How Does Summer School Affect Your Financial Aid Status?

Can Catching Up or Getting Ahead Put You Farther Behind?

College students decide to take summer classes for many different reasons. There might be an internship experience involved. Some might have failed a particular course and need to retake it in order to obtain a passing grade. Others might have a difficult time keeping up with coursework during the traditional college year, and find it is easier to fill in with a few classes during the summer. It might help lower the cost of attending a full-time college by taking some of the required classes at a local community college.

And some are trying to get ahead on their classes so they can graduate earlier than expected.

Whatever the reason, one thing that should always be considered before enrolling in these classes is the money - can you afford to pay for it? Think about how much it will cost for everything - tuition, living expenses, food, and transportation. If your parents are paying for your college expenses, you will need to talk to them to find out whether they will have the funds available earlier than anticipated. The student might not be able to take on a summer job, which can also affect the anticipated budget. Finally, you need to consider whether attending summer school will affect your financial aid package:

  • Check with the school's financial aid office: Find out how much of your financial aid package is eligible for use in the summer. Ask if your state has any special grant programs for summer classes. And keep looking for any scholarships that might be applicable only during the summer session. If you are a visiting student, you might not be eligible for financial aid from your summer school.
  • Pell Grant funding may be available: While you may be able to use federal Pell Grants to pay for summer classes, keep in mind that there is a lifetime cap on Pell Grant eligibility. Federal law limits the amount of money you may receive in a lifetime to the equivalent of six years of Pell Grant funding. The maximum amount of Pell Grants you can receive each award year is equal to 100%. Award years run from July 1 of one year to June 30 of the next year, so if you do not attend classes full-time or were not enrolled for a full year, you may be eligible for summer funding. Log on to National Student Loan Data System (NSLDSĀ®) to view your LEU (Lifetime Eligibility Used).
  • Student loans: Be aware that some schools might require a separate loan application for the summer months. Once again, ask the financial aid office for details and make sure to file the application on time. Keep track of any amounts you borrow so you do not exceed your loan eligibility limit for the year. This can be a little tricky if you use federal student loans during the summer and need to borrow again when regular classes resume in the fall.
  • Do you need to file a FAFSA? When you apply for a summer session, check with your college to determine whether you will need to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or any other financial aid application.
  • Know when payments are due: Contact the financial aid office to determine when payments are due for your summer semester to make sure your financial aid or student loans are received on time. You don't want to be surprised by receiving a payment due notice shortly before classes are set to begin.

If you choose to work part-time and take just a class or two, it might be possible that you can pay for your summer classes out of your earnings and will not need to rely on financial aid support. You can turn down a financial aid offer, and reapply for assistance when you return to school again in the fall.

Attending summer school can be a good way to get a few extra course hours in, but just make sure it does not cause any financial hardship on you or your family.