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How Many Credit Hours Do You Need for Financial Aid?

Most financial aid comes with a credit hour requirement. If you’re wondering about the maximum credit hours for financial aid that are needed, you’ve come to the right place! While federal financial aid has a uniform set of rules regarding credit hours, financial aid from foundations or other organizations can set their own rules. So, let’s dive in together!

Credit hour requirements for federal financial aid

Your federal financial aid eligibility is partially determined by the number of credit hours you enroll in. Only full-time students are eligible for the maximum Pell Grant sum. Half-time students receive anywhere from half to three quarters of the Pell Grant funds that a full-time student would receive. Students enrolled in 12 credit hours are considered full-time, while students enrolled in 6 credit hours or above are considered half-time. 

Also read: When is this year’s FAFSA deadline?

Loans and other aid

A similar rule applies to federal loans such as the Stafford Loan. Full-time students can borrow the maximum amount. Remember, the amount you are eligible to borrow decreases proportionally with the number of credit hours you are enrolled in. 

In addition to grants and student loans, federal financial aid also includes work study, which allows students to earn money for their education that won’t count against their financial aid (unlike other types of employment).

Maximum number of eligible credit hours for federal aid

In addition to having a minimum number of hours per semester, federal student aid mandates a maximum total number of hours for which students are eligible for aid. Students may only receive federal aid for up to 180 hours in a program. If you exceed this limit, you are no longer eligible for Pell Grants, federal loans, or other federal assistance. However, this is relatively uncommon; students typically complete undergraduate programs in 120 credit hours.

Understanding private financial aid

Most scholarships will specify whether they require students to enroll full-time or will accept part-time students as well. Sometimes they will list exactly how many credit hours are required for eligibility, but if they only include terms like part-time and full-time, here is how you can interpret them:

  • Full-time students are enrolled in 12 credit hours, while half-time students are enrolled in anywhere between 6 and 11 hours. 

Part-time can also include students who are enrolled in under 6 credit hours. If you are in this situation, reach out to the organization to confirm your eligibility before you put in the time to apply. To find private scholarships you can check out our scholarship search tool to find the best-fit opportunities for you. 

The bottom line

If you are ever confused about the amount of credit hours that qualifies as part time or full time, be sure to ask! 12 credit hours is usually the standard requirement for full time students, but that may change depending on who is providing the scholarship or grant.

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Maintaining the necessary number of credit hours is essential when thinking about financial aid
  • Federal financial aid–which includes grants, loans, and work study–has a 12 hour requirement to be considered full time, and many private scholarships are contingent on your status as a full-time student
  • When in doubt, you should always double-check with your college advisor or college registrar’s office for more information about how your credit hours could impact financial aid eligibility
  • Read the fine print on any private scholarship award you receive to see if there are any credit stipulations
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about how many credit hours you need for financial aid

What is the 150 financial aid rule?

The 150 financial aid rule states that once a student has earned 150 percent of the number of credits needed for their degree, they are no longer eligible for federal financial aid. This means that a student who has been in school for an average of six years at full time status, or earned around 180 credits, but still not their degree, may be ineligible to receive any more financial aid. 

What happens if you run out of financial aid?

There are lots of alternative options to financial aid. Students can apply for scholarships, private loans, participate in work study programs and even request more financial aid through their schools financial aid office. Don’t begin to worry too much if your financial aid doesn’t cover everything. Lots of students use multiple forms of funding to pay for their schooling! 

How do I ask for more financial aid for college?

It’s important to know that if you did not receive enough financial aid, it is possible to ask for more. You should speak with your college’s financial aid office directly to ask them what their process looks like for requesting more aid. Keep in mind too, that it is always better to try and get ahead of this process so as not to have it interrupt your education. Don’t wait until the day your tuition payment is due to begin sorting out the matter of more financial aid.