For the purposes of this Return of Title IV Funds policy, “withdrawal” refers to the actions of a student who:

  • completely withdraws;
  • stops attending before completing the semester;
  • is administratively removed, withdrawn, or expelled; OR
  • receives all non-passing grades in a semester, including but not limited to F, W, DW, WL, I, NP, NC.

Recipients of federal financial aid (e.g. Federal Pell Grant and Federal Direct Loans) who withdraw before the term is over may be required to return a portion of the funds they have received. We calculate the return amount using the number of days the student attended in the given term and the total number of days in the given term.

Cuesta must perform its calculation within 30 days from the date the school determines a student’s complete withdrawal. The school must return the funds to the government within 45 days of the calculation.

Note that the requirement to return unearned aid is separate from Cuesta’s fee refund policy. Regardless of whether students receive a tuition/fee refund, they must repay any amount owed to the federal aid programs due to their withdrawal.


Return of Overpayment

Once a calculation shows that students must return funds, a specialist will inform them of their obligation. Students have thirty days to return the funds directly to Cuesta. If students do not return funds by that deadline, the specialist will post an overpayment on their NSLDS accounts and the students will lose eligibility for Title IV financial aid.


Order of Return of Title IV funds

When the amount of federal aid that must be returned is calculated, it is assigned to the relevant aid programs (when applicable) in the following order:

1.      Unsubsidized Direct Loans (other than Direct PLUS Loans)

2.      Subsidized Direct Loans 

3.      Direct PLUS Loans (parent or graduate)

4.      Federal Pell Grants for which a return of Title IV funds is required 

5.      Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, for which a return of Title IV funds is required

6.      FSEOG for which a return of Title IV funds is required

7.      TEACH Grants for which a return of Title IV funds is required

Note: any amount that a student must return to a Federal Direct Loan program is handled simply by allowing the student to repay those loans. Additionally, no return amounts will ever be assigned to the Federal Work Study Program.


Withdrawal dates

In order to calculate the amount of funds that must be returned, the financial aid office must determine the withdrawal date.

  • Official notification provided by the student
    • Student notifies Admissions & Records in writing or withdraws via myCuesta student portal.
    • If student completes an Add/Drop form, the withdrawal date is the date the student submits a completed form to the office.
    • If a student sends written notification of intent to withdraw, the withdrawal date is the date the letter is received via mail, email, or fax.
  • No official notification provided by student
    • Financial aid office will notify the student that they have 14 days to obtain an Instructor Certification of Attendance  from their instructors that has the last date of attendance for each course taken.
    • If no attendance report is available, the financial aid specialist performing the calculation will use the midpoint of the term.

In the case when an official notification was not provided by the student because of circumstances beyond the student's control, i.e., illness, accident, grievous personal loss or other circumstances, the date related to the onset of that circumstance will be used as the withdrawal date.

In some instances, a faculty member may request an administrative withdrawal on behalf of a student and that withdrawal date will be recorded.

The College may always use as the withdrawal date the date that is reported as the last date of attendance at an academically related activity by a faculty member on a class roster, grade roster/sheet, or other documented source, e.g., grade book. The faculty member will maintain the documentation of the last date of attendance.

Instructor Certification of Attendance

If you attended at least ONE class for 60% of the term, you may be eligible to keep the money you received.  Please verify your attendance. You will fill out the Course Information Section and sign the form. Your instructor will fill out their portion of the form and sign it. Then it will come to the financial aid office. Please make sure this form is submitted and completed by the student and instructor by the date on the students email. 

Date of Determination that the Student Withdrew

The date of determination that a student withdrew varies depending upon the type of withdrawal.

  • Official notification provided by the student
    • Date of determination is the date the student provides official notification or begins the withdrawal process, whichever is earlier.
    • Every three to four weeks, the Financial Aid Office will generate a report of financial aid recipients' changes in enrollment to assist in monitoring withdrawals.
  • No official notification provided
    • The date that Cuesta becomes aware that the student has ceased attendance will be the date of determination. This date cannot be later than 30 days after the end of a term.
    • After grades are assigned for a term, the specialist will generate a report of financial aid recipients that received any combination of “W”, and “F” grades.


Federal disclosure

The law specifies how your school must determine the amount of Title IV program assistance that you earn if you withdraw from school. The Title IV programs that are covered by this law are Federal Pell Grants, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants, TEACH Grants, Direct Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOGs).

Though your aid is posted to your account at the start of each period, you earn the funds as you complete the period. If you withdraw during your payment period or period of enrollment (your school can define these for you and tell you which one applies to you), the amount of Title IV program assistance that you have earned up to that point is determined by a specific formula. If you received (or your school or parent received on your behalf) less assistance than the amount that you earned, you may be able to receive those additional funds. If you received more assistance than you earned, the excess funds must be returned by the school and/ or you.

The amount of assistance that you have earned is determined on a pro rata basis. For example, if you completed 30% of your payment period or period of enrollment, you earn 30% of the assistance you were originally scheduled to receive. Once you have completed more than 60% 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, your school must get your permission before it can disburse them. You may choose to decline some or all of the loan funds so that you don’t incur additional debt. Your school may automatically use all or a portion of your post-withdrawal disbursement of grant funds for tuition, fees, and room and board charges (as contracted with the school). The school needs your permission to use the post-withdrawal grant disbursement for all other school charges. If you do not give your permission (some schools ask for this when you enroll), you will be offered the funds. However, it may be in your best interest to allow the school to keep the funds to reduce your debt at the school.

There are some Title IV funds that you were scheduled to receive that cannot be disbursed to you once you withdraw because of other eligibility requirements. For example, if you are a first-time, first-year undergraduate student and you have not completed the first 30 days of your program before you withdraw, you will not receive any Direct Loan funds that you would have received had you remained enrolled past the 30th day.

If you receive (or your school or parent receive on your behalf) excess Title IV program funds that must be returned, your school must return a portion of the excess equal to the lesser of:

1.   your institutional charges multiplied by the unearned percentage of your funds, or

2.   the entire amount of excess funds.

The school must return this amount even if it didn’t keep this amount of your Title IV program funds.

If your school is not required to return all of the excess funds, you must return the remaining amount.

For any loan funds that you must return, you (or your parent for a Direct PLUS Loan) repay in accordance with the terms of the promissory note. That is, you make scheduled payments to the holder of the loan over a period of time.

Any amount of unearned grant funds that you must return is called an overpayment. The maximum amount of a grant overpayment that you must repay is half of the grant funds you received or were scheduled to receive. You do not have to repay a grant overpayment if the original amount of the overpayment is $50 or less. You must make arrangements with your school or the Department of Education to return the unearned grant funds.

The requirements for Title IV program funds when you withdraw are separate from any refund policy that your school may have. Therefore, you may still owe funds to the school to cover unpaid institutional charges. Your school may also charge you for any Title IV program funds that the school was required to return. If you don’t already know your school’s refund policy , you should ask your school for a copy. Your school can also provide you with the requirements and procedures for officially withdrawing from school.

If you have questions about your Title IV program funds, you can call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FEDAID (1-800-433-3243). TTY users may call 1-800-730-8913. Information is also available on Student Aid on the Web at