Financial Aid

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VHCC strives to assure that no one be denied the opportunity of attending the College for financial reasons. Toward this end, a variety of financial aid programs are available for qualified students. Students wishing to apply for financial aid may secure application forms and information from the Office of Financial Aid or by visiting the VHCC Financial Aid Web Site. All applicants must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for federal and state financial aid programs.

VHCC is required by federal and state regulations to review financial aid applicants who are selected for a process known as “Verification” by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). VHCC will verify all financial aid applicants that complete a FAFSA and are selected by the Central Processor to be verified. VHCC also reserves the right to select applicants to be verified if information is found to be questionable.


Who is Eligible for Financial Aid?

To be eligible for most federal and state aid programs, students must:

  1. Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen; Have financial need;
  2. Be admitted to, and pursuing, an eligible degree or certificate program;
  3. Have a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate;
  4. Have a valid Social Security number;
  5. Meet satisfactory academic progress;
  6. Electronically sign a statement on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) certifying that federal student aid will be used only for educational purposes;
  7. Electronically sign a statement on the FAFSA certifying they are not in default on a federal student loan and do not owe money on a federal grant;
  8. Register with the Selective Service if required; and
  9. Be enrolled in credit courses. No financial aid is available for noncredit or audited courses.

Students admitted as non-curricular or as pending acceptance into a curriculum, are ineligible for financial aid.


VCCS Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy

Federal regulations require that a student receiving federal financial aid make satisfactory academic progress in accordance with the standards set by the College and the federal government. These limitations include all terms of enrollment, whether or not aid was awarded or received.  Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards also apply to all federal and state aid, state as well as scholarships.  Progress is measured throughout the academic program by the student’s cumulative grade point average (Qualitative) and by credits earned as a percentage of those attempted (Quantitative or Pace of Completion).  In addition, students must complete their programs of study before attempting 150% of the credits required to complete the program. The College Financial Aid Office will evaluate satisfactory academic progress before aid is awarded and after grades are posted for every term, starting with their first term of enrollment. Some career studies certificate programs (i.e., shorter than 16 credits in total length) are ineligible for student financial aid, but those credits will be counted toward all SAP requirements (GPA, Completion Rate, Maximum Timeframe, and Developmental Maximum) if the student later enrolls in an eligible program.


A.      Financial Aid Good Standing (GS) – Students who are meeting all aspects of the satisfactory academic progress policy or successfully following a designated academic progress plan.

B.      Financial Aid Warning Status (WS) – Students who fail to meet satisfactory academic progress for the first time (excluding students who have already attempted 150% of the credits required for their programs of study) will be automatically placed in a Warning Status for one (1) term and are expected to meet SAP requirements by the end of that term.  Students who fail to meet satisfactory academic progress requirements at the end of the warning status term will be placed on financial aid suspension.  However, with a successful SAP appeal, those students will be placed on financial aid probation and will retain financial aid eligibility. 

C.      Financial Aid Probation Status (PS) – Students who have successfully appealed financial aid suspension are placed in Probation Status (PS). Students in Probation Status (PS) are eligible to receive financial aid for one (1) semester, after which they MUST be in Good Standing (GS) or meeting the requirements of an academic progress plan that was pre-approved by the College Financial Aid Office. (See “IV. Appeals” for additional information.)

D.      Financial Aid Suspension Status (SS) – Students who do not meet the credit progression schedule and/or the cumulative grade point average standard, or who fail to meet the requirements of their pre-approved academic progress plan, will be placed in Suspension Status (SS). Students in Suspension Status (SS) are not eligible to receive financial aid.

E.      Academic Suspension (AS) – Academic requirements for avoiding warning status and staying in school differ from financial aid requirements for Satisfactory Academic Progress.  Academic status will be noted on registration records; financial aid status will be noted on financial aid pages in SIS.  Any student suspended from the College for academic or behavioral reasons is automatically ineligible for financial aid.


A. Quantitative Standards or Pace of Completion

Completion Rate (67% Rule): Students must, at a minimum, receive satisfactory grades in 67% of cumulative credits attempted. This calculation is performed by dividing the cumulative total number of successfully completed credits by the cumulative total number of credits attempted. All credits attempted at the College (except audits, which must be entered as such by the class census date) are included. All credits accepted in transfer count as both attempted and successfully completed credits. This evaluation will be made prior to aid being awarded and after grades are posted at the end of each semester a student is enrolled at the College. Credits with satisfactory grades at the College are those for which a grade of A, B, C, D, S, or P is earned. 

Maximum Hours (150% Rule):  In order to continue receiving financial aid, a student must complete his/her program of study before attempting 150% of the credits required for that program.  Developmental and ESL course work are excluded in this calculation. Attempted credits from all enrollment periods at the College plus all accepted transfer credits are counted; whether or not the student received financial aid for those terms is of no consequence. 

Transfer Students:  Credits officially accepted in transfer will be counted in determining the maximum number of allowable semester credit hours for financial aid eligibility. 

Second Degree Students:   Credits earned from a first degree or certificate must be counted if the student changes programs or attempts a second degree or certificate.   Depending on the circumstances, an appeal might be warranted.

ESL and Developmental Studies: Students may receive financial aid for a maximum of 30 semester hours of Developmental Studies courses as long as the courses are required as a result of placement testing, the student is in an eligible program of study, and SAP requirements continue to be met.  ESL credits are unlimited in number as long as they are taken as part of an eligible program and SAP requirements continue to be met. 

Additional Considerations for Quantitative or Pace of Completion Standards

  • Withdrawals (W grades) that are recorded on the student’s permanent academic transcript will be included as credits attempted and will have an adverse effect on the student’s ability to meet the requirements of the completion rate for financial aid.
  • Incomplete Grades: Courses that are assigned an incomplete grade are included in cumulative credits attempted. These cannot be used as credits earned in the progress standard until a successful grade is assigned.
  • Repeated courses enable the student to achieve a higher cumulative grade point average. Students can repeat courses with financial aid until successfully completed but repeating courses adversely affects the student’s ability to meet completion rate requirements.  Financial aid can be considered for successfully completed classes that are repeated to achieve a higher grade but for only one additional attempt.  Only the latest attempt will count toward the cumulative grade point average. 

B. Qualitative Standards

Cumulative GPA Requirements (GPA Rule): In order to remain eligible for financial aid consideration, students must meet minimum cumulative grade point average requirements based on a progressive scale. Only non-remedial courses with grades of A, B, C, D, and F are included in this calculation.  Transfer credits are excluded.  In order to graduate, a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.0 is required.

Total Number of Credits Attempted

GPA Requirement







 AIMS Scholarship requires a minimum of 2.75 GPA to remain eligible.


Students who do not meet the credit progression requirements (Quantitative or Pace of Completion) and/or cumulative grade point average requirements (Qualitative) will be immediately ineligible for financial aid.  Removal from financial aid does not prevent students from enrolling without financial aid if they are otherwise eligible to continue their enrollment.

Unless extenuating circumstances exist and an appeal is granted (see “IV. Appeals” for additional information), a student in financial aid suspension should expect to continue classes at his or her own expense until satisfactory academic progress requirements are again met.

Students who fail to meet these Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards and who choose to enroll without benefit of student financial aid may request a review of their academic records after any term in which they are enrolled without the receipt of financial aid to determine whether they have again met satisfactory academic progress standards.  If the standards are met, eligibility is regained for subsequent terms of enrollment in the academic year. Students should consult their campus financial aid advisors for assistance in appealing any element of this policy or to determine how to regain eligibility for financial aid.



Under certain circumstances, students who fail to meet SAP standards and lose eligibility for financial aid can appeal the financial aid suspension.  Students must clearly state what caused the suspension and must also clearly indicate what has changed that will now allow the student to succeed.  Appeals are encouraged if:

  • Extenuating circumstances exist (i.e., student’s serious illness or accident; death, accident or serious illness in the immediate family; other mitigating circumstances), or
  • The student has successfully completed one degree and is attempting another, or
  • The student on suspension for other than Maximum Hours (150%), who has not yet met SAP requirements, has during suspension enrolled in and successfully completed at least 12 semester credits at the College with a minimum GPA of 2.0.
  • Students appealing a suspension must:
    •  Complete the College’s SAP Appeal Form in entirety,
    •  Attach documentation in support of the appeal, including an advisor statement showing remaining credits to graduation for 150% appeals, and
    • Submit all items to the College Financial Aid Office.

Only complete appeal submissions, with documentation, will be evaluated by the Financial Aid Office.  The decision is final.  Depending on the circumstances, the student could be required to complete additional requirements (i.e., see a career counselor or another type of counselor, meet with an advisor to develop an academic progress plan for completion, limit enrollment, etc.) before an appeal is granted.  The goal is to help the student get back on track for graduation.  The reasonableness of the student’s ability for improvement to again meet SAP standards and complete the student’s program of study will be carefully considered. Appeals will be approved or denied.  Students who have appeals approved will be in probationary status for the coming term.  During probationary status, the student must meet the conditions of the appeal as communicated to him or her by the Financial Aid Office, or the student will return to suspension.  If an academic progress plan has been pre-approved by financial aid, continuing to meet the requirements of that plan will put the student back into good standing.


Excluded Credits from Enrollment Status

Under the following conditions, certain course credits will not be included when calculating the current enrollment status used to determine eligibility for aid:

1. A course is registered as audit;
2. A developmental course if the student has attempted at least 30 semester hours of developmental course work.
Credit may also be denied for courses which do not apply toward graduation in the student’s current curriculum.


Repayment of Title IV Aid when a Student Withdraws

If a student withdraws on or before 60% of the class has been completed, federal financial aid regulations established by the Higher Education Amendments of 1998 require that a portion of the total Title IV funds awarded to that student (Pell Grant, FSEOG, Coma, VGAP or Gear Up) must be returned. The determination is based on calendar days.


Withdrawal Date for a Student Receiving Title IV Aid

To determine the withdrawal date, the Office of Financial Aid will consider:

  1. The date in the Student Account System that the student was withdrawn;
  2. The date the student officially notified the Admissions Office of intent to withdraw;
  3. The date that the College determines that a student stopped attending class because of an illness, accident, grievous personal loss, or other circumstances beyond the student’s control.
  4. The date the student last attended an academically-related activity such as an exam, a tutoring session, a computer-assisted instructional session, an academic counseling session, an academic advisement session, or study session assigned by the College.

The College must document a student’s withdrawal date and maintain the documentation.


VHCC Disbursement Process

Disbursement of federal and state grant funds to student accounts will occur within 4 weeks following the last day to add a class for the semester. A notification of the disbursement date will be posted on the VHCC website. In approximately 2 weeks after this date, students may expect to receive any refund check that they are entitled to after tuition, and approved charges are deducted. Students have the option to choose a reloadable VISA branded prepaid debit card or direct deposit (ACH) into their existing bank accounts.


Aid Programs Available  


VHCC does not participate in the Federal Family Education Loan Programs, however, the College does participate in the following grant and work programs:

PELL Grant – Students may apply for this federally-funded program by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This non-repayable grant is available to eligible students enrolled in an eligible certificate or degree program. Maximum award for the 2014-15 award year will be $5,730 for full-time students.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant – VHCC participates in this federal program which provides direct awards to a limited number of students. Grants may range from $100 to $4000 depending on the student’s need, financial resources, and cost of attending the College.

Federal Work-Study Program – Numerous jobs on campus and off campus are available each year under the Federal Work-Study Program. Students who have financial need and enrolled in at least half time may qualify for participation in this program. Community service jobs are also available to students. Foreign students who are in this country on temporary visas are ineligible to participate in the work-study program. These funds cannot be applied to tuition or books. 

Commonwealth Grant Program – The COMA Grant Program is a needs-based program of grants to students at VHCC who are permanent residents of Virginia enrolled in 6 or more credit hours. Funding is provided solely by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Individual awards vary dependent upon need and funding level. Awards range from $200 up to the cost of tuition.

Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program – The VGAP Grant Program is a needs-based program to students at VHCC who are permanent residents of Virginia, first time freshmen who graduated from a Virginia high school, have a 2.5 high school grade point average and enroll full time. Awards vary from $400 to $1,700 for tuition and fees. Renewal students must maintain a 2.0 and continuous full-time enrollment.

Part-Time Tuition Assistance Program (PTAP) – This VCCS funded grant provides tuition assistance only to students in an eligible degree or certificate program who enroll for at least 1 but less than 9 credits. Students must demonstrate need and be domiciled in Virginia.

Aims Higher Scholarship - The Aims Higher Scholarship encourages Virginia-resident students in Washington County, Smyth County, and the City of Bristol to complete a challenging curriculum and to pursue higher education. Students who graduate from a public high school in the VHCC service region and meet the requirements of their high school and the requirements of the scholarship may attend up to two years of college without paying any tuition or fees. This program will fill the financial aid gaps for the graduates who receive financial aid that is less than the cost of their tuition and fees, or who fail to qualify for any financial aid (this is a gap program for tuition only). Renewal students must maintain a 2.75 and continuous full-time enrollment of at least 12 credits.

Transfer Grants - The Transfer Grant makes a four-year college degree more affordable for Virginia Highlands Community College graduates who have financial need (determined by the FAFSA). It provides a $1,000 grant for all eligible students, with an extra $1,000 for students who pursue undergraduate work in engineering, math, nursing, teaching or science. For more information, contact the Student Success Center (276-739-2438) .

Virginia Tobacco Settlement Program - This program assists eligible Virginia resident tobacco growers, quota holders, their immediate dependent family members and tobacco workers with up to the full cost of tuition to attend credit classes at VHCC, after all other financial aid and scholarships have been exhausted. Students receiving tobacco scholarships to attend credit classes must meet the requirement of ‘satisfactory academic progress’ as defined in the VHCC College catalog. All required documentation must be completed and received in the Financial Aid Office by June 1, 2015. This includes a completed FAFSA on file for the 2015-2016 year. After this deadline, funding will not be guaranteed. If funds are available after the deadline, they will be awarded based upon the date the documentation is completed and received.  More information may be obtained online at 
Virginia Tobacco Commission Program.

Alternative Student Loan Program - Alternative loans, also called private loans, are offered by lending institutions as an additional source of funds for higher education. These funds are not part of the federal government loan programs; VHCC does not participate in the Federal Direct Loan Programs which include Stafford or Plus student loan programs.