What Does it Mean to be a Student With Unusual Enrollment History?

Unusual Enrollment HistoryStudents who receive federal student aid promise to use that financial aid only to meet educational costs (such as tuition, fees, books, and living expenses while enrolled). If you receive a Federal Pell Grant award, you may not use the funds for any other purpose. When you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you sign a Statement of Education Purpose indicating your understanding that the financial aid is for educational costs only.    

The U.S. Department of Education works to identify potential fraud and abuse of the Federal Pell Grant Program. Students are not permitted to enroll in college just long enough to receive credit balance payments before leaving school. In order to identify instances where students enrolled only to receive credit balance payments, the Department of Education flags the records of students who have “unusual enrollment histories”.

Examples of an enrollment history that would prompt further investigation include:

  • when the student received Pell Grant funds at three institutions over two award years, and
  • when the student received Pell Grant funds at three or more institutions in one award year.  

If a student record indicates an unusual enrollment pattern, the current school must determine whether the student enrolled in multiple programs solely to obtain the credit balance payment. The student will be asked for an explanation and documentation that demonstrates that he or she did not enroll only to receive a credit balance payment. If the student did not earn academic credit at one or more of the prior schools, the school will need to review records and collect additional information about the previous enrollments. The school then makes a determination about whether to approve or deny eligibility for federal student aid.

If a student is denied eligibility for federal student aid due to an unusual enrollment history, the school will provide a process to appeal the school’s decision and give information regarding how to regain eligibility.
 

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About the Author: Heather Jarvis

A former capital defense attorney with law school debt, Heather Jarvis now dedicates her expertise to helping student loan borrowers make better decisions so that higher education can be a reality for all—not just those who can afford it. Specializing in training for high-debt borrowers and the people who love them, Heather has provided guidance and information to thousands of students and recent graduates. She has contributed to student debt relief policy for the House Education Committee and others in Congress, and spent more than six years advocating for public service loan forgiveness, which allows more recent graduates to dedicate their careers to the greater good. You can see some of the great work Heather does on her website, AskHeatherJarvis.com.

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