If you have received federal financial aid previously, your experience will be different from how financial aid works at UW Flexible Option and you may encounter new terminology and concepts. As such, you are encouraged to review the Definitions of Key Terms webpage as you get started.
In UW Flexible Option, students have the flexibility to enroll throughout the entire calendar year and can complete competency sets at their own pace. To support this flexibility, financial aid is administered under the Non-Term requirements of federal student aid.
Watch this UW Flexible Option Financial Aid Disbursement Overview for more information on how federal financial aid works at UW Flexible Option.
Academic Year & Payment Periods
Every program eligible for federal financial aid must have a defined academic year. This academic year plays a part in the timing and maximum amounts of financial aid you may receive. Your academic year may vary from those of other students enrolled in your same program as it is dependent on when you begin your studies and your remaining graduation requirements.
In general, a financial aid academic year for UW Flexible Option is defined as a full calendar year (52 weeks) AND 24 semester credit hour equivalencies. Your next financial aid academic year cannot begin until you have successfully completed the prior academic year.
Your academic year does not necessarily end when the calendar time has passed. You must also successfully complete the required credit hour equivalencies. Successfully completing a competency set means finishing your competency set with at least the minimum grade required to earn credit hour equivalencies.
- If, at the end of 52 weeks, you have earned 18 credit hour equivalencies, your academic year has not ended and you are not eligible for additional federal financial aid until you earn 6 additional credit hour equivalencies for a total of 24.
- Inversely, if at the end of 39 weeks, you have earned 24 credit hour equivalencies, your academic year has not ended and you are not eligible for additional financial aid funds until an additional 13 weeks elapse for a total of 52.
- If, at the end of 52 weeks, you have earned 24 (or more) credit hour equivalencies, your academic year will have ended and you are eligible for additional financial aid funds, assuming you meet all other requirements.
An academic year is generally divided in two equal payment periods. The first payment period is half of the weeks AND half of the credit hour equivalencies required by the academic year. Likewise, the second payment period is the remaining weeks AND remaining credit hour equivalencies required by the academic year.
Your first payment period does not end until you successfully complete half of the weeks AND credit hour equivalencies in the academic year. Successfully completing a competency set means finishing your competency set with at least the minimum grade required to earn credit hour equivalencies.
In general, a financial aid payment period for UW Flexible Option is 26 weeks AND 12 credit hour equivalencies. Your next financial aid payment period cannot begin until you have successfully completed the prior payment period.
- If, at the end of 26 weeks, you have earned 9 credit hour equivalencies, your payment period has not ended and you are not eligible for additional financial aid until you earn an additional 3 credit hour equivalencies.
- Inversely, if at the end of 13 weeks you have earned 12 credit hour equivalencies, your payment period has not ended and you are not eligible for additional financial aid funds until an additional 13 weeks elapse for a total of 26.
- If, at the end of 26 weeks, you have earned 12 (or more) credit hour equivalencies, your payment period has ended and you are eligible for additional for additional financial aid, assuming you meet all other requirements.
Why Are Academic Years and Payment Periods Important to Me?
It is important to know when your academic year and payment periods begin and end, because they determine when you may be eligible to receive federal financial aid funds.
In general, you are eligible for a maximum amount of financial aid per academic year. This annual eligibility is divided in half to determine the amount you may receive per payment period.
- Frank is eligible for a total of $10,000 in federal financial aid per academic year. This means he is eligible for $5,000 per payment period. He will receive $5,000 toward the beginning of his academic year, but he will not be able to receive his remaining $5,000 until he has successfully completed at least 26 weeks and 12 credit hour equivalencies.
To learn more, please watch this UW Flexible Option Financial Aid Disbursement Overview video.
For credit-bearing programs, a UW Flexible Option subscription period is a three-month span of time during which you are able to access learning materials, complete assessments, and receive academic support.
UW Flexible Option subscription periods begin on the second day of every month.
Payment Periods vs. Subscription Periods
At UW Flexible Option, you will enroll in 13-week subscription periods. Subscription periods determine when you are billed subscription fees and when you will have access to learning materials and assessments. Subscription periods do not solely determine the length of your payment period. However, your subscription periods, as well as the number of credit hour equivalencies you complete in each subscription period, play a role in determining the length of your payment periods. Remember, each payment period consists of a minimum of 26 weeks of instruction AND 12 credit hour equivalencies. There are only 2 financial aid disbursements each payment period, regardless of the length of the payment period. To illustrate how subscription periods, payment periods, and disbursements are related, review the below examples.
- Frank successfully earned 6 credit hour equivalencies in the January subscription period and another 6 credit hour equivalencies in the April subscription period. As he earned a total of 12 credit hour equivalencies AND completed 26 weeks of instruction, Frank’s payment period was 26 weeks long. During this time, Frank received 2 financial aid disbursements. He received the first disbursement at the beginning of the first subscription period (January) and the second disbursement at the beginning of the second subscription period (April). Frank’s first payment period has ended. He will begin a new payment period when he enrolls in his next subscription period and will be eligible for his third disbursement.*
- Mary has chosen to move more slowly through her academic program. She is taking 3 credit hour equivalencies per subscription period. In the January, April, July, and October subscription periods, she earned 3 credit hour equivalencies each subscription period. Based on this schedule, Mary successfully completed 12 credit hour equivalencies after 4 subscription periods. Thus, Mary’s payment period is 52 weeks long; the equivalent of 4 subscription periods. Mary received her first financial aid disbursement at the beginning of the first subscription period (January). Mary received her second disbursement at the beginning of the second subscription period (April). Mary is not eligible for another disbursement until she completes 12 credit hour equivalencies and a new payment period begins. This means she must pay tuition for her third and fourth subscription periods by other means.*
*In the above examples, it is assumed Frank and Mary are meeting all financial aid eligibility requirements.
It is important for you to track your individual progress toward earning credit hour equivalencies and your financial aid disbursement schedule. You should also be prepared to pay subscription fees out of pocket if your financial aid has already been fully disbursed, or paid out, for a given payment period.
Academic Plan of Study
Prior to enrolling in a UW Flexible Option program, a student will work with an Academic Success Coach to create a personalized Academic Plan of Study (APS) based on the student’s goals and desired timeline for program completion. The APS reflects a strategic selection of competency sets to be taken over the next four subscription periods. This format is designed to assist students with degree planning, while documenting current and future registrations required to calculate federal financial aid amounts and eligibility.
At the conclusion of each subscription period, the APS is reviewed and updated to reflect successfully completed (mastered) competency sets as well as new competency set selections. At any time, should you experience a situation requiring an enrollment adjustment, your Academic Success Coach is prepared to assist you in modifying your APS, as needed.
The APS and Financial Aid
In order for federal financial funds to be available consistently throughout your program of study, an Academic Plan of Study (APS) is required. Your federal financial aid eligibility is, in part, determined by enrollment in competency sets during distinct financial aid payment periods, as outlined in your APS. A payment period is defined as 12 unique credit hour equivalencies and a minimum of 26 weeks.
The UW Colleges Flexible Option Associate of Arts and Science (AAS) degree direct-assessment program received approval for Title IV eligibility on August 28, 2014. The UW Colleges AAS degree program is similar to the direct-assessment programs offered by UW-Milwaukee in administrative structure, curricular oversight, and financial aid administration. These programs share the same academic year definition, non-term structure, and similar Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) methodology and policies.
Students have the ability to pursue General Education requirements at UW Colleges through their direct-assessment offerings while admitted to a UW-Milwaukee direct-assessment program. Only UW Colleges competency sets that apply toward remaining UW-Milwaukee certificate or degree program requirements will be factored into a student’s aid eligibility. UW-Milwaukee and UW Colleges will enter into a consortium agreement for this purpose.
UW-Milwaukee will act as the home school and maintain responsibility for calculating financial aid awards, disbursing aid, monitoring SAP and other eligibility requirements, and returning funds when a student withdraws. UW-Milwaukee, UW Colleges, and UW-Extension work collaboratively in all UW Flexible Option programs to facilitate the effective financial aid administration and execution of the consortium agreement(s).
Non-Term Financial Aid Disclaimer
The descriptions and examples provided are intended to give you a general understanding of how financial aid is administered in the non-term format. In the same way that your UW Flexible Option academic experience is unique, your financial aid is unique based on many factors such as individual eligibility, remaining academic requirements, and the pace at which you choose to complete your program. These, and other factors, in addition to federal financial aid rules and regulations, determine your individual financial aid eligibility and experience.