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Understanding College Financial Aid Time Limits

How to get the most financial aid for college as possible

Filing the FAFSA and being awarded financial aid for college is a wonderful thing, but if parents and students don’t understand financial aid time limits, that wonderful thing may expire before graduation time.

Do you know how many semesters a Pell Grant is good for?

How about government-subsidized student loans?

College Parenting Expert, Wendy David-Gaines, walks parents and students through specific financial aid term limits and explains the importance of earning enough college credits to graduate before exceeding the maximum time allowed to receive aid.  Becoming informed about the financial aid process before students head off to college is one more step in helping them graduate on-time and without penalty.  


Many college-bound and their parents don’t realize there are time maximums on federal financial aid students are eligible to receive to earn their degree. Making matters worse, it is taking longer to graduate from college. When students use financial aid towards remedial classes before taking college courses for credit, they put an extra squeeze on their college budgets. These facts are a warning for students to commit to take the college opportunity seriously and use all support resources wisely to graduate on time.

Financial Aid has limits. Every year the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid provides more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds to students attending college or career school. The catch is time limits on how long students can receive their share of financial aid.

For example, students can now only receive Federal Pell Grants for no more than 12 semesters or the equivalent, roughly six years. For first-time Direct Subsidized Loans borrowers on or after July 1, 2013 enrolled in a four-year bachelor’s degree program, the maximum period is six years.

It is taking a longer time to graduate. Only 55 percent of those who started a four-year bachelor’s degree program in 2008 earned their degree within six years, according to the latest National Student Clearing House Research Center’s Signature Report. This is down from fall 2007 with a then completion rate of 56.1 percent. That means for the 45 percent who have not earned their degree, their eligibility time to receive financial aid may have expired.

Remedial classes do not earn college credit. They are usually high school level classes in English or math that do not count toward a college degree but the college considers necessary for students to become college-ready. “Federal law permits them to spend financial aid on as much as a year’s worth of remediation,” according to The Wall Street Journal The amount of financial aid dedicated to remedial classes cuts the amount available to pay towards college-level courses that count towards earning the diploma.

Time maximum limits for financial aid and longer time to graduate from college can increase the financial burden on families paying for college.

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Understanding College Financial Aid Time Limits

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