Policies & Eligibility for Financial Aid

Satisfactory Academic Progress and Financial Aid Eligibility

To receive federal and state funds administered by the Financial Aid Office at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), students must be making measurable academic progress toward completion of an eligible degree program.

View the entire Satisfactory Academic Progress and Financial Aid Eligibility policy.

Return of Title IV Funds is a federally mandated policy that applies only to students who receive federal financial aid and who withdraw, drop out, are dismissed, or take a Leave of Absence prior to completing 60% of a term. The Return of Title IV Funds policy does not apply to students who reduce their units and remain enrolled. Return of Title IV Funds will be used to determine how much aid, if any, must be returned to Title IV programs.

The Title IV funds considered in the policy are the

  1. Direct Unsubsidized Loan
  2. Direct Subsidized Loan
  3. Direct PLUS Loan
  4. Pell Grant
  5. FSEOG
  6. Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grant

The policy does not apply to the Federal Work Study program.

The Return of Title IV funds calculation identifies two types of federal aid, earned and unearned. The earned aid is based on a percentage calculated by dividing the number of days the student completed by the number of days in the payment period. A student who remains enrolled beyond the 60% point earns all disbursed (received) and disbursable aid. Disbursable aid includes aid received and the aid that could have been (but was not) disbursed as of the withdrawal date. If earned aid exceeds disbursed aid, a post withdrawal disbursement may be made.

CalArts will first credit post-withdrawal disbursement not credited to school charges. Within 30 days of determination that the student withdrew, the student will be provided with a written notification of any post-withdrawal funds that are available to the student. No post-withdrawal disbursement will be made if the student does not respond within 14 days of the notification date. Unearned aid is any disbursed aid that exceeds the amount of Title IV aid the student earned. The unearned aid amount is to be returned to the U.S Department of Education, a responsibility shared by CalArts and the student. This may create a balance owed on a student’s tuition billing account. The student is responsible to pay the amount owing on their billing account.

This policy is based on 34 CFR, Section 668.22 of Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1964, as amended. The formula is prescribed in Section 484(b). Any recipient of Title IV federal student financial aid, who withdraws or does not complete the term, must complete a clearance process, including a financial aid exit interview for students who have received educational loan assistance. The clearance and exit interview will explain students’ rights and responsibilities as they pertain to tuition refunds, financial aid refunds and return of Title IV funds and educational loans. New student deposits become tuition paid as of the first day of class and will be treated accordingly in any refund calculations. Any refund calculated must be returned first to the Title IV programs.

Refunds are allocated in the following order:

  1. Direct Unsubsidized Loan
  2. Direct Subsidized Loan
  3. Direct PLUS Loan
  4. Pell Grant
  5. FSEOG
  6. Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grant

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 institutional 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 https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/.

Please note:

There are two types of withdrawals, official withdrawals and unofficial withdrawals.

The official withdrawal date is determined by the Registrar’s Office based on when a student drops all of their classes, or notifies a CalArts official of their intent to withdraw.

Unofficial withdrawals are students who failed all of their classes per the grades reported at the end of each semester.

Following the conclusion of the term, the financial aid staff will review grades and determine if a R2T4 calculation is required.

Administrative/Unofficial Withdrawal

An “unofficial withdrawal” occurs when a student stops attending all classes and stops participating in any academic activities beyond the date they last attended classes. Students may be administratively withdrawn from the Institute in cases where their non-attendance (unofficial withdrawal) has been confirmed by all currently assigned faculty. The decision to administratively withdraw a student is made by the Vice President for Student Experience (or designee), in collaboration with the student’s School and the Registrar.


  1. Determination of Actual Unofficial Withdrawals

Faculty and/or Mentors can submit Care Reports for students who have ceased attending classes or participating in academic activities, and/or contact the Director of Care and Well-being or Office of the Registrar directly. The Director of Care and Well-being in partnership with the Registrar, will conduct an attendance audit with the faculty and School. The student’s last date of attendance will be confirmed by the Registrar, and the student will be administratively withdrawn.

B. Determination of Potential Unofficial Withdrawals

At the end of the semester/session when final grades have been recorded, the Office of the Registrar will run a report to identify students whose grades for the term are all NC, I or a combination of NC, I, and W grades. At the end of the semester the CalArts Financial Aid staff will review the list and evaluate each student to determine whether the student should be considered to have unofficially withdrawn. Follow up with the faculty and/or Registrar may be required to determine whether or not a student ceased attendance in all classes.

C. Last Date of Attendance

  1. The last date of attendance for W grades is generally the withdrawal date. When a NC grade is recorded, the faculty must supply the last date of attendance.
  2. Faculty are to participate in the Registrar’s attendance audit. This allows the registrar to maintain accurate records while complying with federal financial aid requirements.

Unless otherwise specified by the Vice President for Student Experience (or designee), any decision to administratively withdraw a student will take immediate effect. However, this decision is subject to automatic review within seven days by the Provost (or designee), including the Institute Diversity Officer.  Should students choose to challenge the administrative withdrawal decision, they may do so through the Student Grievance Procedure, but the initiation of a grievance will not delay the effective date of the withdrawal.

Students who are administratively withdrawn may pursue readmission under the same guidelines detailed above.

If you need to withdraw from all of your classes, you should to speak to a financial aid advisor before doing so to determine how it may affect your financial aid and your Satisfactory Academic Progress. If you have any questions about your Title IV program funds, contact the CalArts Financial Aid Office.

Treatment of Title IV Aid When a Student Withdraws

Unofficial Withdrawals and how it impacts your Financial Aid

Per federal regulations, schools are required to review students who received federal financial aid and did not pass any classes. An assessment must be made to determine whether the student earned the non-passing grades while attending classes or stopped attending classes but did not officially withdraw. Students who stopped attending classes may be required to repay a portion of the federal financial aid for that semester. If it is determined that a student never began attendance in some or all classes, aid may be canceled completely. The review process must be completed within 30 days after the end of each semester.

If a student follows Institute procedures and withdraws, they will have an official withdrawal date and their financial aid refund calculation will be completed according to the CalArts Return to Title IV policy.

At the end of each semester, all federal financial aid recipients who receive no passing grades will be reviewed to determine if the non-passing grade was earned while attending or due to no longer attending class. The CalArts Financial Aid office receive the Last Date of Attendance from the Registrar to determine how much aid needs to be returned.

Any refund owed to a federal financial aid program is the student's responsibility and will appear as a charge on the student's next CalArts bill.

The bottom line is to make sure you attend and participate in your classes! If you have any concerns about your courses please be sure to contact your academic advisor.

This policy is in accordance with Federal financial aid regulations published in the November 1, 1999 Federal Register, volume 64, number 210, section 668.22 and DCL GEN-04-03 Revised published November 2004.

Academic Year Definition

California Institute of the Arts academic year, for federal student aid purposes, consists of two 14-week semesters (fall and spring), and one 2-week winter session that is held at the start of the spring semester. Financial aid is tied to your enrollment status during the fall and spring semesters. To maintain your full-time student status during both the fall and spring semesters, you will be required to carry 12 units each semester which totals 24 units. 

Units carried during the winter will be counted as part of your spring semester enrollment in calculating your financial aid eligibility. For example, if you enroll in 2 units during the winter intersession, you would only need to carry 10 units during the spring semester to reach full-time status. 

CalArts offers a non-required summer term with limited course offerings. Students who enroll in the summer are considered full-time with a course load of 6 units.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act conditions the eligibility of educational institutions to participate in Title IV programs on the development of and compliance with a code of conduct prohibiting conflicts of interest for its financial aid personnel [HEOA § 487(a)(25)]. California Institute of the Arts’s officers, employees and agents are required to comply with this code of conduct. The following specific provisions bring California Institute of the Arts into compliance with the federal law [HEOA § 487(e)].

  1. Neither California Institute of the Arts as an institution nor any individual officer, employee or agent shall enter into any revenue-sharing arrangements with any lender.
  2. No officer or employee of California Institute of the Arts who is employed in the financial aid office or who otherwise has responsibilities with respect to education loans, or agent who has responsibilities with respect to education loans, or any of their family members, shall solicit or accept any gift from a lender, guarantor, or servicer of education loans. For purposes of this prohibition, the term "gift" means any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, or other item having a monetary value of more than a de minimis amount.
  3. An officer or employee of California Institute of the Arts who is employed in the financial aid office or who otherwise has responsibilities with respect to education loans, or an agent who has responsibilities with respect to education loans, shall not accept from any lender or affiliate of any lender any fee, payment, or other financial benefit (including the opportunity to purchase stock) as compensation for any type of consulting arrangement or other contract to provide services to a lender or on behalf of a lender relating to education loans.
  4. California Institute of the Arts shall not: a. for any first-time borrower, assign, through award packaging or other methods, the borrower's loan to a particular lender; or b. refuse to certify, or delay certification of, any loan based on the borrower's selection of a particular lender or guaranty agency.
  5. California Institute of the Arts shall not request or accept from any lender any offer of funds to be used for private education loans, including funds for an opportunity pool loan, to students in exchange for the institution providing concessions or promises regarding providing the lender with: a. a specified number of loans made, insured, or guaranteed under Title IV; b. a specified loan volume of such loans; or c. a preferred lender arrangement for such loans.
  6. California Institute of the Arts shall not request or accept from any lender any assistance with call center staffing or financial aid office staffing.
  7. Any employee who is employed in the financial aid office or who otherwise has responsibilities with respect to education loans or other student financial aid, and who serves on an advisory board, commission, or group established by a lender, guarantor, or group of lenders or guarantors, shall be prohibited from receiving anything of value from the lender, guarantor, or group of lenders or guarantors, except that the employee may be reimbursed for reasonable expenses incurred in serving on such advisory board, commission, or group.

You have the right to ask:
  1. What financial assistance is available, including information on federal, state, and institutional financial aid programs?
  2. What is the cost of attendance and what are the policies for students who withdraw?
  3. What criteria are used to select financial aid recipients and what are the deadlines for submitting applications?
  4. How is financial need determined? The process includes how costs for tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, personal and miscellaneous expenses, etc. are considered in a budget.
  5. What resources (such as family contribution, other financial aid, your assets, etc.) are considered in calculating financial need?
  6. For an explanation of the various funds in your financial aid package. What portion of the aid received must be repaid and what portion is grant aid? 
  7. How satisfactory academic progress is determined and what happens if you are not making progress?

It is the financial aid recipient’s responsibility to:

  1. Review and consider information about CalArts programs before enrolling.
  2. Complete a financial aid application accurately and on time. Intentional misreporting on the application forms for federal financial aid is a violation of law and is considered a criminal offense subject to penalties under U.S. Criminal code.
  3. Submit all additional documentation, verification, corrections and/or new information requested in a timely manner.
  4. Read and understand all forms they are asked to sign and keep copies of them. Accept responsibility for all agreements signed.
  5. Federal Loan borrowers must notify the loan servicer of changes in name, address, or enrollment status
  6. Perform any Federal Work-Study job in a satisfactory manner.
  7. Know and comply with deadlines for application and re-application.
  8. Know and comply with refund procedures.
  9. Notify us of any of the following:
    1. an agency or third party is paying your fees.
    2. you are receiving a scholarship, fellowship, assistantship, or traineeship.
    3. you were originally considered a nonresident for tuition purposes and have now been granted residency status for which you are now being assessed resident tuition.
    4. you are receiving any governmental benefits (i.e., veteran’s, California Student Aid Commission grants, etc). If we’ve included an amount on your offer letter and that benefit changes, you must notify us of your new eligibility.

The types of information covered by this policy include all documentation and information submitted to the Office of Financial Aid. A school must report any credible information indicating that an applicant for Federal Student Aid may have engaged in fraud or other criminal misconduct in connection with his or her application. These documents and information include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA)
  • FASFA Submission Summary (FSS)
  • Student and/or Parent Federal Tax Forms
  • Documentation of U.S. Citizenship or Eligible Non-Citizen Status
  • Formal forms of identification (i.e. driver’s license, social security cards, etc.)
  • Academic documents relating to high school diploma or college course work
  • Loan applications, Promissory Notes
  • Scholarship applications
  • Work Study authorization forms
  • Work Study timesheets
  • Any institute financial aid forms and related documentation
  • Any written, electronic, or verbal statements sent to or made to a institute employee regarding the student's financial aid application or financially related documents.

The integrity of the information presented in the financial aid process is of the utmost importance. Students should be aware that they will be held responsible for the validity of the information that is submitted by them or on their behalf to the Office of Financial Aid. If the institute determines that a student or parent has provided falsified information, or has submitted forged documents or signatures, the following steps may be taken without prior notification to the student or parent.

The Office of Financial Aid will review the infraction and if a violation of this policy has occurred, the consequences may include but are not limited to:

  • The student will be required to make full restitution of any and all federal, state, grant, and loan or work funds to which he or she was not entitled to.
  • If the student is determined to be ineligible for financial aid because of a basic eligibility criterion, no further federal, state, or institute funds will be awarded to the student for the academic period in question.
  • The student may be ineligible for future participation in some or all financial aid programs for a minimum of one year or longer.
  • The student will not be awarded funds to replace those lost because the student is considered to be ineligible due to dishonesty.

As required by federal and state law, the CalArts Office of Financial Aid will report any infraction to the appropriate office or agency. These include but are not limited to: the US Department of Education, Office of the Inspector General, state agencies, or other entities that may take whatever action is required by law.

The above is in accordance with 34 Code of Federal Regulation 668.16(g).

Awards are subject to the following general policies:
  1. The Financial Aid Award Letter has been based on the documented financialinformation you submitted. It is your responsibility to inform the Financial Aid Office if your reported information changes in any way during the academic year.
  2. The Financial Aid Office reserves the right on behalf of the Institute to review and cancel an award at any time because of changes in the student's financial or academic program or status, or because of the recipient's failure to observe the general requirements as stated in the CalArts Catalog.  Awards will not be increased for classes added after the published census date for the term.  
  3. Recipients of financial assistance from the Institute are to notify the Financial Aid Office of any other scholarships, grants or loans extended to them from sources outside the Institute.
  4. It is the policy of the Institute to disburse one-half of the financial aid award to the student account (excluding Federal Work-Study and estimated aid) at the beginning of each semester. Awards are disbursed on the date charges are added to your account as long as all documentation is complete. After that date, awards are disbursed to student accounts on a regular, usually weekly, basis.
  5. Students receiving institutional financial assistance (i.e. Equity Grants, Scholarships, etc.) are required to be full-time students (12 credits or more per semester). Students who are less than full-time are eligible for reduced Federal and State Grants (i.e. Pell Grant, Cal Grant, etc.) and are not automatically eligible for Institute aid. 
  6. Any commitment of State or Federal funds is tentative and contingent upon subsequent legislative or congressional appropriation and actual receipt of funds by CalArts.
  7. All students receiving financial aid must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress towards their degree. For more information, please visit the full SAP policy text.
  8. Institutional financial assistance is not available to BFA students who have attempted 180 units or more and/or who have completed (passed) less than 67% of total attempted courses.
  9. Students who find it necessary to withdraw from the Institute are required to notify the Financial Aid Office. A "Return of Title IV Funds" calculation must be processed for students who withdraw from all classes and have received federal student aid.  Students may not keep aid they have not 'earned' from leaving school early.  Please visit the Return to Title IV: Financial Aid Withdrawal and Refund Policy for additional information on refunds and return of financial assistance.
  10. Financial assistance for summer terms is limited and generally consists of student loan eligibility if the loan maximums have not been received during the regular academic year. Pell Grant eligible students may receive Pell Grants in certain situations. Students should contact the Financial Aid Office to discuss eligibility for aid in the summer term. 
  11. Students who receive Cal Grant B Access awards will have these awards applied directly to tuition and fees. Students may request, in writing, to the Financial Aid Office if they would like this award given directly to them. If this request is made after funds have been applied to the student account, the request will apply only to future term amounts. This request must be made each academic year. Cal Grant B Access awards may not be distributed to a third party.