Leaves of Absence and Withdrawal

Students attending Cornell University who are receiving federal Title IV financial aid (e.g., federal Stafford, PLUS, or Perkins loans; federal ACG, Pell, FSEOG, or SMART 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. 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 process or the student's last date of recorded attendance.

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 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).

A tuition proration schedule for withdrawals and leaves of absence can be found in Courses of Study. 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. It also applies to the return of institutional aid.

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 Perkins loan, federal PLUS, federal Pell grant, ACG funds, SMART grants, 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

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. When a student withdraws, the last date of attendance will be determined by their college.

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.