Federal student aid is awarded with the expectation that you will attend school for the entire semester you receive payment for. To qualify for any federal financial aid payments, you must complete the college's registration and bill payment process and begin attending your classes. The college will verify whether or not you have actually begun attendance. [Note: if you receive a financial aid payment for a class or classes you have never attended, you must return that payment immediately to the college.]
The federal government requires that you "earn" your financial aid awards by attending and completing your classes. If you withdraw from all classes before finishing the term, the school must determine the portion of your federal aid you earned and can therefore receive.
If you receive (or the college receives on your behalf) more aid than you earned, the unearned funds must be returned to the Department of Education. If, on the other hand, you receive (or the college receives on your behalf) less aid than the amount you earned, you could receive these additional funds.
The portion of your federal aid you may receive is determined by comparing the total number of calendar days in the semester to the actual number of days you attended before you withdrew.
For example, if you complete 30% of the semester, you earn 30% of the assistance you were originally scheduled to receive. 70% of your scheduled awards remain unearned and must be returned to the federal government.
Once you have completed more than 60% of the semester, you have "earned" and are entitled to receive 100% (all) of your assistance. [Note: Most federal financial aid is disbursed earlier than the 100% earned date.]
If you have received your financial aid payments but then withdraw from the college (either officially or unofficially) before completing 60% of the semester, you will have to repay the unearned portion of your awards.
Your withdrawal date is determined by the college as either (1) the date you began the college's withdrawal process (as described in the Schedule of Classes) or the date you officially notified the Registrar of your intent to withdraw; (2) the midpoint of the semester (if you withdraw without notifying the college); or (3) your last date of attendance at an academically-related activity as documented by the college.
If you receive excess funds that must be returned to the government, the college shares with you the responsibility of returning those excess funds. The college's portion of the excess funds to be returned equals the lesser of (a) the entire amount of the excess funds, or (b) your total tuition and fee charges multiplied by the percentage of unearned funds.
You will be required to repay to the college any grant funds the college had to return to the Department of Education on your behalf. In such cases, you will be billed by the college and have to make payment arrangements with the Bursar.
In addition, you may also have to repay some of the excess grant funds you received directly to the Department of Education. Since any Direct Loan funds you received must be repaid according to the terms of the promissory note, you would not be required to return the excess loan funds you received until your loans go into repayment.
Any award money you are required to return to the federal government is considered a federal grant overpayment. You must either repay that amount in full or make satisfactory arrangements with either the college or the Department of Education to repay the amount. You must complete these arrangements within 45 days of the date of the college's notifying you of your overpayment status or you risk losing your eligibility for further federal financial assistance.
After you have withdrawn, either officially or unofficially, the college will perform the necessary calculations and notify you if you must return any of the aid you already received.