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 encouraged to report student attendance by the census date, and may additionally report attendance beyond that date. If a student is reported as ‘Stopped Attending’ or ‘Never attended’ 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, Federal Perkins Loan, or Federal Direct Loans must complete at least 60% of the semester to earn 100% of their aid. If you are officially or unofficially withdrawn before completing 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. 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 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 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 a certain standard of Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress. In short, this means that a student is required to pass 67% of all attempted hours in order to remain eligible to receive financial aid. When a student drops courses after the census date, it results in their pass rate dropping.

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 should be aware that they must pass 67% of all attempted courses in order to remain eligible to receive financial aid. To determine your financial aid status, divide your “overall combined” earned hours by your “overall combined” attempted hours. When a student drops courses after the census date, it will lower the pass rate.

If your pass rate drops below 67%, you may be granted warning status for one semester. Students are allowed to receive financial aid while on Financial Aid Warning. However, by the end of the Warning semester, the student must have reached the overall combined 67% pass rate to remain eligible for financial aid. If not, the student will be placed on Financial Aid Suspension. 

Student who are placed on Financial Aid Suspension are not eligible to receive aid until they enroll in and complete, at their own expense, sufficient hours to raise their pass rate above the required 67% overall combined pass rate. There are limited options for appealing the status of financial aid suspension.

Drug convictions

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.