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Financial Aid Adjustments Due to Total Withdrawal or Enrollment Changes and Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4)

  • Responsible Office: Office of Financial Aid, Division of Strategic Enrollment Management, Division of Administration
  • Current Approved Version: 11/18/2019
  • Policy Type: Administrative

Policy Statement and Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to describe effects on a student’s financial aid resulting from enrollment changes, including total withdrawal, course withdrawal, course drop or non-attendance, in accordance with federal and state law and regulations governing student assistance, including Title IV of the federal Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, 20 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (“Title IV”), 8VAC40-131-70 of the Virginia Student Financial Assistance Program, Virginia Code §§ 23.1-600 et seq. and the Standards for Participation in Title IV, HEA Programs, 34 C.F.R. Part 668, Subpart B. 

Federal Aid

The university awards Title IV aid with the presumption that a student will complete all courses for the entire semester or module for which the funds were awarded. When a student ceases attendance in any manner in a course regardless of the reason, the student may no longer be eligible for the full amount of the Title IV aid originally awarded. A student is entitled to the amount of Title IV aid student earned as of their withdrawal date. A student earns Title IV aid through attendance. If the university disbursed more Title IV aid than a student earned, the student must return unearned funds to the Title IV program. If a school has disbursed less Title IV aid than the student has earned, the university will recalculate the Title IV aid and offer a post-withdrawal disbursement to the student.  

If a student with Title IV aid withdraws from all courses before completing 60 percent of the semester or module, the Office of Financial Aid’s Title IV and state aid coordinator will evaluate and determine the student’s financial aid eligibility based on the federal Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) formula. This formula determines a student’s eligibility based on the aid the student has earned according to the number of days attended prior to the total withdrawal date. If the student withdraws from all courses after completing 60% or more of the scheduled calendar days in a semester excluding any scheduled breaks of 5 days or more, the student has earned 100% of their Title IV federal aid.

Virginia State Grant Aid

VCU also applies the federal R2T4 formula described below to determine the earned and unearned portion of state aid after course withdrawal. 

Institutional and Other Aid (Scholarships)

VCU reviews all other financial aid (i.e. institutional grants and scholarships) on a case-by-case basis.  Institutional aid awards are based on full-time enrollment status and enrollment changes may reduce the award.

Noncompliance with this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. VCU supports an environment free from retaliation. Retaliation against any employee who brings forth a good faith concern, asks a clarifying question, or participates in an investigation is prohibited. 

Who Should Know This Policy  

All employees (including faculty) and students are responsible for knowing this policy and familiarizing themselves with its contents and provisions.

Definitions

Academically-related activity

Includes attending a class (including an online class that requires active participation), submitting an academic assignment, taking an exam, participating in an online discussion or tutorial, attending an assigned study group, initiating contact with a faculty member of a course in which the student is enrolled in order to discuss the academic subject studied in the course. 

Census Date

The first day after the add/drop period has ended, as determined by the VCU academic calendar, on which a student’s enrollment, as measured in credits, is locked for the purpose of earning financial aid. 

Course Drop

Student is officially removed from a course(s) during the add/drop period with no charges or credit appearing on their official transcript. A drop is considered as non-attendance in the course(s).

Designated School Official

The designated office for a student to notify VCU of course withdrawal.

Earned Aid

The dollar amount of federal and state aid that a student is able to retain based on the Return to Title IV formula calculation discussed in this policy.

Module

A course or courses which do not span the entire length of the semester.

Original Charges

The original tuition, fees, room and board that was charged for the semester to the student as reflected on student account prior to the adjustment of any charges due to withdrawal.

Pell Recalculation

A federally-required calculation when eligibility for a Pell grant changes. 

Post-withdrawal disbursement

A payment of federal financial aid after having withdrawn from the institution because the R2T4 calculation determines that the student is eligible for the disbursement. 

Retroactive Drop

Action taken by the university’s Academic Regulations Appeal Committee to grant an exception to the university’s standard drop policy in order to drop a student who has not begun attendance in a semester or module from a course or courses, for example, after the add/drop period has expired, an administrative action is completed or action has been taken through an appeal.

Retroactive Withdrawal

Action taken by the university’s Academic Regulations Appeal Committee to grant an exception to the university’s standard withdrawal policy in order to withdraw a student who has begun attendance in a semester or module, for example,  after the add/drop period has expired, an administrative action is completed or an action has been taken through an appeal.

Semester

The official fall and spring periods of enrollment as reflected on the VCU academic calendar. The periods are at least 15 weeks in length. Semesters begin on the first day of classes in the semester and end on the last date of final exams. Summer enrollment is not a standard semester and may vary in length.

Title IV Aid  

Financial aid funded by the federal government, including the following loans and grants: Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Direct Loan and Federal TEACH Grant

Unearned Aid

The dollar amount of federal and state aid that must be returned to the U.S. Department of Education based on the Return to Title IV formula calculation discussed in this policy.

Unofficial Withdrawal

The Designated School Official’s or their designee’ act of withdrawing a student from a course or courses  when a student ceases attendance and a student has not provided official notification to the university.

Virginia State Grant Aid

The following grants awarded by the Commonwealth of Virginia: Commonwealth Award (CA), Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program (VGAP) or the Virginia Two-Year College Transfer Grant Program

Withdrawal

The mark of “W” indicates the student has officially withdrawn from the course.

Contacts

The Office of Financial Aid officially interprets this policy. The Office of Financial Aid is responsible for obtaining approval for any revisions as required by the policy Creating and Maintaining Policies and Procedures through the appropriate governance structures. Please direct policy questions to the return to Title IV and state aid coordinator in the Office of Financial Aid.

Policy Specifics and Procedures 

In accordance with state and federal law, the university has set forth the following procedures to monitor student use of financial aid funds and report fraudulent use to the appropriate government entity for investigation, in order to ensure that students are using their financial aid eligibility to receive funds in good faith. Students can officially withdraw from VCU through the process managed by the Designated School Official in the Office of Records and Registration.  This process can be completed either online or in person and the withdrawal information is provided to the Office of Financial Aid.  It is at this point that the R2T4 calculation process begins.  

Effects of Aid Refunds on Current Semester Based on Return of Title IV Funds Formula

Any student who officially or unofficially withdraws from all course(s) prior to the end of the semester or module will be subject to the Federal Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) formula. The formula determines the amount of earned and unearned Title IV aid for the student. VCU adjusts the Title IV aid based on the percentage of the semester completed before the withdrawal. Students retain the same percentage of the Title IV aid as the percentage of the semester completed. During the R2T4 review it may be required to do a Pell recalculation prior to calculation of any unearned funds thus reducing the dollar amount of the Pell grant that is used in the R2T4 formula.

For example, a student who completes 45 percent of the semester retains 45 percent of the Title IV aid initially awarded. This percentage is calculated by dividing the number of days completed prior to withdrawal (excluding breaks of five days or longer) by the number of days in the term (excluding breaks of five days or longer).

VCU must return this unearned portion of Title IV aid to the programs of the U.S. Department of Education from which the student received aid in the following order: 

1. Unsubsidized Direct Loans 

2. Subsidized Direct Loans 

3. Direct PLUS Loans 

4. Federal Pell Grants 

5. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

6. TEACH Grants 

If the university disbursed more Title IV aid than a student earned, the student must return unearned funds to the Title IV program. If a school has disbursed less Title IV aid than the student has earned, the university will calculate and offer a post-withdrawal disbursement to the student. The student must accept the offer before the university will pay the funds. The university does not adjust aid after the census date for enrollment status changes.

The university will apply the same formula and process to Virginia State Grant aid. To return unearned state aid to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the university will reverse those funds from the student’s account. 

VCU recalculates all institutional aid and scholarships on a case-by-case basis under applicable university policy using the calculated percentage of earned Title IV aid.   

After financial aid and tuition and fee adjustments are complete, the university will send an electronic bill to the student’s VCU email address for any balance owed. The student will also receive an email from the Office of Financial Aid regarding the amounts of earned and unearned aid calculated in the formula. If a student owes $50 or less, VCU generally awards institutional funds and will not send a bill.

Tuition Refunds

While the university’s Tuition Refund policy generally does not provide a refund for course withdrawal after the add/drop period, the university grants certain limited exceptions as set forth in that policy found at https://accounting.vcu.edu/refunds/withdrawals/

In the unusual event that a student receives a refund following withdrawal, the refund has no impact on the amount of Title IV aid that the student has earned under the Return to Title IV refund calculation. The university may not return more Title IV aid than the formula specifies unless it seeks the student’s permission to do so, and the student grants such permission. 

The following enrollment changes do not affect the determination of earned aid in an R2T4 calculation: course drop or administrative drop/withdrawal on the same day as the withdrawal or retroactive withdrawal action.

Failure to Begin Attendance

If a student fails to begin attendance in one or more courses for which they were scheduled to attend during the add/drop period, VCU will recalculate the eligibility for financial aid awards excluding any courses that the student did not attend until the census date of the semester or module. 

If a student fails to begin any of their courses for which they were enrolled, the university will remove all financial aid from the student’s account prior to disbursement; the university will not calculate a refund because the student will not have earned any financial aid. This includes students whom VCU drops retroactively from all of their courses after the census date by administrative action.

Unofficial Withdraw and Course failure

If a student does not earn a passing grade in at least one course and did not provide official notification of withdrawal, VCU presumes that the student withdrew from their enrollment without official notification unless records show that the student completed the enrollment period. The Return to Title IV refund calculation is based on a withdrawal date at the midpoint (50 percent) of the enrollment period unless records show that the student participated in an academically-related activity after the midpoint or circumstances beyond the student’s control that warrant use of another withdrawal date. For more information, see the FAQ section below.

Effects on Aid in Future Semesters

While a withdrawal (“W”) is not counted in the student’s GPA calculation, credits from which a student withdraws count as attempted credit and may negatively impact eligibility for federal, state, and institutional financial aid. Financial aid recipients may refer to the financial aid Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for Financial Aid policy for more information. 

Effects on Aid upon Withdrawal from Courses Offered in Modules

The summer term at VCU is module-based, as are fall and spring semesters that have courses offered in multiple sessions throughout the semesters. Therefore, students enrolled in summer, fall or spring modules will be withdrawn if they do not complete all of the days in the module(s) within the semester that they were scheduled to complete. If this occurs the Office of Financial Aid will complete a Return to Title IV Funds calculation and adjust a student’s aid based on this calculation. 

A student is considered to have withdrawn from a module for Title IV aid purposes if the student ceases attendance at any point prior to completing the days in which the course or courses were scheduled. In order to avoid negative impact on Title IV aid, the student must notify VCU in writing at the time of the withdrawal that the student intends to attend a module that begins later in the same semester. Students who fail to provide this confirmation within 10 days of the withdrawal date will be withdrawn for Title IV purposes. Any aid that has been disbursed will be adjusted or canceled. 

For courses offered in modules, the following may result in recalculating Title IV, state or institutional financial aid eligibility: dropping a course(s) prior to the start date of the course(s), course cancelation after aid has been disbursed, or course withdrawal. Financial aid will also be recalculated if the student adds a course(s) prior to the start of the module(s) or the census date. Should any of these events occur, students should contact the Office of Financial Aid immediately for additional information.

Forms

There are no forms associated with this policy and procedures.

Related Documents

1. Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), 20 USC § 1091b

2. Federal regulations implementing the HEA, 34 CFR Part 668 Subpart B

3. Virginia Code §§ 23.1-600 et seq. 

4. 8VAC40-131-70 of the Virginia Student Financial Assistance Program

5. VCU Policy: Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for Financial Aid

6. Federal Student Aid Handbook: Volume 5 Withdrawals and the Return of Title IV Funds: https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1819FSAHbkVol5Master.pdf

Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

Approval/Revision DateTitle
July 2009 Title IV Refund Policy
February 19, 2018 Financial Aid Recalculation Due to Withdrawal

FAQ

1. How is the Office of Financial Aid informed of a student’s last date of attendance for an unofficial withdrawal?

At the conclusion of the semester, a representative from the Office of Financial Aid may contact faculty instructors to obtain a last date of attendance for students who earned a GPA of 0.0 for the term. If the instructor indicates the student never began attendance, the student may not be eligible for Title IV aid for that course and the student’s Title IV aid eligibility may be recalculated based on this information.

2. If faculty does not respond to the request for a last date of attendance, what is the next step for the Office of Financial Aid staff in calculating an R2T4?

If faculty does not provide a date of last attendance, the Office of Financial Aid calculates earned aid based on the number of calendar days to the 50% point of the semester.

3. How does the Office of Financial Aid calculate the official withdrawal date for a student?

Official withdrawal requires a student to take an action to withdraw from a course or courses. A student officially withdraws by dropping all of their courses through eServices or by paper form through Records and Registration, and the university will use the date on which the student initiated either process. If a student notifies Records and Registration, as VCU’s designated school official, and completes the withdrawal process at a later date or ceases attendance, the effective withdrawal date will be the date the student notified Records and Registration of their intent to withdraw.  If the student doesn’t complete the withdrawal process and continues to participate in the course(s), the student is not considered to have withdrawn.

4. How does the Office of Financial Aid calculate an unofficial withdrawal date for a student who does not take an action?

If a student takes no action and ceases attending all courses, without notifying Records and Registration, as VCU’s designated school official, then the withdrawal is unofficial and the last date of attendance in any course will be used as the withdrawal date.