Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Financial Aid & Half-Time Enrollment

Financial aid recipients enrolled less than full-time as of the add/drop date in a given term must have their financial aid adjusted. (Note: Students who are full-time at the add/drop date, but later drop to half-time will not have their tuition reduced, nor will their financial aid be adjusted.)

Need-based financial aid eligibility is determined by calculating your costs for the academic year and subtracting your family contribution. The resulting amount is your financial need.

When calculating your costs, the assumption is made that you will be enrolled full-time for the academic year. This means that the financial aid office will estimate your costs for each term to reflect full-time tuition, books and fees. If you are enrolled less than full-time (a minimum of 3 units) by the add/drop deadline, your tuition and fees will be reduced. Since your cost is reduced, your financial aid must be reduced as well. In most cases your financial aid will be adjusted by the same amount as the reduction on your invoice.

Example: Willie Wildcat

Willie is a senior. He is considering enrolling for 2 units for the fall term. Before he registers for courses he wants to understand how his enrollment will impact his financial aid eligibility. His award for the academic year is:

Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan $5,500 ($1,833 per term)

Federal Work-Study $3,000 ($1,000 per term)

Northwestern Scholarship $25,500 ($8,500 per term)

When determining Willie’s eligibility, the following costs were used:

Full-time Tuition: $54,120 ($18,040 per term)

Fees (Health $200, ASG $192, Athletic $55): $439 ($186 fall, $131 winter, $130 spring)

Books & Supplies: $1,605 ($535 per term)

Willie is enrolled for two units as of the add/drop deadline and his tuition for the term is reduced by $6,418. Because he is not full-time, the fees of $186 for the term are also removed.

Table A: Direct Charges

  Original Term Charges & Budgeted Amounts (full-time) Revised Term Charges & Budgeted Amounts (half-time)
Tuition $18,040 $12,836
Fees $186 $0
Total $18,226 $12,836

Since he is not enrolled full-time, the financial aid office must now re-evaluate and reduce Willie’s financial aid eligibility. His financial aid will be reduced by $5,390 for the reduction in direct costs, but also $178 for books for a total of $5,568.

Financial Aid Proportion

Now that we have the amount that must be reduced from Willie’s award, we must now determine how the award will be reduced. The Financial Aid Office first determines his aid proportion. Financial aid falls into two categories; self-help and NU scholarship. Need-based loans and work-study are considered ‘self-help’. In this example, Willie’s self-help represents 25% of his financial aid award and his scholarship accounts for 75% of his award. When reducing his award, the financial aid office will apply the reduction using this proportion.

$5,568 x 25% = $1,392 (self-help adjustment)

$5,568 x 75% = $4,176 (scholarship adjustment)

Willie’s Subsidized Stafford Loan will be reduced by $1,214, His work-study will be reduced by $178 and his NU Scholarship will be reduced by $4,176.

Table B: Financial Aid

  Original Term Financial Aid Award (full-time) Revised Term Financial Aid Award (half-time)
Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan $1,833 $619
Northwestern Scholarship $8,500 $4,324
Total $10,333 $4,943

Note: Federal Work-Study is not included in this calculation since FWS funds do not apply directly to your Student Account.

The bottom line is that Willie will still be left with the same remaining balance to pay. Enrolling half-time will not result in more or less out-of-pocket costs.

  Original Term Financial Aid Award (full-time) Revised Term Financial Aid Award (half-time)
Total Charges (Table A) $18,226 $12,836
Total Aid (Table B) -$10,333 -$4,943
Remaining Balance $7,893 $7,893

Please note that financial aid eligibility requires at least half-time (2 unit) enrollment. If you are enrolled part-time (1 unit) as of the add/drop date, you will not be eligible for financial assistance, with the exception of a reduced federal Pell grant (if applicable).

Please contact our office to speak with a financial aid counselor if you would like to learn how your award may be adjusted or if you have any questions.

Back to top