Eligibility for Federal Financial Aid Policy

Eligibility for Federal Financial Aid Policy


Financial Aid Office


Director of Financial Aid


Financial Aid



Effective Date:


Implementation History:

Revised: August 2018, September 2014, December 2013, August 2012, January 2012, December 2010, October 2009, May 2007, May 2005, April 2003, October 2019 Adopted: February 2002


Eligibility, Federal Financial Aid

Background Information:


To outline the eligibility for federal financial aid programs.


Withdrawal: applies to an outcome of ZW or WD.


Award programs affected by the federal standards include:

  • Federal Pell Grants
  • Federal University Work/Study
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG)
  • Federal Direct Loan Program; includes: subsidized and unsubsidized, the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) and the Graduate PLUS loan
  • Federal TEACH (Teach grant is for graduate students only)

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 your degree.   Your SAP status is reviewed at the end of each term of enrollment at ESC.   Students who do not meet the minimum GPA and/or Completion Rate standard will be placed on SAP Warning.  While on SAP Warning you may still receive federal aid.  However, if you do not meet theses minimum standards at the end of the next period of enrollment you will lose federal eligibility for 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 you are successfully completing at least 67% 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  Credits attempted include standard credits, repeated courses, and withdrawn courses with a ZW or WD status.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 grade point average (G.P.A.).  The grade point average calculation is determined through the Academic Grading Policy.  Undergraduate students who opt to receive grades must maintain a minimum G.P.A. of 2.0.  Graduate students must maintain a minimum G.P.A. 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% of the published length of the program as determined by federal regulations.  Students are eligible for financial aid up to the maximum of 150% of their program of study, assuming they are also 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 Empire State University plus the number of credits attempted at Empire State University.

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

The Effect of Partial Withdrawal

If a student withdraws or is withdrawn from a course of study, his/her enrollment status (full or part time) and/or SAP rate may be affected, depending on the effective date of the withdrawal. Each of these may in turn affect federal aid eligibility.

In calculating enrollment status, “credits attempted” is the number of registered credits after add/drop period ends. Thus, the date of withdrawal 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 during the add/drop period, 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 the add/drop period has ended, the enrollment status for the term is still full time and the progress rate is calculated on 12 credits attempted.

If a student remains in any course past the end of the add/drop period, that course will be considered “credits attempted” in terms of the quantitative standard 67% rate of progress.

Withdrawal at any point in the term may reduce the student’s award or require the student to pay back some of the federal financial aid already received. The Office of Financial Aid calculates such award adjustments individually using federal formulas. Further information may be obtained from the Financial Aid Office.

Appeal for Title IV Federal Financial Aid Eligibility

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.

Courses not required to complete your 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.

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 the study with the highest 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% rule.

Pell Grant Maximum Duration of Eligibility

Effective with the Summer 2012 term, students are limited to 12 full time semesters or the equivalent. Therefore, students who have already used 12 full time terms of the Pell grant will no longer qualify.

Notification of Ineligibility for Federal Financial Aid

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

The Effect of Withdrawal from All Studies

All financial aid will be adjusted using federal and state guidelines for the cycle in which you withdraw or are withdrawn. The liability for tuition and fees is not dependent on the federal aid eligibility. Information about tuition and fee liability may be found online at www.esc.edu/studentaccounts.

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 Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, PLUS Loans, Pell, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, SEOG, and TEACH grants.

In general, the law assumes that a student must 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 from all studies during a term, the university must calculate the portion of the total scheduled financial assistance earned. If the student received (or the university 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.) The calculation for unearned aid is required for students attending classes less than 60 percent period of that term.

For example: a student enrolls with an enrollment period of 09/11/17-12/22/17. The enrollment period is 103 days. The student withdraws from all coursework on 10/30/17 – which is the 50th day of the enrollment period. The student has earned 49 percent of the Title IV aid awarded (days attended/enrollment period, or 50/103, which equals 49 percent). 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. In the above example, if the student withdrew as of 11/14/17, 100 percent of the aid would be earned and no return calculation is required (11/14/17 would be day 65 of the term, so 65/103 equals 63 percent – which is beyond the 60 percent point of the term).

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: Federal Unsubsidized Direct Loan, Federal Subsidized Direct Loan, Federal PLUS Loan and Federal Graduate PLUS, Federal Pell Grant, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, Federal SEOG and TEACH. 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 university that are no longer covered by financial assistance immediately become the responsibility of the student. The student is also responsible for return of unearned federal financial funds that were disbursed directly to him/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, only one-half (50 percent) of the calculated repayment is required.

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

34 CFR 668.22, 34 CFR 668.34.

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices

Mitigating Circumstances – Financial Aid (PDF 146kB)