Financial Aid Policy FAQs

The following questions are common FAQs we receive regarding how to apply the Council of Presidents Policy for Financial Aid Limits (Article XIII Institutional Financial Aid Policy).

Reporting Emerging Sports/ Sports Not Sponsored

Q1: We recently added women’s flag football to our list of NAIA sports, how should we report them?  

A: For Return on Athletics® purposes, we recommend reporting all varsity sports at your institution. This allows the association to develop a database of information to help other NAIA institutions consider the addition of that sport. However, NAIA regulations do not require you to report a sport until the sport has progressed to “year 2” invitational status.  

Q2: Our conference does not sponsor cheer/dance as a championship sport. Do we still need to report their aid for financial aid limits?  

A: Yes, the institution will need to include the information regarding their competitive cheer and dance program as they had students who competed as varsity participants in the sport per their DOI. Anytime an institution reports that a team competed as varsity participants in competition per the DOI, will need to be included on the year-end report.  

Note – you may contact Legislative Services if this is an error and the team did not compete as a varsity participant in the previous year. 

Does this Athlete Count…? 

Q1: I have a football team that does not have a JV program. If a player, who would otherwise not play in the season, steps in for the injured player, do both of these athletes count against scholarship limits? 

A: For purposes of aid, COP defines varsity athlete as participating (in a variety of definitions) in a varsity event. The replacement could be a JV player or a student on varsity team who had not otherwise participated. So the non-participating athlete who substitutes the injured varsity athlete will not have his aid count towards the countable aid calculation.  

Q2: Does a student who does not compete at all during the season due to medical reasons or being ineligible, but is on the varsity roster have to count towards financial aid limits? 

A: No. Coaches in the NAIA plan for the aid that plays, not the aid that’s on the team. Varsity FB teams may have 125 students, that certainly doesn’t mean all countable aid. Varsity teams frequently have students on the team who may not be allowed to play because it would put the team over the limit. 

Q3: If a student quits the team or is suspended after competing in more than 20% of the varsity contests during the fall academic term, but continues to stay on campus and receives financial aid through the remainder of the academic year, will all of the student’s aid count towards the team’s financial aid limits?  

A: Yes, the total aid the student receives throughout the academic year will be included in the YER. Regardless if the student is no longer competing. 

If a student quits the team and withdraws at the end of the academic term, only the aid allocated to the student during the academic term will be included in the YER. 

Q4: Does a student who only plays in a varsity scrimmage have to count towards the financial aid limits for the team?  

A: COP policy defines a varsity participant as 1) Is included in the institution’s or the individual’s varsity statistics and/or won-loss record; 2) Can be used for qualification for postseason competition, (indoor and outdoor track and field, swimming and diving, wrestling, women’s golf); or 3) Can be counted toward team scoring (e.g. indoor and outdoor track and field, swimming and diving, wrestling, etc.) for the institution’s varsity team. Neither a scrimmage nor exhibition fit these qualifications. Therefore, if a student only competes in a scrimmage or exhibition, they will not count towards the team’s financial aid limits.  

Q5: A JV cross country Student-Athlete can run in the same race as the Varsity athlete, but just not count in the Varsity score. Will they be include in the financial aid limits? 

A: No. Per the definition provided in the previous answer, COP policy wouldn’t dictate that the student be considered a varsity athlete since the students stats will not count towards a varsity statistics or win/loss record. It doesn’t matter that there are varsity scoring runners from the same school running in the same race. This student will not be included in the financial aid reporting. 

Note – The student is charged SOC either way. But for purposes of determining financial aid and your team limits, COP policy guides you that the non-scoring runners don’t qualify as varsity student-athletes. 

Q6: We have a student-athlete who competed for the first time in our conference qualifying tournament. We understand that he will be charged a season of competition, but since the athlete only competed in one game, will the athlete count towards our financial aid limits?  

A: Yes. The Council of Presidents expanded who will be included in the countable aid definition for any athlete who competes in more than 20% of the season and/or competes in any post-season competition. Similar to the definition of who is charged a season of competition.  

Q7: We have a student-athlete who competed in one indoor track and field competition and two outdoor track and field competitions. We understand that we must combine our indoor and outdoor track & field student-athletes. Does this mean the three total competitions the student competed in, which would be more than 20%, require that the student count towards our financial aid limits? 

A: The 20% limit will be reviewed per sport so in order for a track student to count in this scenario, they would have to have exceeded three contests in at least one sport. Any student who competes in 3 meets in a sport will be counted towards the team limit. Example scenario: Student competes in 3 ITF meets and 2 OTF meets. Student counts towards the track and field financial aid limit of 12 awards.  

A student who only competes in one competition in indoor and two competitions in outdoor will not count towards the limits as the student did not exceed 20% in either sport.  

Countable Aid 

Q1: Could you tell me what is stackable and non-stackable aid in the NAIA?   

A: We look at aid a bit differently in the NAIA. The idea of “stackable” aid does not exist in the NAIA. Our institutions run the gamut in terms of how they provide aid, as some provide athletic and academic aid, while others simply provide an aid package but don’t differentiate the source of the aid. Both options and everything in between are allowable in the NAIA. Please refer to the countable aid section to determine what would be include in the YER calculations. 

Q2: At our NAIA institution, all employee dependents receive 100% tuition waiver. However, if they qualify for an academic scholarship they credit the amount of that scholarship onto their bill BEFORE they do the tuition waiver total. If the same student did not qualify for an academic scholarship he/she would receive the same amount of waiver since our policy is to give 100% to all dependents. How is this reported for financial aid limits? 

A: COP policy allows for tuition waivers to not be counted as countable aid. Therefore, only the aid submitted in the academic scholarship package will be considered countable aid.  

Q3: If we have a tuition exchange student where employee works at another institution, but their child attends our institution and we recognize the tuition waiver they would have otherwise received at their parent’s institution, is that considered non-countable aid?  

A: Sister schools who may have a mutual recognition of tuition waivers cannot count waivers from employees at other schools as “non-countable aid”. The COP policy is specific to students attending the institution of their parents.  

Q4: I have a student who will be taking summer school and her scholarship package will pay for her summer tuition and fees. Will this money be included in the countable aid report? 

A: Yes. If the school allocates a scholarship or other countable funds in the summer following the academic year, these funds must be included in the total countable aid amount. For example, for the Year End Report that will cover the 2022-2023 academic year, any aid provided in summer 2023 must be included in the total countable aid amount.  

Q5: A men’s basketball player receives an athletic scholarship from his NAIA institution, but also qualifies for Pell grant. The amount from the Pell grant will be more than what is needed to cover the remaining cost of tuition, fees, and room and board. Since the Pell grant is considered “non-countable” aid, can the student receive the full amount of the athletic scholarship and the full amount of the Pell grant? 

A: No. Article II, Section B of the NAIA bylaws and its limits still dictate what a student may receive. Article II, Section B covers all aid a school disperses, regardless of its initial source. The student may receive extra Pell grant money only up to the amount of tuition + books/fees + room/board. Either the student reduces the amount of Pell received or school reduces the amount of scholarship, but to do otherwise arguably creates an opportunity for a school to scholarship at whatever amount it wanted and ignore the II.B limits. 

Q6: We have a graduate student-athlete that was just hired for a full-time position at our institution. He has eligibility remaining and plans to continue as a graduate student. Does anything preclude him from competing while employed full-time by our institution? Will the student’s compensation be considered countable aid? 

A: No, there is nothing prohibiting a student from competing while being employed by the institution and the student’s compensation will not be calculated in the financial aid limits report. The COP policy allows for students who may work at the institution to earn a salary and the salary will not count towards the FA limits. Earning a wage will not count towards the limits. 

Q7:  When is work study considered countable aid and when is it not? 

A: NAIA rules do not want to punish a student-athlete for having a job, which just happens to be on campus. For work study to be considered countable (Section XIII, Article B of COP Policy), it must be funded by the institution and defined in a student’s financial aid letter. Federal work study is not considered countable aid.



Q1: One of the avenues to receive an academic exemption for freshmen students is by obtaining a certain ACT or SAT score. I have a student who took the ACT through a proctor on their high school campus. This test score did not qualify for a minimum test score through the Eligibility Center because it was not on a national testing day. Can I use this test score for the academic exemption?  

A: No. The same requirement found in the bylaws for freshmen eligibility stands true here. The test must be in a national testing date to qualify for eligibility and for financial assistance purposes.  

Q2: When calculating exemptions based on GPA, if I have a student-athlete who attended two college prior to attending our NAIA University. Am I looking at the cumulative GPA from both colleges combined or just the cumulative GPA from the most recent college? 

A: Same application applies that is listed in the Progress Rule (Article V, Section C, Item 9). The GPA for entering transfer students shall be calculated by dividing all quality points achieved by the total number of hours attempted for all courses listed on all official transcripts from all institutions previously attended. 

Q3: I have a student who had a 3.30 at the end of spring 2023 which would have qualified her for half of an exemption for the YER. But the student took summer courses and failed all three courses which dropped the student’s cumulative GPA to a 3.28. Can we use the GPA at the end of the spring term to exempt half of the student’s countable aid for the 2022-2023 YER? 

A: No. GPA should be determined prior to the fall term. So a student’s GPA as of the first day of fall classes (which would include the prior Fall/Spring and summer just finishing up) is what determines if he/she qualifies for an exemption for the coming year. It will be the student’s cumulative GPA as listed on the institution’s transcript as of the first day of classes of the fall academic term. 

Q4: For incoming freshman, am I looking at “weighted” or “unweighted” high school GPA when determining an exemption?   

A: This often comes up with freshmen eligibility. The following principle applies when determining which high school GPA to use: 

  1. Reporting “Weighted” and “Unweighted” GPAs: 
  • If the school ranks its students, use whichever GPA the school uses to determine the ranking  
  • If the school does rank but provides multiple ranks, the next question is if they have a valedictorian. 
  • If so, then find out from the school which rank they use to name the valedictorian. (Eg. School says they use weighted rank to determine valedictorian. Then use the weighted GPA that appears on the transcript.)  
  • If the school doesn’t name a valedictorian, then just defer to the weighted GPA found on the transcript. 
  • If the school does not rank, then choose the weighted GPA over unweighted 
  1. Reporting “Overall” and “Academic” GPAs 
  • Use the Overall GPA 

Q5: In regards to SAT and ACT scores, am I allowed to stack the scores, for example, if a student scores a 500 on the Math and 700 on the English on the first try on the SAT test, but gets 600 on the Math and 600 on the English on the second try, can I take the best Math score-600 and best English score-700 out of both attempts to calculate the exemption? 

A: No. As per the bylaw for initial eligibility, you will take the best ACT or SAT test score received in one test setting.  

Q6: A student-athlete transferred to our NAIA institution at the beginning of 2022-2023 year with a 2.68 GPA from previous institutions. The student did not compete in Fall 2022 semester for the Men’s Basketball team, but did compete in Spring 2023. After the Fall 2022 term, he had a 3.75 GPA. Will he qualify as a full exemption due to the GPA he had prior to competing for the first time at our institution? 

A: No. We use the same calculation process use to determine GPAs for the Progress Rule and to determine GPA exemptions. “For transfer students, take the cumulative GPA at face value for the first term of identification only. Then proceed using member institution cumulative GPA as on transcript.” If he competed in the 2022-2023 academic year, you will look to the cumulative GPA from all previous institutions as of the first day of classes for the fall 2022 academic year. Meaning you will include the 2.68 GPA. Thus he will not qualify for exempt status.