What Is The Maximum Amount or College Hours Needed to Receive Assistance?

It’s almost impossible to imagine someone paying for an entire semester of college with a single check. Most schools charge a rate based on the number of credit hours that a student takes, and a full-time student can easily spend $20,000 or more on a year of schooling without even taking into consideration room and board. The government offers different types of financial assistance for students, including grants and loans. Students can only borrow or use a specific amount of money throughout their college education. The total number of credit hours you must take to secure assistance depends on a few factors.

Undergraduate Students

Colleges and universities base a student’s status on the number of credit hours the person takes. If you take 12 or more credit hours, you’re a full-time student. If you take six or fewer credit hours, you’re a part-time student. Some schools also use a ¾ designation for students who take nine credit hours. Those credit hours only apply to the current semester, and if you add or drop a class, you might lose your status. Though some schools will give you financial aid as a part-time student, you typically won’t receive as much money as you would as a full-time student.

Graduate School

Graduate school classes are more involved and more complex, which is why you can qualify for financial assistance even if you don’t take as many credits as you did as an undergraduate. A full-time graduate student is someone who takes nine or more credit hours worth of classes, while a part-time student takes five or fewer credits each semester. Graduate schools will often consider someone a full-time student if that person only takes two courses each semester.

Assistance Limits

The federal government has a limit as to how much money you can borrow throughout your college career. If you are a dependent, which means that you still rely on your parents or live with your parents, you can only borrow $5,500 your first year. Your limit increases each year, but you cannot borrow more than $31,000 total. Independent students can borrow up to $9,500 this first year, but they cannot borrow more than $57,500 total. Graduate school students can borrow a total of $20,500 for the first four years of graduate school. If you enroll in a program that takes more than four years, the government caps your borrowing limit at $138,500, which includes the money you borrowed as an undergraduate.

Potential Problems

Your financial aid officer can talk to you more about the potential problems and issues that you face when it comes to financial assistance. In addition to loans, you can receive grants that the government doesn’t require you pay back, but most grants won’t cover the full cost of your tuition. Any time that you make changes to your status, you risk losing money. Many schools do not offer assistance for part-time students, and if you drop even a single class, you can drop from full-time to part-time status.

The total amount of credit hours that you need to take to qualify for assistance is typically nine for graduate students and 12 for undergraduate students. Some schools offer other forms of assistance for part-time students, and you’ll often find that you don’t need to take a specific amount of credit hours to qualify for grants or scholarships.