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Dropping Classes: How It Impacts Your Aid

Dropping classes or stopping attendance can affect your current and future financial aid eligibility. Your enrollment level, the length of your classes, the timing, and even the sequence of your withdrawal from classes are all factors that impact your financial aid. Because financial aid is earned through class attendance, unearned financial aid you have already received may need to be returned to the federal or state government.

We are here to help you navigate this process. Be sure to visit the Enrollment Center and meet with a Financial Aid Specialist if you are considering dropping or stopping attendance in one or more of your classes. For more information, view the Withdrawal and Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) Policy below.

We must calculate how much federal financial aid you have earned if you:

  • Completely withdraw.
  • Stop attending before completing the semester.
  • Do not complete all modules. Modules are courses which do not span the entire semester.
  • Do not earn any credit in the semester that aid was received.
  • Are enrolled in a Job Training (clock hour) program and receive an unsuccessful grade of W (withdrawal) or U (unsuccessful).

Based on this evaluation, you may be responsible to repay a portion of the financial aid you received if the amount disbursed is greater than the amount earned. If you have earned more than the amount disbursed, you may be eligible to receive a post-withdrawal disbursement.

Withdrawal & Return of Title IV Funds Policy - Calculating How Much Financial Aid is Earned

The amount of federal financial aid a student earns is determined on a prorated basis. GRCC uses the following Department of Education formulas to determine the percent of unearned aid that has to be returned to the federal government:

For Students in Credit Hour Programs

The percent of aid that is earned is equal to the number of calendar days completed up to the withdrawal date, divided by the total calendar days in the payment period (except for scheduled breaks that are at least five consecutive days long).

Formula: Percent of earned aid = the number of calendar days completed / total calendar days in the payment period.

The payment period for all students is the number of course days for which the student initially registered, with the exception of scheduled breaks of five or more consecutive days.

Formula: The percent unearned = 100 percent – the percent earned.

If you complete more than 60 percent of the payment period or semester, no Title IV aid is required to be returned.

For Students in Job Training (Clock Hour) Programs

When a financial aid recipient withdraws or ceases to attend at least half-time, the College is required to complete a Return to Title IV Funds (R2T4) calculation. This calculation determines the amount of aid the student has earned based on his or her clock hour attendance compared to the scheduled clock hours in the payment period, defined as half the program. This calculation is in addition to the withdrawal refund policy application. When the R2T4 calculation requires the college to return Title IV funds, the funds are returned from the student’s account and he or she may owe a balance to the College. The complete R2T4 policy can be found on the GRCC Financial Aid website.

Withdrawing from a Module Course

Module courses are those that do not span the full length of the semester (i.e., a seven-week course). Your sequence of withdrawal impacts the return of funds calculations. If you enroll in two module courses but decide to withdraw from the later starting module while still attending the current module, a return of funds calculation is not required. However, a recalculation of aid may be required based on your change in enrollment status.

If you enroll in two modules and complete the first but withdraw or do not start a later module, a return of funds calculation would be required. Recalculation of aid based on this enrollment change must be performed before the calculation of the R2T4 amount.

If you provide written notice to the Financial Aid office at the time of withdrawal from a current module that you plan to attend a later module in the same payment period, this is not considered as a withdrawal. If you do not provide that written confirmation, it is considered a withdrawal and the R2T4 recalculation of aid will be done. However, if you return in a later module in the same payment period, regardless of whether prior written confirmation was received, the R2T4 process will be reversed and you will be awarded the funds you are eligible to receive at the time of return.

The Withdrawal Date

Classes are officially dropped through the Online Center or by visiting the Enrollment Center. If you unofficially withdraw or stop attending classes, the withdrawal date will be the last date of attendance as officially reported by your instructor(s). Instructors are also required to report a last date of attendance for students who have failing grades in their classes.

The withdrawal date used in a return of funds calculation is the date you officially drop your class(es), or your last date of attendance as reported by your instructor(s), whichever is earlier.

Post-withdrawal Disbursement

A post-withdrawal disbursement may be made if you withdraw from all classes prior to the disbursement of federal financial aid.

The amount of the disbursement (if any) is determined during the federal Return of Title IV funds calculation process. If applicable, GRCC will offer a post-withdrawal disbursement in writing to an eligible student within 30 days after the College determines the withdrawal. The notice will include the type and amount of financial aid funds that make up the post-withdrawal disbursement and explain that you may decline all or a portion of those funds.

You will have 14 calendar days from the date GRCC sends the notification to accept or decline the post-withdrawal disbursement. If you accept all or a portion of the post-withdrawal disbursement, GRCC will disburse the funds to your account as soon as possible but no later than 180 calendar days from the determined withdrawal date.

If you fail to respond to the notice GRCC is permitted to credit a student’s account with the post-withdrawal disbursement of Title IV grant funds without your permission for current term charges for tuition, fees, and room and board up to the amount of outstanding charges.

A school must obtain your authorization to credit your account above the total current term charges regardless if it creates a credit to your account. GRCC must still obtain confirmation from you or your parent before making any disbursement of loan funds from a post-withdrawal disbursement. If confirmation is not received any outstanding loan funds will be canceled.

Returning Unearned Funds

The College and you are both responsible for returning unearned federal financial aid to the federal government. The College must return the total amount of unearned aid as determined by the R2T4 calculations. The amount of the unearned aid is determined by using the unearned percentage multiplied by either the institutional charges or the disbursed Title IV aid, whichever is less. You must return any remaining unearned grant funds not sent back by the College after the 50% protection allowance is applied. If the amount is $25.00 or less, you do not have to repay the funds.

Refunds to Title IV programs will be made in the following order: Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, Federal Direct Subsidized Loan, Federal Direct Parent PLUS loan, Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant.  

The GRCC Financial Aid office will notify you of any adjustments to your aid packages as a result of the return of funds calculation and inform you if you owe federal funds back to the government. Amounts that must be returned by you will first be applied to federal loans. You will be permitted to repay loans based on the terms of the Master Promissory Note. Any grant amounts you have to return to the federal government must be repaid within 45 days after the student receives notification from the FAO. If the grant overpayment cannot be paid in full, a satisfactory repayment plan may be arranged with the U.S. Department of Education (USED).   

If you owe any money to the College resulting from the return of federal funds used to cover tuition and fees, you will be billed by the GRCC Student Financial Services department (formerly Cashier's Office).

Overpayment Resolution

If you do not repay the grant funds that are owed to the government within the 45 days, the account will be turned over to the USED as an overpayment of federal funds. If you owe an overpayment of Title IV funds you become ineligible for further disbursements from the federal financial aid programs at any institution until the overpayment is paid in full or payment arrangements are made with the USED. A hold will be placed on your account if you fail to pay any tuition and fee balance owed to the College, as a result of the College returning unearned federal funds. You will not be permitted to register for classes (or, in some cases, remain enrolled) or receive transcripts until the balance is paid.

Withdrawal and Return of Title IV Funds National Emergency Addendum

Updates through May 26, 2020

Return of funds calculations completed during the Winter 2020 semester before the Coronavirus pandemic will be reversed based on ED’s Electronic Announcement dated May 15, 2020. This guidance states that all student withdrawals from ground-based instruction for the payment period that includes March 13, 2020 (Winter 2020) can be waived as due to the coronavirus. No additional documentation is required from these students. For students in wholly distance education programs, a statement explaining that the  withdrawal was due to COVID-19 related issues is required for the waiver of the R2T4 to apply. Under the federal CARES Act (March 2020 and updated in May 2020), for withdrawals that occur as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, neither the school nor the student is responsible to return unearned amounts of Title IV aid.

The financial aid office needs to document for each student the reason(s) we used when applying these relief provisions.

Loan cancelation will be provided for the portion of a Direct Loan associated with the payment period which the student did not complete due to a qualifying emergency.

Updates beginning June 16, 2020

ED has updated the May 15, 2020 guidance to extend the R2T4 waiver to any payment period that includes March 13, 2020 or begins between March 13, 2020 and December 31, 2020 or the last date that the national emergency is in effect. This extends the R2T4 waiver flexibility to include both the Summer 2020 and the Fall 2020 semesters.

For Summer 2020 and Fall 2020, withdrawn students will be required to confirm in writing that the withdrawal was due to COVID-19 related reasons as defined by ED in the May 15, 2020 guidance: "Allowable circumstances include, but are not limited to, illness of the student or family member, need to become a caregiver or first responder, loss of childcare, economic hardship, inability to access Wi-Fi due to closed facilities, or an increase in work hours as a result of the COVID-19 emergency."

If a student confirms that the withdrawal was COVID-19 related, the R2T4 will be waived and the student’s information will be added to the tracking spreadsheet. If the student does not confirm this, or does not respond to the GRCC email requesting such confirmation, the R2T4 will be completed in the normal course.