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We encourage you to review our Financial Aid FAQ for the most up to date information about financial aid. For more information specific to the impact of coronavirus across the University, please view Cornell's Coronavirus FAQ

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Leaves of Absence and Withdrawal

To be eligible for financial aid, students must meet minimum enrollment requirements.  A change of enrollment status at any point during a term could result in a revision of the financial aid award.  As the policies vary from college to college, students need to work closely with their college when considering taking a leave of absence or withdrawing from the university. 

Students attending Cornell University who are receiving federal Title IV financial aid (e.g., federal parent or student loans, or federal Pell and FSEOG funds) are required to return the portion of unearned federal aid if they withdraw, do not register, or otherwise fail to complete the period of enrollment for which the Title IV aid was provided.  This requirement applies to students who work with their college or school and officially take a leave of absence or withdraw from Cornell as well as those students who simply stop attending and do not otherwise provide notification.

It is important to note that Cornell does not have a Leave of Absence policy as defined by the Department of Education for purposes of awarding and receiving Title IV financial aid.  While students can request a leave of absence from Cornell, these are considered to be withdrawals for Title IV aid purposes and the return of funds requirement applies. 

The return of funds does not apply to any student whose date of withdrawal is beyond the 60 percent enrollment period for which the student has been charged. The last date of attendance is determined by the date the student began their college's withdrawal/leave of absence process or in the case of students who stop attending without providing official notification, the student's last date of recorded academic activity.

To determine the percentage of aid earned, divide the number of calendar days completed by the total calendar days in the enrollment period (excluding scheduled breaks of five days or more and days that the student is on an approved leave of absence). Federal financial aid is returned to the program from which it was disbursed based on the percentage of unearned aid. To determine the percentage of unearned aid, subtract the percentage of aid earned from 100. The percentage of unearned aid is then multiplied by the amount of aid disbursed toward allowable institutional charges (e.g., tuition, room, and board).

View the tuition proration schedule for withdrawals and leaves of absence. Please note that this does not follow the same schedule as federal aid and that the tuition proration also applies to students who are not federal aid recipients. Cornell follows the tuition proration schedule when adjusting institutional aid in the case of a withdrawal or leave of absence.  Students who have the Cornell Elective Tuition Refund Plan may have additional adjustments.

In the case of any student for whom it is determined that a return must be made to programs based on prorated charges, federal funds will be returned in the following order: unsubsidized federal Direct loan, subsidized federal Direct loan, federal PLUS, federal Pell grant, FSEOG funds, and other Title IV aid programs. When institutional aid is required to be returned, it will be done in the following order: Cornell Grant, endowed/restricted scholarships, and other institutional aid programs.

Students who have their financial aid adjusted as a result of a leave of absence or withdrawal will receive a revised financial aid award notification. More detailed information is available by visiting the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment.

Special Considerations

Students receiving New York state Excelsior, ETA, or STEM awards should contact HESC at to learn how their awards will be affected by a leave of absence or withdrawal.

Students who take a leave of absence, withdraw, or are on a continuation leave and are also Title IV aid recipients should be aware of the following:

  • Students must have completed promissory notes and entrance counseling in order to be eligible for any late payments of federal loan funds after the last date of attendance.
  • Once Cornell determines that a student has withdrawn or taken a leave of absence, the student is no longer eligible for an in-school status or in-school loan deferment. Any student who had a loan during their career at Cornell will be required to complete a loan exit interview where information regarding loan repayment will be provided.

Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans have a 6-month grace period, which begins after you leave school or drop below half-time attendance. These loans enter repayment when your grace period ends, and you will start making payments not more than 60 days after your grace period ends. If you resume enrollment on at least a half-time basis before the end of the 6-month grace period or deferment, your federal student loan will return to an "in-school" status or deferment, and you will be eligible for a full 6-month grace period or deferment when you leave school or drop below half-time enrollment again.

Federal Perkins Loans have a 9-month grace period, which begins after you leave school or drop below half-time attendance. Your first payment is due one month after the grace period ends. If you re-enroll at least half-time during this grace period (and you file for deferment), you get another nine-month grace period the next time you drop below half-time. If you re-enroll after the grace period, however, your next grace period will only be six months.

For more information, refer to the Courses of Study website: