• Financial Aid Basics - What Affects My Aid?

What Affects My Aid?

Enrollment status, grades, failure to turn in the proper documents and other factors can alter or eliminate your financial aid award. Make sure you're not at risk of losing any potential financial aid.

Enrollment Requirements

Why should I enroll full time and what are the benefits?

We highly recommend you enroll full time to achieve degree completion in the shortest amount of time. It's the most cost-effective option: It provides the maximum amount of financial aid and you may end up with less loan debt.

Is there a final date that my units enrolled are used to determine the amount of my Financial Aid for the term?

During the first four weeks of the term, your financial aid amounts will be adjusted up and down based on your enrollment.

Your financial aid is finalized for the term based on the number of units you are enrolled in as of the end of the 20th day of instruction.  This is considered the “census date”.  For the specific date, go to:

If you add classes after this date it will not add or increase grant funds.  If you withdraw from a portion of your classes after this date, your grant amounts will not change.  If you completely withdraw from all your classes. Refer to our withdrawal policy below.

Do I have to be enrolled full time to receive financial aid?

No, your financial aid award will be adjusted based on your enrollment status. Most awards require at least half-time enrollment. If you are registered less than full time, your initial award amount is subject to reduction or cancellation.

Please note that some awards require full-time enrollment. Refer to the "Grants" section or review your scholarship details to determine if you must be a full-time student.

What happens if I'm not enrolled full time?

Your aid is subject to reduction or cancellation. Your initial award represents the maximum amount you may receive if registered full time. The amount that is disbursed to your student account may change depending upon the number of units you are enrolled in. Refer to our withdrawal policy on our website.

My financial aid award is based on full-time status, but I indicated on the FAFSA that I would be enrolled less than full time. Why is that?

At Northridge, your initial award is always based on full-time enrollment. At the time financial aid is applied to your account, your award will be adjusted if you are enrolled less than full time.

What is considered part-time enrollment for an undergraduate, credential and graduate student?

Part-time enrollment chart for undergraduate, credential and graduate students
Second Bachelor's
Full Time12 units8 units
Three-Quarter Time9 to 11 units5 to 7 units
Half Time6 to 8 units4 units
Less Than Half Time1 to 5 units1 to 3 units

Why do I need to meet with an academic advisor to plan my graduation?

A good academic plan helps you complete your degree in a timely fashion, which saves you money in the long run. Consult your academic advisor for help with academic progress concerns.

How will my financial aid change if my unit load changes?

If you are registered less than full time, your initial award amount is subject to reduction or cancellation. Your initial award represents the maximum amount you may receive if registered full time. The amount disbursed to your student account may change depending on the number of units you are enrolled in.

Financial aid counselors can explain the pros and cons of changing your enrollment status and how it affects your financial aid. Please visit the financial aid counter on the first floor lobby of Bayramian Hall during counselor walk-in hours.

If I drop a class that brings me below full-time status, will it affect my financial aid?

Yes, we will adjust your aid depending on the award type. If you have a Stafford loan and you drop below half time, any amount not disbursed for the academic year will be canceled, and any refund will be sent to your lender.

What happens if I receive a payment and then I drop a class?

If you drop a class, you may be required to repay part or all of the funds received. For example, if you receive a full-time federal Pell grant payment, 100 percent of the awarded amount, and you drop to 9 units, your enrollment status changes from full time to three-quarter time; therefore, you may have to repay 25 percent of the amount already received.

What if I drop any or all my classes?

Please read the withdrawal policy.

What happens if I receive a part-time payment and then I add a class to increase my enrollment status?

It is possible to receive several disbursements at the beginning of the semester if your enrollment status changes. For example, if you are enrolled in 6 units when the initial payment is made, you may receive only 50 percent of your federal Pell grant award.

If you add a class for a total of 9 units, your eligibility will be recalculated as three-quarter time status and your payment will be adjusted accordingly. If you add another class for a total of 12 or more units, you will qualify for a full-time payment and another adjustment will be made. Disbursements occur once a week.

What happens to my financial aid if I do not complete my classes?

Completing your classes is a necessary part of meeting the campus Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements. If you do not complete your classes, it may affect your ability to receive aid the next semester or academic year. Please read the Satisfactory Academic Progress policy for further details.

If I stop attending, will I be disenrolled?

No. It is the responsibility of the student to withdraw from all courses. Refer to the attendance policy at Northridge.

If I stop attending, will I have to repay my financial aid?

If you withdraw from all or some of your classes, even if it is a medical withdrawal, your financial aid may be reduced or canceled. A balance may be due on your account.

Do I need to be enrolled full time to receive financial aid in the summer?

No, the number of units you enroll in for one summer term will determine the type and amount of summer financial aid. Normally, summer aid is limited to loans, the Pell grant and tuition fee grant.

For more detailed information, refer to the summer fact sheet, which is usually available in the spring. To receive Stafford loans, students must be enrolled at least half time. For undergraduate, credential, and second bacehlor's students, half-time enrollment is six units. For students enrolled in a master's program, half-time enrollment is four units.

Do I need to be a full-time student to receive my scholarship?

It depends on the scholarship. Some require full-time enrollment. Check with your donor or one of our scholarship representatives in Bayramian Hall 130.

What is a pro-rated award?

Your award may be reduced if you are not enrolled as a full-time student. You may also be required to repay your financial aid award if you drop classes after your financial aid has been paid.

Lower enrollment may lower your award amount; an award revision will be done and you will be notified. Please submit a Status Change Notification Form to the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department if you will not attend classes for any semester.

Changes to Your FAFSA After You’ve Been Awarded

Your award may be reduced or canceled if you make changes to submitted FAFSA information after you are awarded aid. The Financial Aid & Scholarship Department may also require additional documentation to verify any information you update on your FAFSA.

Please contact the department if you need to make changes on your FAFSA. It is best to have the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department determine whether changes are required; the department can then accurately update information if necessary.

Financial Aid at More Than One School

Students who enroll at two or more schools during a term are only eligible to receive financial aid at one institution for that term. If you wish to decline your financial aid at Northridge, you must submit a Status Change Notification form. Students who receive federal aid at two or more schools for overlapping enrollment periods (semesters or summer sessions) may be subject to a reduction of financial aid at one or all schools. Any reduction of financial aid could result in a balance due to Northridge and a hold placed on future enrollment. The Board of Governors Fee Waiver does not impact federal aid at Cal State Northridge.

Loan Entrance Counseling

If you decide to make loans a part of your college investment, learning how to manage debt is important. To ensure you understand the responsibility and obligation you are assuming prior to receiving a Federal Direct Stafford Loan, the federal government requires you complete Loan Entrance Counseling (LEC). Additionally, CSUN requires that students complete LEC every year. Loan funds will not be disbursed until this requirement is completed.

Go to to complete Loan Entrance Counseling. The university is listed under "California State University, Northridge." Once you have completed LEC, it may take up to five business days for the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department to receive confirmation from the Department of Education.

Master Promissory Note (MPN)

What is a Master Promissory Note?

The student loan process is made much simpler with the Master Promissory Note, a legal document signed the first time you borrow student loan funds through the direct loans program at Northridge. It's your legal promise to repay all the funds you receive.

In most cases, you only need to sign the document once for all the years you borrow while in school. You will need to sign a new MPN if you attend a school that uses a different type of MPN. You must sign your MPN electronically by visiting the Department of Education.

How does the MPN make the student loan process easier?

The MPN essentially opens a line of credit with the Department of Education for education expenses during your academic career. By signing the MPN, you're agreeing to repay the loan under its terms and conditions. This means you can receive additional federal Stafford loans throughout your academic career without submitting additional promissory notes.

Once I sign the MPN, how long does it last?

Your MPN is good for 10 years from the date you sign it. However, you might have to complete a new MPN if you transfer to a new school. Remember, you must still complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) yearly.

What is my national ID number?

Your national ID number is your Social Security number.

Can I keep track of my student loan debt?

Absolutely — taking an active role in your student loans will ensure you don't borrow more than you need. The Department of Education, lenders and schools are required to keep you informed about debt, eligibility for more loans, and when new loan funds are added to your account. You also have the opportunity to decline all or part of a new loan, and to opt out of the loan process entirely. To view all your student loan debt, go to the National Student Loan Data System.

Outside Resources (Scholarships, Fee Waivers, Sponsorships, etc.)

Excluding employment, you must report any additional resources you are using to pay for college costs at Northridge.

The amount of financial aid you receive is based on federal formulas that calculate the need for taxpayer-funded student aid programs. In determining your award, federal and state regulations consider any resources you may already have to cover the costs of education.

All colleges and universities are required to have coordination of aid and policy items in place to ensure compliance with these regulations.

Other than employment, students must report any resources they receive during the school year. Similarly, all university departments and any of their auxiliaries must notify the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department of payments or benefits, outside of employment, provided to a student. Failure to do so, or late notification, puts the student at serious risk for financial aid overpayment, which can lead to a reduction or cancellation of awarded funds. Eligibility for future financial aid may be affected.

All university campus departments and university auxiliaries, including Associated Students, CSUN Foundation, University Corporation and University Student Union, are required to report student resources to the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department. Any other kind of direct payment or benefit to the student must be reported. This includes book allowances, fee payments, fellowships, grants, scholarships, stipends and waiver of payments.

Again, employment does not need to be reported.

Students who may be subject to award revisions should visit the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department to discuss the impact on their award, and explore their financing options with a financial aid counselor. Every effort will be made to protect a student's financial aid eligibility and ensure there are sufficient resources to meet the costs of attending the university.

Repeat Course Work

Effective fall 2012, students are only eligible to receive aid one time for retaking previously passed course work. If you previously passed a course and subsequently failed the same course, any additional attempt cannot be included in your enrollment status for determining aid eligibility. The Financial Aid & Scholarship Department will identify students who are repeating previously passed course work and modify aid based on the adjusted enrollment status. Repeated classes may also count against satisfactory academic progress, which must be taken into consideration when determining aid eligibility.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

An annual review of student Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) toward an eligible degree or certificate is required by federal, state and institutional rules as one condition for financial aid eligibility. Students who do not meet the standards for satisfactory academic progress are not eligible for financial aid funding. There are limited opportunities to appeal.

Visit the SAP page for complete information on on academic standards.

Withdrawal From The University

What happens if I withdraw from the university?

If you receive financial aid and withdraw from some or all of your classes within the first 60 percent of the semester, your financial aid eligibility will be recalculated according to a federal formula. Since funds are based on attendance for the entire semester, your aid must be recalculated based on the actual number of days attended. The amount to be repaid, if any, is determined according to your withdrawal date.

Please contact the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department before beginning the withdrawal process to ensure that you understand the financial impact of your withdrawal. Your financial aid may be reduced or canceled, and you may be required to repay funds to Northridge.

How will I know if the withdrawal affects my financial aid?

You will be notified of any aid adjustments through your CSUN Gmail, which will let you know how to check your award on the myNorthridge Portal. Your financial aid may be reduced or canceled, and you may be required to repay funds to Northridge.

Any reduction in aid should be paid to University Cash Services. If you owe a balance to the university, a hold will be placed on your academic records at Northridge. This will affect you in the following ways:

  • You will not be able to register for subsequent semesters at Northridge.
  • You will not be able to obtain a copy of your academic transcripts.
  • Your credit history may be adversely affected when your past due account is reported to an outside credit agency.
  • You may not be able to receive Title IV aid at other institutions.

What is the recalculation process?

The university provides the official withdrawal date to the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department, which determines how much of the semester the student attended. This percentage is used to figure out the amount of aid the student is eligible to receive.

If the amount disbursed to you is greater than the amount you are eligible to receive, these funds will have to be returned. The Title IV programs covered by this law include: federal Pell grants, TEACH Grants, Stafford loans, PLUS loans, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs), and federal Perkins loans.

Aid will be returned in the following order:

  • Unsubsidized federal Stafford loan
  • Subsidized federal Stafford loan
  • Federal Perkins loan
  • Federal PLUS loan (graduate student)
  • Federal PLUS loan (parent)
  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

If you received less assistance than your amount earned, you may be able to receive those additional funds. If you received more assistance than you earned, the excess funds must be returned.

The amount of assistance you earned is determined on a pro rata basis. For example, if you completed 30 percent of your payment period or period of enrollment, you earn 30 percent of the assistance you were originally scheduled to receive. Once you have completed more than 60 percent of the payment period or period of enrollment, you earn all the assistance that you were scheduled to receive for that period.

If you did not receive all of the funds that you earned, you may be due a post-withdrawal disbursement. If your post-withdrawal disbursement includes loan funds, we must get your permission before it can be disbursed. You may choose to decline some or all of the loan funds so you don't incur additional debt.

Northridge will automatically use all or a portion of your post-withdrawal disbursement of grant funds for tuition, fees, and room and board charges. Northridge will need your permission to use the post-withdrawal grant disbursement for all other school charges. If you do not give your permission, you will be offered the funds. However, it may be in your best interest to reduce your debt at school by allowing Northridge to keep the funds.

In addition to federal aid, you also may be required to repay all or part of your state or institutional funds received, including Cal Grant, EOP and Tuition Fee Grant.

The funds returned by the school are paid from university resources, which may create an outstanding balance on your university account.

If you have questions about your Title IV program funds, you may visit Student Aid on the Web.

How does the recalculation process work?

Let's consider a hypothetical withdrawal scenario with a student named Mandy. Mandy registered for a 15-week spring semester, which begins Jan. 20, ends May 16, and lasts 105 calendar days. She withdrew on Feb. 9 for personal reasons after completing 21 calendar days of the semester.

Mandy was initially awarded $2,025 in Title IV aid for the spring semester. She was paid $825 for the federal Pell grant and $1,200 in a federal subsidized loan.

Mandy completed 20 percent (days attended, 21, divided by days in the semester, 105) of the period of enrollment. Since she completed 20 percent of the semester, she also earned 20 percent of the Title IV aid for the semester.

This means that Mandy earned $405 in Title IV aid (initial award total, $2,025, multiplied by 20 percent). It also means that Mandy didn't earn 80 percent of her Title IV aid. As a result, $1,620 (initial award total, $2,025, multiplied by 80 percent) is unearned aid that was disbursed and must be returned to Title IV program accounts. Federal funds must be returned in a specific order, first Title IV loans and then Title IV grants.

Do I need to start repaying my student loans if I withdraw?

If your enrollment falls below half time, you should contact your lender immediately to see how the withdrawal will affect your loan repayment. If the withdrawal brings you below half-time status, you will start your grace period. When the grace period ends, you must begin repaying your student loans according to the terms of the promissory note.

What is an unofficial withdrawal and how will it affect my financial aid?

If you receive all "WU" grades for the semester, you are considered unofficially withdrawn. The university records the midpoint of the semester as your withdrawal date and will use this date to determine your refund or repayment amounts. If you unofficially withdraw from a semester, you will not meet satisfactory academic progress for the following semester. Your financial aid may be reduced and you may need to repay financial aid funds to Northridge.

How does withdrawal affect Satisfactory Academic Progress?

If you do not complete your classes, it may affect your ability to receive aid in the next semester or academic year. These units will be counted in calculating the total units attempted, even if the withdrawal is for medical reasons. The calculation is used to determine the maximum unit cap on financial aid and may affect your ability to receive funds in your remaining years of study. Students must meet the campus Satisfactory Academic Progress policy to remain eligible for financial aid.

Where can I find information on the university withdrawal process?

For information on changes to your academic schedule after the start of classes, including the general university policy on partial, complete, and medical withdrawals, please visit the Schedule of Classes Registration Guide.

If your petition for withdrawal is granted, you do not need to notify the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department; the university will notify us. If required, we will recalculate your aid for you.

Where can I find information on the refund policy with the university?

For information on the Northridge refund policy, visit the University Cash Services page.

Where You Live Matters

Your Housing or Living Status during the academic year affects your Cost of Attendance (COA) and financial aid award.  There are three different Costs of Attendance for each of the following living statuses:

  • On-Campus – This status applies if you are living or plan to live in Student Housing.  If you are living in Student Housing, your status will be verified.
  • Off-Campus - This status applies if you are renting or plan to rent outside of Student Housing.
  • Living with Parents or Relatives - This status applies if you are living at home with your parents or relatives.

If you need to update the living status you indicated on your FAFSA or DREAM Act Application, contact our office.  You may be requested to submit additional documents to verify your living status.  If you do not update your living status, it may result in financial aid adjustments and you may owe money back to the university.