US Financial Aid: student responsibilities

Students who receive US Financial Aid have certain responsibilities and must meet specific requirements to remain eligible for their loan.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) policy

All students receiving US Federal Aid (subsidised, unsubsidised and PLUS loan) at ANU must maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by the US Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress policy.

The University is required by US Federal Law (34CFR 668.16) to define and enforce standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for students receiving US Federal Funding.

The guidelines have been established to encourage students to successfully complete academic programs for which US Financial Aid is received and to be competitive in the US work place when they graduate.

Students receiving US Financial Aid will have their SAP evaluated at the end of each semester. This evaluation process will consider the student's progress under both academic standing and completion within the maximum timeframe.

Under the academic standing component, undergraduate and graduate students receiving US Financial Aid are expected to maintain at least a cumulative Pass level in their studies. In regards to maximum completions, students must be able to demonstrate that they will be able to complete their program within 150% of the normal program duration. To achieve this, students must have passed 2/3 of the standard full-time load for the session/semester they have studied.

Progress for research students is assessed through the academic progress milestones and they must be able to demonstrate that they will be able to complete their program within 150% of the normal program duration. Students must demonstrate that they will be able to complete their PhD within six years of commencement, or complete a Master by Research degree within three years of commencement.

Students who do not maintain satisfactory academic progress will be notified in writing that they will be placed on US Financial Aid probation for the following semester/session. During probation, students will continue to be eligible for US Financial Aid. If satisfactory progress is maintained during probation, students will remain eligible for aid. If satisfactory progress is not maintained during probation, students will be informed in writing that their next Financial Aid disbursement will be suspended and will they be ineligible to receive aid until such time as they achieve the required progress.

Appeals

Students who are placed on probation or who are suspended for US Financial Aid may appeal the decision. According to US Financial Aid Regulations, appeals are only permitted on the grounds of death of a relative, illness or injury to the student, or other compassionate and compelling circumstances.

Appeals must be submitted in writing, and should include a statement of the circumstances, as well as any supporting documentation.

Appeals should be submitted to:

Assistant Registrar
Academic Services
The Australian National University

For further information on submitting an appeal, please contact the Academic Standards and Quality Office.

Paying interest while at university

You may choose to pay interest on your Direct Unsubsidised or Direct PLUS loans while you are at school. If you choose not to pay the interest while at school, it will be added to the unpaid principal amount of your loan. This is called capitalisation, and it can substantially increase the amount you repay, especially if you are receiving multiple loans for a multi-year program. Capitalisation increases the unpaid principal balance of your loan, and you will be charged interest on the increased principal amount.

It will save you some money in the long run if you pay the interest as it accrues on your loan while you're in school or during the grace period. This is also true if you pay any interest that accrues during periods of deferment or forbearance after you leave school. If you've already taken out at least one Direct Loan, you can check your interest statements and use the online calculators to establish how much you'll pay over the life of the loan if the in-school interest is added to your loan balance.

Deferments

You can receive a deferment for certain defined periods. A deferment is a temporary suspension of loan payments for specific situations such as reenrolment in school, unemployment, or economic hardship. You don’t have to pay interest on the loan during deferment if you have a subsidised direct loan. If you have an unsubsidised or Direct PLUS loan, you will be responsible for the interest during deferment. If you don’t pay the interest as it accrues, it will be capitalised and the amount you have to pay in the future will be higher.

You must apply for a deferment to your loan servicer and you must continue to make payments until you’ve been notified your deferment has been granted – otherwise, you could become delinquent or go into default. If you do not know who your servicer is, you can look it up in the U.S. Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).

If you would like to apply for a deferment please contact your loan provider to request the appropriate deferment form and submit it to the Academic Standards and Quality Office to have the School section completed.

If you are in default on your loan, you are not eligible for a deferment.

Exit counseling

It is a Federal requirement that you complete exit loan counseling before you leave the University. This is to ensure you are aware of the types of repayment plans, loan consolidation options and deferment options that are available to you and other important information you may need during your repayment term. During this session you will need to provide the following information:

  • name and address of closest living relative
  • two references (not the same as closest living relative) and with different addresses.

The most common way of completing exit counseling is online via the StudentLoans.gov website.

Exit counseling must be undertaken within 30 days of completing your studies, withdrawing from your program or dropping your enrolment below half-time. If you are still active in your program but will no longer be receiving Financial Aid at ANU you should also complete your exit counseling.

If you decide to withdraw from your studies at ANU or drop your enrolment below half-time, you must complete the required paperwork as well as contacting the Academic Standards and Quality Office. Upon withdrawal/completion you will need to complete exit counseling and prepare to commence your loan repayments.

Return of Financial Aid (Title IV) funds

If you withdraw from your program, drop out, are discontinued, or go on unapproved leave of absence in the first 60% of an award payment period, both you and the University will have to repay a portion of the Federal Aid. The amount that must be repaid is worked out pro rata based on your withdrawal date. 

If you wish to withdraw completely from your program, you should first discuss your decision with International Student Services staff or the Academic Standards and Quality Office so that you understand the University's refund policy and the implications for your visa of withdrawing. If you decide to proceed with your withdrawal, the date you informed the University in writing will be your withdrawal date for the purpose of calculating loan refunds.

If you do not provide official notification of your withdrawal, the University must make a decision on the withdrawal date to calculate the return of funds. If notice was not provided because of circumstances beyond your control, the withdrawal date will be the date on which that circumstance occurred. For other reasons, the withdrawal date will be the midpoint of the payment period.

Please note: The University's Refund Policy is independent of the regulations covering the return of Title IV funds. On withdrawal, your eligibility for refunds or liability for tuition and other payments to ANU is determined by the University's refund policy.

Grace periods

Once you are no longer enrolled at least half-time in an eligible program, you'll receive a six-month grace period on your Direct subsidised and Unsubsidised loans during which you are not required to make loan payments. Your grace period begins the day after you stop attending school on at least a half-time basis. Once your grace period ends, you must begin repaying your loan(s). If you re-enrol in school at least half-time before the end of your six-month grace period, you will receive the full six-month grace period when you stop attending school or drop below half-time enrollment.

There is no grace period for Direct PLUS loans – the repayment period for a PLUS loan begins on the day after the final loan disbursement is made. However, if you're a graduate or professional student PLUS borrower (or if you're a parent PLUS borrower who is also a student), you can defer repayment while you're enrolled in university at least half-time and (for Direct PLUS loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2008) for an additional six-months after you graduate or drop below half-time enrolment. Remember, if you choose to defer payment on a Direct PLUS loan, any interest that accumulates during the deferment period will be added to the unpaid principal amount of your loan. This is called "capitalisation," and it increases your debt because you'll have to pay interest on this higher principal balance.

Make sure that both your school and loan servicer know that you are no longer enrolled. If you don't begin making payments when required, there is the possibility that you will lose repayment incentives you may have received or even go into default.

Forbearance

Forbearance is a temporary postponement or reduction of payments for a period of time because you are experiencing financial difficulty. You can receive forbearance if you’re not eligible for a deferment. Unlike deferment, whether your loans are subsidised or unsubsidised, interest accrues, and you’re responsible for repaying it. Your loan holder can grant forbearance in intervals of up to 12 months at a time for up to 3 years. You have to apply to your loan servicer for forbearance, and you must continue to make payments until you've been notified your forbearance has been granted.

If you are in default on your loan, you are not eligible for forbearance.

Delinquency and default

Failure to make your monthly payment within 30 days will result in you being considered as a delinquent borrower and may result in your delinquency being reported to a credit bureau. This could damage your credit rating. It is essential that you contact your lender immediately if you are unable to make a monthly payment to avoid default.

The consequences of delinquency could include:

  • reported to credit bureaus, affecting your credit history
  • after several months you will be classified as a defaulter.

The consequences of defaulting could include:

  • the lender will assume that you will not pay
  • the lender can garnish your wages and tax returns
  • the servicers will sue and you will be responsible for all costs
  • collection agencies take over and add an additional 15-18% interest
  • student’s loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy
  • licenses pulled in a number of US states.

It is essential you contact your loan servicer immediately if you are unable to make a payment to avoid these consequences and defaulting on your loans. If you do not know who your servicer is, you can look it up in the U.S. Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).

Notification of changes

You must inform the Academic Standards and Quality Office immediately if you intend to make any changes to your enrolment or FAFSA. This includes withdrawing from a subject, withdrawing from your program, applying for a leave of absence, changing your program, applying to be an offshore or distance student, being awarded additional funding, making corrections to your FAFSA or applying for permanent residency in Australia or New Zealand.

Any of the above circumstances may affect your eligibility for Financial Aid and it is your responsibility to notify the Academic Standards and Quality Office as soon as, if not before, you initiate any of these changes. If any of the above changes are made, you may be required to pay back funds to ANU and/or the US Department of Education. We highly recommend you seek advice on the possible consequences you may incur before making any changes to your enrolment.