Starting college early? Your aid may be denied

You may be denied financial aid if you start college early.

Posted Updated

John Matarese
, Don't Waste Your Money consumer reporter

A young, eager college student says she is being penalized for starting college too early. And her story is a caution for any bright student who decides to start taking college classes before graduating high school.

Caitlyn Morgan is an exceptional young woman who wants to become a doctor.

She finished her high school courses a semester early, and rather than spend the spring sitting around and spending her days on Instagram, she decided to get a jump start in a college pre-med program.

"I worked really hard and ended up finishing the first month of school, and finished last September," Morgan said.

                    Accepted into college, approved for financial aid

So she applied and was accepted to the University of Cincinnati, and started college January of her high school senior year. She had even filled out the FAFSA form, and was offered $2,600 in federal aid.

Her mother Michelle Morgan said, "We are extremely proud of Caitlyn and how hard she's worked the past couple of years."

But mom Michelle's happiness turned to frustration, when they started getting overdue notices for the $2,600 that Morgan was promised in federal student aid.

"They were threatening letters, indicated they might turn it over to collection, and now we worry about her being able to enroll in the fall semester," her mother said.

Unfortunately, one of the first lessons Morgan learned in college had nothing to do with her classes.

Rather it's that universities have rules, FAFSA has rules, and getting either to make an exception can be almost impossible.

"I thought it had to be an error," Michelle Morgan said. But it was no error.

                         No diploma yet? No aid

A university spokeswoman, M.B. Reilly, told us she could not comment on an individual student's case. But she said the school is unable to bend strict rules when it comes to federal aid.

"Federal law requires that eligibility for financial aid at the college level is dependent on having graduated from high school with a diploma or G.E.D," Reilly explained.

With a growing number of high school students now enrolling in college to get a jump on their education and careers, some colleges now warn eager high school students on their websites: if you have not yet received your diploma, you cannot receive any FAFSA aid.

You have to hope the school awards you merit aid, or parents will have to take out a personal loan for that freshman year.

"I think it's completely unfair," Caitlyn Morgan said.

The good news: Morgan will be eligible for her promised aid in the fall. But until then, she's behind on her tuition, simply, she claims, for working hard and starting college too early.

As always don't waste your money.

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John Matarese started Don’t Waste Your Money in 1999 to give consumers the facts and information needed to make the best buying decisions for their families. Over the past 20 years, Don't Waste Your Money has helped millions of consumers by providing in depth research and product information.