Q: If a student starts college in the fall semester, but takes off the spring semester (so only attending college for half of a FAFSA year), will they still get the full years amount of financial aid from FAFSA?
A: No, students will not receive a full years worth of financial aid from FAFSA if they only attend a single semester of school in a given academic year, or register for less than 12 credit hours in any given semester. The financial aid award package a student receives from FAFSA is calculated for the entire academic year; however, the federal financial aid the student has been awarded will be disbursed on either a semester basis or a quarterly basis, depending on which your specific college or university uses.
A student’s financial aid award package will detail what the student is eligible to receive for the entire academic year, with “eligible” being the keyword. For example, if a student is eligible for $5000 in federal financial aid, and attends a school that runs on a semester academic calendar, the $5000 would be dispersed to that student’s school in two equal payments of $2500, one payment in the fall semester and one payment in the spring semester. If the student does not register for the spring semester, they will not be eligible to receive the $2500 for the spring semester. It is important for students to remember that the money they receive from federal financial aid programs is intended for educational expenses only. This is why the money a student receives in federal financial aid will always be dispersed to the school first, and not directly to the student. If a student is not attending school for a given semester, they do not have any educational expenses for that semester, and therefore will not receive federal financial aid from the government.