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    How Many Credit Hours Do You Need for Financial Aid?

    By Lisa Freedland

    Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

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    and Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: February 1st, 2024
    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. 

    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).

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

    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. 

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