Office of Financial Aid
Third Floor, Allison Administration Building
The Office of Financial Aid is dedicated to helping students and their families make attendance at Columbia College an academic and financial reality through financial aid planning. There are many different sources of financial aid available to qualified students. It is best to submit all required forms as soon as possible, since most aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis for qualified applicants. The Office of Financial Aid awards aid to qualified applicants regardless of race, religious creed, place of national origin, ethnic group or physical disability.
Financial Aid Application
Applicants are required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form will determine how much the family or student is expected to contribute to the educational costs for the academic year. It is a fair and equitable system of establishing how much aid each student needs. By completing the FAFSA, a student applies for federal, state, and institutional aid. The FAFSA or the Renewal FAFSA has to be filed each year to apply or reapply for assistance for the upcoming academic year. The FAFSA is available October 1st at www.FAFSA.ed.gov.
The priority deadline for completion of the FAFSA is April 15, but students are encouraged to apply for financial aid as early as possible. Applications received after this date will be considered for aid as long as funds are available.
All students are strongly urged to check with the Office of Financial Aid concerning questions related to the financial aid process. In addition, students are advised to check with local service clubs, churches and employers about scholarships that might be offered. These scholarships often go unused.
Procedure for Making Application
- The student applies for admission to Columbia College and is accepted.
- The student files the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at www.fafsa.ed.gov. (All South Carolina residents must apply by June 30 for the South Carolina Tuition Grant by completing the FAFSA.)
- In the event additional documentation is required, or errors were made on the FAFSA, students will receive notification of additional requirements.
- The student applying for assistance will receive an official award notification from the Office of Financial Aid.
- Students are not required to return a copy of the award letter. All aid will be processed as offered unless the student returns a signed copy of the award with notations indicating a desire to decline or reduce a specific award.
- VA students should notify the Columbia College certifying official or Michelle Poindexter in the Office of Tuition Accounts.
Scholarship Renewal Criteria
All students must meet the cumulative Columbia College GPA requirement below to continue to receive full merit aid with no penalty. The Office of Financial Aid will review student eligibility at the end of each spring semester. Students will receive a warning at the end of the fall semester if they are not currently meeting scholarship requirements.
Students failing to meet the cumulative GPA requirement will lose 10 percent of the merit award, applied immediately to the next term of enrollment. Students can re-qualify to receive full merit aid amounts in subsequent terms by achieving a Columbia College term GPA that matches the CGPA requirement, even if the cumulative GPA continues to be less than that required.
|CC Opportunity Grant
|Transfer Opportunity Grant
Satisfactory Academic Progress
Pursuant to Federal Regulations, the Columbia College Financial Aid Office is required to monitor the academic progress of all students who apply for federal financial aid. Financial aid funds can only be awarded to students who are completing and passing a minimum percentage of hours attempted, maintain a specific GPA, and who meet the college’s standards for continued enrollment as defined in the “Academic Standing ” section of the Columbia College Bulletin. If a student fails to meet any particular standard or combination of standards, they will become ineligible for federal financial aid. A student is considered making Satisfactory Academic Progress and eligible for financial aid if they:
- Are admitted and enrolled as a degree-seeking student.
- Meets Columbia College’s standards for continued enrollment (See the “Academic Standing ” section of Columbia College’s Bulletin.)
- Maintains a 2.0 Cumulative GPA for all undergraduate work.
- Passes 67 percent of all attempted hours (includes all transferred credits).
- Has not exceeded 180 attempted semester hours (undergraduate students).
Special Note: Certain scholarships and grants require a higher grade-point average or earned credit hours (e.g., SC Tuition Grant; Presidential, Trustees, and Leadership Scholarships.)
For the purposes of Satisfactory Academic Progress, Columbia College does not distinguish between full-time and part-time enrollment. Students’ progress is accessed on both a qualitative (GPA) and quantitative scale (percentage of hours completed). Basing the qualitative measure on percentage of hours completed negates any differences in enrollment status.
No undergraduate student exceeding 180 attempted hours is eligible for Title IV Federal or state aid.
Re-admit and Entering Transfer Students
Credit transferred from other institutions will count as both attempted and earned hours, but do not count towards the GPA requirement, for the purposes of the satisfactory academic progress. Re-admitting students will be assessed for eligibility upon re-application to Columbia College and will be considered eligible for Title IV Assistance if they have completed at least 67 percent of all the credits attempted and have a 2.0 cumulative GPA. New transfer students will be assessed for eligibility upon acceptance. All students receiving South Carolina Tuition Grant, LIFE Scholarship, Palmetto Fellows Scholarship must meet the credit hour requirement for those programs (full-time students must earn 24 semester credit hours per year for SCTG, average 30 credits per year for the LIFE Scholarship, and 30 total credit hours per year for the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship). Courses taken at other institutions do count as required towards the credit hour and GPA requirements for the SCTG, LIFE, and Palmetto Fellows scholarships.
Repeats, Withdrawals, and Remedial Coursework
Any academic course work including incompletes, withdrawals, repetitions and non-credit remedial courses that the student begins (registers) and is charged for by Columbia College will be counted as attempted credit hours. Non-credit remedial courses and repeated course work that the student successfully completes will be counted toward the minimum number of credits needed to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress. Any incomplete grade changed to a passing grade will be counted toward the minimum hours needed if the change occurs prior to the first day of class.
Students are no longer eligible for aid if the number of attempted credit hours exceeds 150 percent of the published program length. The maximum number of attempted hours eligible to be covered by aid is 180 semester hours for a 120 credit hour bachelor’s degree. Students who change majors or are starting a second bachelor’s degree and have credits that do not count toward the new major or degree may be eligible for an “hours reset,” depending on major program and reason for program change. Students will have the option to request a reset during the appeal process. An “hours reset” is not guaranteed.
Frequency of SAP Assessment
The Financial Aid Office will review the Satisfactory Academic Progress of undergraduate students at the end of each semester. Students who have not met Satisfactory Academic Progress after the designated checkpoint are placed in a warning status. If a student is still not meeting the standards after the subsequent semester, the student will be placed on financial aid suspension. Students on suspension are classified as ineligible for aid and are not eligible for Title IV federal aid programs or state funding.
Students who are determined to be ineligible for federal financial aid under the Satisfactory Academic Progress policy may appeal this determination if the student feels extenuating circumstances were a major factor in their inability to meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress standards. Extenuating circumstances are documented conditions beyond the student’s control (e.g., injury, illness, or family crisis). Appeals governing that circumstance will only be granted once. All appeals must be in writing and submitted to the Financial Aid Office.
Financial Aid Appeals
Students who do not meet these guidelines will be sent a letter and/or e-mail explaining that they are on financial aid probation. Students who feel there are extenuating circumstances which may affect the denial of financial aid have the right to appeal in accordance with the Financial Aid Appeal Process. In order to appeal, the student will need to submit a letter of explanation detailing the extenuating circumstance and what steps will be taken to ensure SAP requirements will be met by the end of the next term. All appeals must be submitted to the Office of Financial Aid within 30 days from the date of receiving notification from the Office of Financial Aid. Appeal documentation will be reviewed by the Office of Financial Aid.
Appeals can only be granted if it is mathematically possible for the student to achieve both the quantitative and qualitative SAP standard by the end of the next academic semester. Any appeal that requires more than one semester to achieve SAP standards will be denied or re-evaluated under the Academic Plan process.
After a reinstatement is made, the Financial Aid Office will review the student’s grades at the end of the reinstated period. The student will be required to successfully complete each semester with a “C” or better in each course attempted. If the student fails to meet this requirement, they will be denied financial aid for the upcoming semester and appeals will not be accepted a second time. Repeated appeals are considered a violation of the intent of the satisfactory academic progress guidelines. If a student’s appeal is denied then the student will be required to successfully attain minimum SAP requirements using their own financial resources to continue enrollment. Once minimum SAP requirements have been met aid eligibility is reinstated.
Appeals for the upcoming fall semester will be reviewed after spring grades are available (if necessary) and prior to the last day of the add/drop period for the fall semester. Appeals for the upcoming spring semester will be reviewed after fall grades are available (if necessary) and prior to the last day of the add/drop period for the spring semester. Appeals for the upcoming summer sessions will be reviewed during the spring semester and prior to the last day of the add/drop period for the summer session.
Students appealing their ineligibility for aid that cannot achieve minimum SAP requirements within one semester may be considered for an Academic Plan. If a student can achieve SAP minimum requirements in a reasonable amount of time, one academic year or less (3 semesters: fall, spring, and summer), exhibits character consistent with the mission of Columbia College, has a balance less than $1000 owed to the college, and can satisfactorily demonstrate a willingness to do the work necessary to attain minimum SAP requirements, then an Academic Plan will be offered.
An Academic Plan will detail the specific expectations and requirements that must be met for each semester the student receives aid until SAP requirements are met. The Academic Plan will be created by the Provost’s Office and forwarded to the Office of Financial Aid. Requirements may include, but are not limited to regular meetings with faculty, advisors, and the Pearce Communication Center, presentation of progress reports to the Director of Financial Aid or other representatives, and optional sessions with the campus Counselor. A specific GPA and percentage of hours completed will be assigned for each semester to ensure that SAP requirements are met within the required time frame. Failure to comply with any part of the Academic Plan requirements or to achieve the expected GPA and percentage will terminate the Academic Plan provision and the student will become ineligible for aid. No additional appeals will be considered.
Columbia College reserves the right to terminate an Academic Plan at any time. Any decision to terminate a plan early will be approved by the Financial Aid Committee. Academic Plans are an optional part of the appeals process and may not be offered to every student that can mathematically meet SAP requirements within 3 semesters.
Students who have exceeded the 180 attempted hour cap may appeal. Appeals for the extension of aid beyond the 150 percent maximum timeframe are available only to those students for whom one additional semester of aid will result in graduation. No appeal will be granted for students that require more than one term beyond the maximum timeframe to attain a degree. Students that will not graduate within one term can request consideration for an “hours reset.” Under this provision only the hours that count toward the current major would be used to determine SAP compliance. Not all students will qualify for a reset. Eligibility for a reset will be determined in conjunction with the Office of the Registrar.