Financial aid from the university doesn’t work like mom & dad’s checkbook. Although mom & dad may share their concerns, generally they’ll continue sending money when kids ask or need. However, financial aid offices may not be so lenient.
First, need based aid–in the form of grants, scholarships or work-study–is determined on students (and parents) annually completing the FAFSA, and possibly the CSS/PROFILE to demonstrate any financial need. Second, there may be academic conditions, like the student maintaining a certain GPA and passing a specific number of units (usually full time status) per term, to receive grants. Any failure to meet these requirements may reduce the need based aid in subsequent terms OR the student is required to PAY BACK a pro-rated amount–in the case of dropping classes mid-term and falling below the required college unit minimum. Thirdly, students who don’t accept the work-study in their first year of college, may not be allocated work-study in subsequent years, even if qualified. There is a limited amount of work study dollars per campus, and colleges would like to award students who will take advantage of the aid. Lastly, merit aid often has similar conditions for renewal–from per term unit requirements to maintaining a particular GPA to living on campus for 4 years.
Students (and their parents) should ask questions to understand the conditions, if any, to their financial aid–both merit and need based aid. Plus, knowing the terms of any student or PLUS (or parent educational) loans is the responsibility of the borrower. The college financial aid office is not obligated to tell the terms of any loan, until after the borrower accepts the loan and starts the entrance loan counseling.