determined through the Academic Grading Policy. Undergraduate students who opt to receive grades must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0. Graduate students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Maximum Timeframe

Students must progress through their program to ensure that they will graduate within the maximum time frame. The maximum time frame is a period no longer than 150 percent of the published length of the program as determined by federal regulations. Students are eligible for financial aid up to the maximum of 150 percent of their program of study, assuming they also are meeting the required Quantitative and Qualitative standards. For example, the maximum timeframe for a student in a bachelor’s degree program consisting of 124 credits would be 186 credits attempted (124 X 150% = 186). For transfer students, the maximum is based on the number of transcript credits accepted by SUNY Empire State College plus the number of credits attempted at SUNY Empire.

Federal guidelines do not allow waivers for mitigating circumstances that would extend a student’s aid past the 150 percent limit.

Regaining Federal Financial Aid Eligibility

A student who is academically dismissed and is subsequently reinstated by the college must accumulate the number of credits required to meet the federal satisfactory academic standards of a 67 percent completion rate and earn at least a 2.00 cumulative grade point average in order to regain federal aid eligibility.

Pell Grant Maximum Duration of Eligibility

Students may only qualify for the Federal Pell Grant for a maximum of the equivalent of 12 full-time terms in accordance with the Appropriations Act of 2012.

The Effect of Withdrawal and/or Disengaging From Part of the Studies for the Term

If a student withdraws and/or disengages from any or all of their courses, his or her enrollment status (full or part time) and/or SAP rate may be affected, depending on the effective date of the withdrawal and/or disengagement. Each of these may in turn affect federal aid eligibility.

In calculating enrollment status and rate of academic progress, “credits attempted” is the number of registered credits after calendar day 28 of the enrollment term for students enrolled in 15 week courses. Thus, the date of the withdrawal and/or disengagement affects whether the credits are counted in the number of credits attempted. For example, if a student first enrolls for 12 credits and then withdraws from one 4-credit study on or before calendar day 28, the enrollment status for the term changes to part time and the progress rate is calculated on 8 credits attempted. If the student withdraws after calendar day 28, the enrollment status for the term is still full time and the progress rate is calculated on 12 credits attempted. Students enrolled in courses shorter than 15 weeks should consult with the Financial Aid office.

Withdrawal and/or disengaging at any point in the term may result in a reduction of financial aid. If this occurs, the student will be required to pay back any funds for which he or she no longer qualifies. Financial Aid calculates such award adjustments individually using federal formulas. Further information may be obtained from the Financial Aid office at FinancialAid@esc.edu.

The Effect of Withdrawal, Administrative Withdrawal (Disengagement from Course or Study) or Dropping From Studies

Withdrawal and/or disengaging from the college prior to the end of an enrollment term will cause you to use a full financial aid award period’s eligibility. A student will be ineligible for additional financial aid of the same type if re-enrolling within the same financial aid award period. All financial aid will be adjusted using federal and state guidelines for the cycle in which you withdraw.

In accordance with rules established by the U.S. Department of Education, schools must adhere to provisions regarding the treatment of Federal Title IV Financial Aid for students that withdraw from school completely for any term. These rules govern all federal loan and grant programs, including Direct Loans, PLUS Loans, Pell and SEOG.

In general, students earn federal financial aid awards directly in proportion to the number of days of the term attended. In other words, a student earns financial assistance as they complete their studies throughout a term. If a student completely withdraws and/or disengages from all studies during a term, the college must calculate the portion of the total scheduled financial assistance earned. In the event that the student is enrolled in courses that have different start and/or end dates from other courses that also are being taken for the term, and the student withdraws or is administratively withdrawn from any of the courses for the term, the school must calculate the portion of the total scheduled financial assistance earned. If the student received (or the college received on behalf of the student) more assistance than was earned, the unearned excess funds must be returned to the federal programs.

The portion of federal loans and grants the student earned is calculated on a percentage basis comparing the total number of calendar days in the term to the number of days completed before withdrawal. (Scheduled breaks of five consecutive days or longer are excluded from the calculation.) Whatever percentage of the term the student attends is the percentage of Title IV that is earned. Once the student exceeds the 60 percent point of the enrollment period, the student has earned 100 percent of the Title IV aid.

Unearned federal financial assistance must be returned to program funds up to the amount of assistance that the student has received from the program in the priority order established by regulation: Unsubsidized Direct Loan, Subsidized Direct Loan, Federal Perkins Loan, PLUS Loan, Federal Pell Grant, Federal SEOG and other Title IV programs. The school takes the responsibility on behalf of the student to return unearned federal financial aid assistance funds that were applied directly to institutional charges. Institutional charges at the college that are no longer covered by financial assistance immediately become the responsibility of the student. The student also is responsible for return of unearned federal financial funds that were disbursed directly to him or her. To prevent undue hardship, allowances have been made if the unearned assistance repayment owed by the student is due to a loan program. Funds due for repayment to a loan program permit the student to repay according to the terms of the promissory note. In addition, if the student is directly responsible for repayments of unearned assistance to a federal grant program, the initial Title IV grant overpayment owed by the student is reduced by 50 percent.

Federal guidelines establish attendance expectations. An administrative withdrawal (ZW) outcome may reduce the student’s award or require the student to pay back some of the federal financial aid already received. The amount depends on the last date of contact or attendance and the federal programs involved. Further information may be obtained from the Financial Aid office at FinancialAid@esc.edu.

Mitigating Circumstances

Occasionally, students do not meet the good academic standards for reasons beyond their control or because of “mitigating circumstances” such as serious family problems or extended illness. Under such circumstances, a student may appeal for continued eligibility for federal financial aid.

Approval of a federal financial aid appeal is not automatic. Usually students may only appeal for his/her most recent enrollment. Approval of an appeal occurs in two parts:

  1. The dean or dean’s designee of the center or program verifies the student’s academic eligibility.
  2. The mitigating circumstance committee determines if the request meets federal requirements for continued eligibility for federal financial aid and if the student can meet all good academic standard requirements within the maximum timeframe for completing the degree.

The mitigating circumstance committee approves the appeal only if both parts of the process are complete and the academic and federal requirements are met. Students must submit the information required for both parts to Student Academic Services, using the required form.

The mitigating circumstance committee has the authority to approve a financial aid appeal request. However, that approval is dependent on the verification of the student’s academic eligibility. The dean or dean’s designee is responsible for determining the student’s academic eligibility. If the dean or dean’s designee determines that a student does not meet academic eligibility requirements, the mitigating circumstance committee cannot approve the appeal. If the appeal is approved and you can meet SAP standards by the end of the subsequent term, you will be placed on probation. Probation is only for one payment period. If the appeal is approved and it is determined that you cannot meet SAP standards by the end of the subsequent term you will be placed on probation with an academic plan that you must adhere to in order to maintain financial aid eligibility. Failure to do so will result in loss of federal financial aid.

Students are rarely granted more than one appeal for mitigating circumstances.

Note: The appeal has no direct effect on enrollment eligibility, which is an academic determination upon which the appeal approval is contingent.

Repeat of Studies With Credit Awarded

A student may repeat a passed course once to earn a better grade if required for their academic program and still receive financial aid. The student must complete the Request to Repeat a Study request form. If this is done, both studies count as credit attempted in calculating SAP, but only the latest study grade will count in the calculation of credits earned toward the degree and in the GPA calculation and only one attempt may be counted as successfully earned when determining the Quantitative 67 percent rule.

Courses Not Required to Complete a Student’s Degree

Federal regulations do not allow a student to receive financial aid for credits that are not required to complete their degree. Credits for courses not required by your degree will not be counted when determining course load and eligibility for disbursement of federal aid each term. Federal regulations do not allow a student in the final enrollment term to receive federal aid for studies that are not required to complete a degree.

Notification of Ineligibility for Federal Financial Aid

Financial Aid notifies students regarding their ineligibility for further federal financial aid. Students may obtain information on their financial aid status by reviewing their eligibility status online or by contacting the Financial Aid office.