Think you’re all set with your financial aid? Think again.

By Se Young Lee

After turning in all those forms that the Office of Student Financial Aid asked for, you may be relieved after finally receiving your Award Letter. But just like everything else in life that has to do with money, not reading the fine print could leave you even more in debt than you thought you would be.

When the University offers a financial aid package to students, several expectations must be met in order for the students to keep all of the money, chiefly that students must be enrolled for a certain number of hours, must maintain a 2.0 GPA and convert at least 67 percent of the attempted credit hours each semester.

To be specific, a student must first be enrolled as a full time student (12 credit hours per semester during the school year, 6 during summer sessions). If a student loses the full time distinction at any time during the semester, most financial aid awards like the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Perkins Loan, University Loans or scholarships will be either reduced or outright canceled. Furthermore, students must be enrolled for at least 15 credit hours per term in order to receive all the money from the Illinois Monetary Award Program.

Also, the Illinois Monetary Award Program is only available to students who have completed less than 135 credit hours. Students who have used up 75 credit hours’ worth of the grant and remain classified by the University as a freshman or sophomore will be ineligible for the grant until they get classified as a junior.

But simply being registered for the right amount of hours every semester isn’t enough. The University requires that students who receive financial aid must remain in good academic standing, meaning they must receive credit for 67 percent of the hours the student enrolled for in any given semester and keep a C average (2.0 GPA) in all of their courses. Depending on what other financial aid you receive, those standards may be higher.

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If a student fails to meet any of those criteria, he or she will be placed on academic probation and remain on probation until graduation. In order to remain eligible for financial aid once on probation, students must earn 75 percent of the attempted credit hours each semester with a GPA of 2.0 or higher. If a student can’t meet these requirements at the end of the school year, he or she will lose academic eligibility. While the student may appeal the decision, the process requires considerable time and effort from the appellant.

For students who have created a meticulous eight-year plan for their stay on the Urbana-Champaign campus, there is also a caveat, The University will only offer financial aid students who have “accumulated hours totaling no more than 150 percent of the credit hours required to receive a first undergraduate degree.”

In English, a student who needs 120 hours to graduate with a degree can take up to 180 hours in order to get the necessary grades to graduate before having to pay their way through college without a dime from University financial aid. And students who wish to pursue a second bachelor’s degree will only be eligible for Federal Direct Loans. If you planned on becoming the next Bluto Blutarski, more power to you, but good luck getting your parents to pay for it.

The most important lesson you will learn after navigating through the maze of University financial aid system should be one that will serve you well for the rest of your college career: there is no such thing as free money.

For more information on financial aid, visit