Financial Aid Policies and Procedures

While it’s great that the federal government, the state of Tennessee, private donors and others are willing to help you finance your education, it is very important that you understand that there are a variety of conditions attached to the aid you receive. 

Perhaps the single most important item for you to know is this: in most cases, you are awarded grants, loans, scholarships and other forms of financial assistance for the purpose of completing classes taken toward earning a degree. This means that most forms of financial assistance you receive from the federal government (for example, Federal Pell Grants, Federal undergraduate / graduate student loans), from the State of Tennessee (for example, the TELS scholarship program) or from private or university benefactors carry substantial penalties if you enroll in courses but don’t finish those courses.

Remember this: financial aid is awarded to students so that they may complete courses, not so that they may attempt courses. This is an important and significant distinction. Should you enroll in courses but fail to successfully complete the course, you could become personally financially responsible for the costs of your tuition and fees, plus be required to pay back the loans, grants or scholarships that you received. You should never withdraw from any course or stop attending any course without first consulting with the MT One Stop and your academic advisor.

We know that these rules can seem complicated, so the following highlights are intended to help you understand the basic requirements of accepting financial aid. Please be sure to review the MTSU Financial Aid Terms and Conditions which you must agree to on PipelineMT as a precondition to accepting any financial aid offer. You will also want to make yourself familiar with the terms and conditions of any loan, grant or scholarship that you choose to accept. Hotlinks are also provided in the descriptions that follow to help you connect to the full policies that are applicable.

Official and Unofficial Withdrawals

Students who drop classes on or before the census date (the 14th calendar day of fall / spring semesters) may have their aid adjusted. In addition, faculty at MTSU are requested to report academic engagement by a published date (i.e., the census date).  Though MTSU faculty are not required to take official attendance throughout the semester, faculty can report academic engagement throughout the semester by taking attendance or by a documented academic activity.   If a student is reported as ‘Stopped Attending’ or ‘Never attended’ in all enrolled courses within a semester, the student is considered to be “unofficially” withdrawn from the university. Withdrawals may have serious impact on the student’s financial aid status.  

  • Students who receive the Federal Pell Grant, Federal SEOG, Federal TEACH Grant, or Federal Direct Loans must complete more than 60% of the semester to earn 100% of their aid. If you are officially or unofficially withdrawn before completing more than 60% of the term, then MTSU must perform a Federal Return of Title IV Funds Calculation. The Return Calculation is based on the premise that students “earn” federal financial aid for each calendar day that they attend classes. This means that the University may be required to return all or part of your aid to the federal government if you withdraw before completing your classes. You will also still be responsible for paying any applicable tuition and fees for the courses you attempted but did not complete. Anytime a Return Calculation is performed, the student is likely to owe a balance to the University from funds that must be returned. It is very important that you attend your courses! To review the Return Calculation Policy and examples, click here.
  • In addition, if you officially or unofficially drop below half-time status, MTSU will notify your loan servicer through enrollment reporting that you are no longer enrolled at least half-time.  Your six month grace period for loan repayment will begin on the date of dropping below half-time status.  You will be sent an email from MTSU requesting that you complete Loan Exit Counseling at and make preparations to begin repayment of your loan.

  • Finally, withdrawing from all your classes has a negative impact on your eligibility to receive financial aid in the future. The federal government requires that every student must maintain Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards to retain financial aid eligibility.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirement

Federal regulations require that we establish and apply reasonable standards of satisfactory academic progress (SAP) for the purpose of awarding financial assistance under the Title IV programs authorized by the Higher Education Act of 1965 as amended (34 CFR 668.34). MTSU complies with this requirement by monitoring each student's “overall combined” cumulative grade point average (GPA), “overall combined” pass-rate (percentage of credit hours passed divided by credit hours attempted), and “overall” maximum time frame for completion of the student’s program of study. 

This policy is applicable to Federal Title IV Programs, State Programs inclusive of the Tennessee Student Assistance Award, the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship, and various MTSU Scholarship Programs. 

Please read and be sure you understand our full SAP policy.

In general, students must meet the Qualitative (GPA), Pace (progression toward degree), and Maximum Timeframe financial aid standards to remain in good standing and be eligible for financial aid (as long as all other eligibility requirements are met). 

If placed on Financial Aid Suspension, students are ineligible to receive aid until they meet the above three standards or an appeal is approved. There are limited options for appealing the status of financial aid suspension.

NOTE:  Students should also be aware of the difference between a financial aid suspension based on the Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy and an academic suspension which is based solely on grades and GPA (refer to the Academic Standing policies in the Undergradate & Graduate Catalogs). A financial aid suspension means the student can still attend MTSU; however, the student will not receive financial aid. An academic suspension means the student cannot attend MTSU for the length of the suspension even if eligible for financial aid. These are two different suspensions, and there are two different appeal processes that are independent of each other.

Drug convictions


  • ED has rescinded the student eligibility requirement and that the student no longer faces penalties or suspension of Title IV aid due to a drug conviction that occurred while the student was enrolled and receiving Title IV aid; and

  • While the information must still be provided, the loss of federal student aid for drug convictions no longer applies.

Students convicted of a federal or state offense of selling or possessing illegal drugs may not be eligible for federal student aid (grants, loans, and work-study). Students who answer "Yes" to question 23 on the FAFSA will be required to answer additional questions on the FAFSA to determine if the conviction affects eligibility for aid. Also, if the Financial Aid Office is notified that a student has been convicted of possession or sale of illegal drugs during the academic year, all federal student aid will be suspended immediately.

Convictions only count if they were for an offense that occurred during a period of enrollment for which the student was receiving federal student aid. Also, a conviction that was reversed, set aside, or removed from the student's record does not count.

The chart below illustrates the period of ineligibility for federal student aid funds, depending on whether the conviction was for sale or possession and whether the student had previous offenses. (A conviction for sale of drugs includes convictions for conspiring to sell drugs.)

  Possession of illegal drugs Sale of illegal drugs
1st offense 1 year from date of conviction 2 years from date of conviction
2nd offense 2 years from date of conviction Indefinite period 
3+ offenses Indefinite period Indefinite period 

Students regain eligibility the day after the period of ineligibility ends or when they successfully complete a qualified drug rehabilitation program. Further drug convictions will make the student ineligible again. Students denied eligibility for an indefinite period can regain it only after successfully completing a rehabilitation program or if a conviction is reversed, set aside, or removed for the student's record so that fewer than two convictions for sale or three convictions for possession remain on the record. In such cases, the nature and dates of the remaining convictions will determine when the student regains eligibility.

It is the student's responsibility to certify to the Financial Aid Office the date of the conviction and if (s)he has completed a drug rehabilitation program.