- Financial Aid Stipends
- FSA Disbursements
- Leave of Absence
- Loan Counseling
- Return of Title IV Funds
- Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy
- Undergraduate Grade Level Determination
- Unusual Enrollment History
- Verification Policy
- 2023-2024 Financial Aid Deadlines
Financial Aid Stipends
If there is a credit balance remaining on a student’s account after all obligations are paid, a financial aid stipend will be generated. Financial aid stipends are not generated until the instructors have completed their attendance verifications. The attendance verifications must be completed for each class that a student is registered for, or the financial aid stipend will be delayed.
Automated Clearing House (ACH) is the University’s preferred method for processing student stipends. The ACH method allows the University to deposit your stipend directly into a U.S. checking or savings account. This is the most efficient and expeditious way to process a stipend.
You may enroll in ACH deposit via the myCSU Portal. You will need your bank routing number and your checking or savings account number. This information is available on the bottom of your checks or directly from your banking institution. We understand that many people may not carry checks. In this case, you should obtain a letter from your financial institution on their letterhead with the pertinent bank account routing information on it and return it with the ACH form.
PLEASE NOTE: International students may only receive ACH deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account.
If you do not sign up for the ACH method, a check for the credit balance will be mailed to your current address in our database.
When a student applies for financial aid, the amount of Federal Student Aid (FSA) awarded is based on the cost of attendance for a full academic year. The academic year generally consists of four terms. The amount of FSA awarded for the academic year will be divided into four equal disbursements, not to exceed the established cost of attendance for each term.
Federal loans to students and Federal Pell Grant disbursements will not post to the students’ accounts until after day 14 of the term. After the first week of the term has ended, CSU will verify that the first week of assignments have been completed in all courses enrolled for that term. It is very important that a student completes the first week of instructional requirements; otherwise, it will result in the student being institutionally dropped from the course(s). Any Pell eligible student institutionally dropped from a course(s) will have an adjustment to their award.
Once federal funds have been disbursed, students will receive a disbursement notice via email from the CSU Office of Financial Aid.
|Term||Start Date||End Date||2-week Disb Date||Stipend Mailing Date|
Note: This schedule is not a guarantee of delivery date and is contingent upon CSU successfully receiving your funds as scheduled. In the event of a delay in disbursement, these dates may vary.
Leave of Absence Policy
Important facts concerning a Leave of Absence:
- For purposes of Title IV. a student is considered withdrawn from the University while on a LOA; therefore, federal student loans are not eligible for an in-school deferment.
- A student is not eligible to receive Federal Student Aid while on a LOA.
- A student who fails to return from a LOA is required to reapply for admissions to the University after a period of 12 months of inactivity in his or her academic program.
For more information about the Leave of Absence Policy please refer to the Student Handbook.
Note: Students enrolled in a doctoral program should refer to the Doctoral Leave of Absence Policy in the Student Handbook.
Loan Entrance/Exit Counseling (Required)
The U.S. Department of Education requires that any student receiving a direct loan complete loan entrance and exit counseling. Loan entrance counseling provides information to students concerning how to manage student loans, both during and after college. Exit Counseling is generally required once a student drops below half-time enrollment status, withdraws or graduates. The student must notify the CSU Office of Financial Aid prior to withdrawal or graduation for loan exit counseling. The purpose of loan exit counseling is to inform the student of their tentative total loans received while in attendance at CSU and to provide the student with an estimated payment schedule.
Borrower Rights & Responsibilities
The borrower has the right to receive the following information before leaving school.
- The amount of the student's total debt (principal and estimated interest), what the student's interest rate is and the total interest charges on the loan(s).
- A loan repayment schedule that lets the student know when his/her first payment is due, the number and frequency of payments and the amount of each payment.
- If the student has FFEL Program Loans, the name of the lender or agency that holds the student's loan(s), where to send the student's payments and where to write or call if the student has questions.
- The fees the student should expect during the repayment period, such as late charges and collection or litigation costs if delinquent or in default.
- An explanation of available options for consolidating or refinancing the student's loan.
- A statement that the student can repay his/her loan without penalty at any time.
The borrower has a responsibility to do the following.
- Understand that by signing the promissory note, the student is agreeing to repay the loan according to the terms of the note.
- Make payments on the student loan even if the student does not receive a bill or repayment notice.
- If the student applies for a deferment or forbearance, he/she must still continue to make payments until notification that the request has been granted.
- Notify the appropriate representative (institution, agency or lender) that manages the student's loan when the student graduates, withdraws from school or drops below half-time status; changes his/her name, address, Social Security Number or transfers to another institution.
- Receive entrance counseling before being given the first loan disbursement, and to receive exit counseling before leaving school.
Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4)
If a student receiving Title IV funds ceases to be enrolled in a term, the federal government mandates that CSU must determine the amount of Title IV earned as of the date the student officially or unofficially withdraws. The portion of Title IV a student is entitled to receive is calculated on a percentage basis by comparing the total number of calendar days in the term to the number of calendar days completed prior to withdrawing. For example, if a student withdraws from all courses after completing 20% of a term, they would be entitled to 20% of the aid awarded for the term and 80% of the aid awarded would be unearned and returned to the federal government. If the percentage of aid earned is greater than 60%, the student is considered to have earned all aid for the term in which the student withdrew.
Return of Unearned Aid
In accordance with federal regulations, CSU is required to return all funds that were disbursed to the student in which the student was determined to be ineligible for based on the R2T4 calculation. A return of Federal Student Aid funds could result in a balance due on a student account. The unearned aid will be returned to the federal government in the following order:
- Direct Unsubsidized Loan
- Direct Subsidized Loan
- Direct Parent or Graduate PLUS Loan
- Federal Pell Grant
The withdrawal date used to perform the R2T4 calculation is the date the student officially notifies CSU of their intent to withdraw.
The withdrawal date used to perform the R2T4 calculation for students who unofficially withdraw from all courses will be the midpoint of the term, or the last date of academically related activity; whichever is greater.
Post Withdrawal Disbursement
A student may be eligible to receive a post withdrawal disbursement if, after performing a R2T4 calculation, it is determined a student has earned additional awarded aid not yet disbursed. Students eligible to receive a post withdrawal loan disbursement will be sent an email notification and must provide authorization prior to the institution posting funds to a student account. All funds will be applied to any outstanding charges related to tuition and fees prior to issuing a stipend to the student.
This policy is subject to change in order to comply with administrative and regulatory requirements. Questions regarding this policy should be addressed to the Director of Financial Aid.
Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy for Title IV Students
Federal regulations require CSU to establish and apply reasonable standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for eligible students to receive financial assistance under the programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act. CSU students who wish to be considered for financial aid must:
- Be in good standing at the university.
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress in their program of study, as set forth in this policy.
SAP is a financial aid eligibility requirement and is administered by the university in addition to the academic standards of performance required under the CSU Academic Progress Policy.
Students are evaluated for SAP at the end of every payment period. All students are evaluated on three standards: grade point average (qualitative measure), pace of completion (quantitative measure) and maximum timeframe. Students must meet all three standards to maintain eligibility for Title IV funds.
Undergraduate Student Standards
Grade Point Average (Qualitative Measure)
Undergraduate students must maintain a minimum qualitative measure of progress defined as a 2.0 cumulative GPA.
Pace of Completion (Quantitative Measure)
Undergraduate students (either full-time or part-time) must achieve a passing rate of at least 66.67 percent of all credit hours attempted. Credit hours attempted include completed courses, repeated courses, withdrawals and incompletes. Transfer credit, if applicable, is also calculated in the pace of completion as attempted and completed credit hours.
Maximum Time frame
Undergraduate students must complete their degree program within 150 percent of the semester hour requirements for the degree as published in the catalog. Students must complete an associate degree within 90 semester hours and a bachelor’s degree within 180 semester hours. Transfer credit, if applicable, is also calculated in the maximum time frame calculation.
Graduate Student Standards
Grade Point Average (Qualitative Measure)
Graduate students must maintain a minimum qualitative measure of progress defined as a 3.0 cumulative GPA for their degree program.
Pace of Completion (Quantitative Measure)
Graduate students must achieve a passing rate of a minimum of 50 percent of 0 to 9 attempted credit hours, a minimum of 60 percent of 10 to 18 attempted credit hours and a minimum of 66.67 percent of 19 or more attempted credit hours towards the degree program. Attempted hours include completed courses, repeated courses, withdrawals, and incompletes. Transfer credit, if applicable, is also calculated in the pace of completion as attempted and completed credit hours.
Maximum Time frame
Graduate students must complete their degree program within 150 percent of the semester hour requirements for the degree as published in the catalog. Students must complete a master’s degree within 54 semester hours and a doctorate degree within 90 semester hours. Transfer credit, if applicable, is also calculated in the maximum time frame calculation.
SAP Policy Notification
Students are notified of the SAP policy in the CSU catalog, website and during the initial financial aid application process. All periods of enrollment at CSU are calculated in SAP, including periods of enrollment during which a student did not receive financial aid.
Students are allowed to drop a course without any negative impact on SAP through the term “drop date” as listed on the academic calendar. A course designated as a “DP” does not count as attempted hours or in the GPA when determining SAP.
Official Course Withdrawal
A student who withdraws from one or more courses after the drop date will be issued a grade of “W”. Course withdrawals will count as attempted credit hours when measuring the maximum time frame and quantitative progress of SAP but will not be included in the GPA. A student who withdraws from all attempted credit hours during the student’s first period of enrollment with CSU will also obtain an undefined GPA. An undefined GPA is equivalent to a 0.00 GPA.
Unofficial Course Withdrawal
A student who unofficially withdraws from one or more courses will be issued a grade of “WF”. Unofficial withdrawals will count as credit hours attempted when measuring the maximum time frame and quantitative SAP. A grade of “WF” counts as a grade of “F” when measuring qualitative SAP progress.
Transfer credits accepted toward the student’s degree program will be included as credit hours attempted and earned when calculating the SAP maximum time frame and quantitative progress.
Students receiving Title IV Aid may repeat a course, as allowed under CSU academic and financial aid policies. Repeated courses will be issued a grade of “R” and count as attempted credit hours toward the quantitative and maximum time frame SAP standards. A grade of “R” does not count in qualitative determination of SAP. The grade earned upon retake will be used in the cumulative GPA.
Students receiving Federal Student Aid may receive incomplete grades, as allowed under CSU academic policy. A grade of incomplete will count as credit hours attempted in determining SAP. Students issued a grade of incomplete while on SAP Financial Aid Warning will not be eligible to use Federal Student Aid for subsequent payment periods, pending the resolution of the incomplete grade.
Change of Program
All periods of enrollment count when assessing satisfactory academic progress for undergraduate students. All attempted credit hours will be included in making satisfactory academic progress determinations when a student changes degree programs (majors) at the same degree level (e.g. Bachelor to Bachelor). For graduate students, only the credit hours associated with the courses that apply to each specific graduate degree program will be used in the satisfactory academic progress evaluation.
SAP Evaluation and Warning
SAP is evaluated after every payment period. Students who fail to meet the GPA and/or pace of completion requirements of SAP will be notified and will be placed on SAP Financial Aid Warning for one term and are encouraged to work with their academic advisor to discuss enrollment options. A student placed on SAP Warning will be eligible to receive Federal Student Aid for one period of enrollment.
A student who exceeds the maximum time frame requirement of SAP will be ineligible to continue to receive Federal Student Aid unless an appeal is granted, as described below.
A student who fails to meet one or more of the SAP standards at the end of the Financial Aid Warning period will be ineligible to receive Federal Student Aid unless an appeal is granted.
Financial Aid Suspension Appeal
Students not meeting SAP at the end of the Financial Aid Warning period may appeal that determination and loss of Federal Student Aid eligibility if they have extenuating circumstances such as injury or illness, the death of a relative or other special circumstances. The appeal must contain the Financial Aid Suspension appeal form completed by the student and must explain and document why the student was not able to make satisfactory academic progress during the period of substandard academic performance, what has changed that will allow the student to meet satisfactory academic progress requirements at the next evaluation and a proposed Academic Plan leading to successful program completion prepared by the student’s academic advisor.
Maximum Time Frame Appeal
Students who reach or exceed the maximum time frame allowed while completing their first degree are no longer eligible to receive Federal Student Aid. Students may appeal this decision. The appeal must contain the MTF appeal form completed by the student and the student’s academic advisor, a detailed explanation and supporting documentation of any unusual circumstances such as injury, illness, death of a relative or other special circumstances that prevented the student from obtaining a degree within the 150% credit hour requirement. The appeal must also include a proposed Academic Plan leading to successful program completion prepared by the student’s academic advisor to include expected graduation date and credit hours remaining in the degree program. If the appeal is approved, aid will be awarded only for the remaining credits required for the completion of the degree.
Submission of Appeal
Students will be sent an email notification from the Office of Financial Aid to include the appeal form once a student becomes ineligible to receive Federal Student Aid due to a negative SAP determination. Appeals should be submitted in writing and addressed to: Columbia Southern University, SAP Appeals Committee, Office of Financial Aid, 21982 University Lane, Orange Beach, AL 36561 or emailed to Attention: SAP Appeals Committee at SapAppeals@columbiasouthern.edu. Appeals without supporting documentation will not be considered. The committee will make every effort to consider each appeal carefully and provide a decision within seven to ten business days.
SAP Financial Aid Probation
Appeals that are approved will result in a student being placed on SAP Financial Aid Probation. While on SAP Financial Aid Probation, students will be evaluated at the end of each payment period to ensure the student is meeting SAP and/or the conditions of the Academic Plan. Students on SAP Financial Aid Probation are eligible to receive Federal Student Aid.
Reinstatement of Financial Aid
If a student’s appeal is denied or a student does not wish to appeal, a student may regain eligibility for Federal Student Aid by enrolling in and successfully completing courses in his or her degree program without the use of Federal Student Aid. A student may request financial aid reinstatement once he/she successfully completes enough credits to meet the minimum SAP standards. A student should contact the Office of Financial Aid in writing if the student feels he or she has regained financial aid eligibility and wishes to be reinstated.
Undergraduate Grade Level Determination
Any student pursuing an undergraduate degree must be classified by grade level, as well as meet grade level progression in order to comply with the requirements of FSA and the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. Graduate students do not have grade level requirements.
Please refer to the table below to determine the grade level or the progression rate of an undergraduate student.
|Number of Credits Completed||Student’s Grade Level|
|0 to 24 credits||Freshman|
|25 to 48 credits||Sophomore|
|49 to 72 credits||Junior|
|73 or more credits||Senior|
Unusual Enrollment History (UEH)
The Department of Education has implemented federal regulations in an effort to prevent fraud and abuse in the Federal Student Aid Program by identifying students that have received federal Pell Grants and/or Direct Loans at multiple institutions for the last four consecutive funding years.
A financial aid application flagged “2” and “3” will be reviewed by the Office of Financial Aid for unusual enrollment history (UEH) to determine whether or not the student is enrolling only long enough to receive cash refunds of Federal Student Aid.
The Office of Financial Aid at Columbia Southern University will review the student’s completed evaluation report including all official academic transcripts from all colleges and universities attended during the review period, to determine if academic credits were earned for the involved years. If federal Pell Grants and/or Direct Loans were received and academic credits were not earned at any of the institutions attended, additional documentation will be requested. Documentation may be faxed to (251) 224-0590 or emailed to email@example.com.
All required documentation must be received and the UEH flag must be resolved before a student is eligible to receive Federal Student Aid.
Unusual Enrollment Appeal
If, after reviewing all supporting documentation, a student is determined ineligible for Federal Student Aid, he/she may appeal the determination by completing the Unusual Enrollment History Appeal Form and submitting any additional supporting documentation to the Office of Financial Aid. Students will be notified via email of the outcome of the appeal within 14 business days of receipt of all required documentation.
Regaining Federal Student Aid Eligibility
A student determined ineligible for Federal Student Aid as a result of UEH will have the opportunity to regain their eligibility. To be considered for financial aid reinstatement a student must be unconditionally admitted to the University; earn credit in three terms without officially or unofficially withdrawing from any attempted courses; and must meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards. If all requirements are met, a student must contact the Office of Financial Aid to determine reinstatement eligibility.
CSU must check the accuracy of all applications the Central Processing System (CPS) selects for verification, with the exception of students receiving unsubsidized loans only. The CPS will select applicants for verification based on edit checks which identify inconsistencies and/or potential errors. CSU must also verify any application the University has reason to believe is incorrect or discrepant.
All financial aid applicants are encouraged to file federal income tax returns for applicant, parent and/or spouse as applicable, prior to completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will allow students and prospective students to utilize the IRS Data Retrieval tool when completing the FAFSA. The IRS Data Retrieval tool saves time and increases the accuracy of the financial information collected on the FAFSA. The IRS Data Retrieval tool is also the fastest and most secure solution for meeting verification requirements if applicable.
Students and prospective students selected for verification will be sent an email notification with information and directions for obtaining required documentation. The Prospect and Student portals will allow students to view all required financial aid documents, check the status of their financial aid application and view their financial aid award once completed. If CSU receives a subsequent FAFSA for a student selected for verification after they have been initially awarded federal financial aid, all future disbursements will be placed on hold. If verification is not completed, all previously disbursed federal financial aid will be returned, which will result in a balance due on the student’s account.
The data reported on the verification worksheet, federal tax transcript and other supporting documentation provided is checked against the appropriate data elements on the FAFSA. All conflicting information will need to be corrected on the FAFSA by the school or student as applicable and a new Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be calculated. Students will not be awarded federal financial aid until verification is complete. If CSU receives a subsequent FAFSA affecting overall financial aid eligibility, the financial aid award will be adjusted as applicable. The updated information may require a return of already received Federal Student Aid funds resulting in a balance due on the student’s account. A student will be notified via email of any changes and directed to login to the CSU Financial Aid Portal to view the updated award information and/or additional requirements.
Referrals will be made to the Office of Inspector General should there be allegations of fraud or other criminal misconduct in connection with an applicant’s application for financial aid.
CSU offers several term start dates throughout the award year. Below are the deadlines in which an unconditionally admitted student must have all required financial aid documents on file in order to utilize financial aid in an applicable term.