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Full Time Enrollment and Financial Aid – Credits Matter

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Do you know what your college defines as full-time enrollment?  It is usually 12 to 15 units or credit hours. Do you know how the federal government defines full-time enrollment for purposes of financial aid?  You should. It can make a difference of hundreds of dollars in your grant aid.

Not everyone’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the same, but the Pell Grant entitlement for someone with a zero EFC is $5,550 for 2010-11. Here is a little chart based on 2010-11 Pell grant amounts and federal definitions of enrollment status for an academic year:

  • Fulltime enrollment is 12 units/credit hours or more – $5,550
  • Three-quarter enrollment is 9.0 to 11.75 units/credit hours – $4,163
  • Half-time enrollment is 6.0-8.75 units/credit hours – $2,775
  • Less than half-time is less than 6 units/credit hours – $838-863
    (Less than halftime amounts depend on whether student lives at home or away)

Look at this chart again. If you are enrolled in 11.5 units you will be attending classes 11.5 hours a week and doing homework from 11.5 to 34.5 hours a week. A full-time student will attend classes a half hour longer a week and do homework from 12 to 36 hours. But a full-time student will get paid $1,387 dollars more over the course of the year!  You can take 18 units, but you won’t be paid any more than full-time Pell.

Use this chart when you make choices about how many classes and how many units you choose to take. If you really need 11.5 units, talk to your financial aid counselor or technician. See if you could take a unit or a half unit of yoga or Tai Chi if your college offers those. It will get you to the next pay level and it may improve your overall well being. DON’T enroll in more units than you can successfully complete. The federal government has set a new limit on federal funding. You can only be paid Pell grant aid for the equivalent of 18 full-time semesters IN A LIFETIME. Don’t waste them. In addition, remember that to get federal financial aid you are expected to meet Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements at your college. That includes maintaining at least a C average and completing 67% of the coursework or more. Your college’s policy may be more stringent. Check it out. Know what the requirements are and meet them. Your financial aid depends upon it.

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