What Can Cause Delayed Disbursement of Your Student Loan Funds

Student loan disbursement dates are laid down ahead of time, but there are plenty of reasons you could experienced a delayed disbursement of funds.

What Can Cause Delayed Disbursement of Your Student Loan Funds
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Applying for and receiving student loans is a critical part of many individuals' higher education journey. However, the disbursement of these loans can sometimes be subject to delays, causing frustration and financial strain for students. Understanding the reasons behind these delays and finding potential solutions is essential for both students and educational institutions alike.

Thus, in this BrokeScholar article, we’re exploring some of the common causes that can lead to delays in student loan disbursements, shedding light on the complexities of the process and providing insights into how to navigate these challenges effectively.

Reasons for Delayed Disbursement of Student Loans

Obtaining financial aid through student loans has become increasingly necessary for many students pursuing higher education. However, the disbursement process can be susceptible to various roadblocks that hinder the timely release of funds. These delays can stem from a multitude of factors, including documentation issues, verification processes, school certification, financial aid office processing, and lender or servicer delays. By identifying and understanding these reasons, students can gain clarity on potential hurdles they may encounter, while educational institutions can improve their processes and communication to minimize delays and ensure a smoother disbursement experience for students.

There can be several reasons for a delay in student loan disbursements. Here are five examples:

1. Documentation Issues

When you apply for a student loan, you’re required to submit several documents. Usually, the documentation for a student loan application includes:

  • Proof of Identity: This usually includes government-issued identification such as a driver's license or passport.

  • Proof of Income: For dependent students, this will typically be your parents' tax returns. If you're independent, you'll submit your own.

  • School Documentation: Acceptance letter, proof of enrollment, or a financial aid award letter, depending on the specific requirements of the loan provider.

  • Financial Aid Application (FAFSA or equivalent): The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a necessary document if you're applying for federal student loans in the United States.

  • Proof of Residence: This could be a utility bill or similar document showing your current address.

  • Social Security Card: This is typically required for U.S. federal loans.

  • Academic Transcripts: Some lenders might require this to ensure you're maintaining academic progress.

  • Consent to Credit Check: Many private lenders will check your credit or your cosigner's credit.

  • Loan Agreement or Master Promissory Note: This document states that you understand the terms of the loan and promise to repay it.

If there are problems with the required documentation submitted by the student or the school, such as missing signatures or incomplete forms, it can cause delays in loan disbursements. The lender or loan servicer may require additional information or clarification before releasing the funds. Problems with any of these documents can delay the disbursement of your student loans. Common issues include:

  • Incomplete Applications: Not fully filling out your loan application or the FAFSA can lead to delays.

  • Missing Documentation: If you fail to provide any of the necessary documents listed above, it will delay the processing of your loan.

  • Errors on Forms: Errors on your application, such as incorrect social security numbers, typos in names or addresses, can cause delays.

  • Proof of Eligibility: If you cannot prove your eligibility for a loan, whether because you cannot demonstrate financial need, academic progress, or legal status, your loan can be delayed.

  • Loan Limit Issues: If you've hit your aggregate loan limit for federal loans, this could cause a delay.

  • Credit Issues: For private student loans, if the lender identifies issues with the credit history of the borrower or co-signer, it can delay or even deny the loan.

To avoid delays, make sure you thoroughly read and understand all documentation requirements, fill out all paperwork accurately and completely, and respond promptly to any requests for additional information.

2. Verification Process

The verification process is a procedure in which the financial aid office of a college or university confirms the data reported on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Department of Education randomly selects some students for verification, while others may be chosen if there's a discrepancy or something unusual in the application data. The student loan applications go through a verification process where the information provided on the application is cross-checked for accuracy. This can involve verifying income, household size, or other details. If there are discrepancies or issues found during the verification process, it can lead to delays in loan disbursements.

Here are some issues during the verification process that can lead to a delay in disbursement:

  • Incomplete Verification Forms: The financial aid office at your school will provide specific forms that you'll need to complete. If these forms are not completely filled out or are filled out incorrectly, this can delay the process.

  • Insufficient Documentation: You will likely need to provide tax return transcripts, W-2 forms, and other financial and household documents. If you don't provide all the necessary documents, or if the documents you provide don't adequately support the information on your FAFSA, this can lead to delays.

  • Discrepancies in Data: If the financial aid office finds discrepancies between the information on your FAFSA and the documents you've submitted for verification, they'll need to resolve these discrepancies before they can disburse your aid.

  • Late Submission: If you submit your verification documents late, the processing and eventual disbursement of your aid can be delayed.

  • Signatures Missing: All forms must be signed by the appropriate parties (student, parents, etc.). Unsigned forms will not be accepted and will delay the process.

  • Changes to Financial Situation: If your financial situation has changed significantly from what's reported on the tax documents you submitted, you'll need to provide additional information or documentation, which could slow down the process.

In order to avert delays in disbursement due to verification, aim to provide complete and accurate information on your FAFSA, respond promptly to requests for additional information or documentation, and submit all required forms fully completed and signed by the given deadline.

3. School Certification

After you've been approved for a student loan, the lender will typically ask for a school certification. This is a process where your school verifies certain information to the lender, such as:

The purpose of school certification is to ensure that students do not borrow more than they need or more than the COA. However, issues can arise during the school certification process that can delay loan disbursement. Here are a few common issues:

  • Incorrect Information: If there is incorrect information on the school certification request or if the school's information does not match what you or your lender has, this can lead to delays while the discrepancies are resolved.

  • Insufficient Enrollment: If you're not enrolled at least half-time, your school will not be able to certify your loan. Some schools also require that you make satisfactory academic progress in order to receive loans.

  • Loan Amount Exceeds COA: If the loan amount you've requested exceeds the COA, your school will only certify up to the COA and the loan amount will need to be adjusted.

  • Incomplete Financial Aid File: If your financial aid file is not complete at the school, meaning they do not have all the necessary documentation, this could delay the certification process.

  • Changes in Enrollment Status: Changes to your enrollment status, such as dropping or adding classes, can affect the certification process and potentially delay disbursement.

  • Ineligibility: If the school finds you're not eligible for the loan (for example, if you've reached your aggregate loan limit or are not in a degree-granting program), they won't certify the loan, which can cause delays.

In order to dodge these issues, ensure that your information is accurate when applying for a loan, maintain at least half-time enrollment, don't request more than your COA, complete all necessary financial aid documentation at your school, and be aware of your school's timelines and requirements for loan certification.

4. Financial Aid Office Processing

College financial aid offices play a crucial role in processing and disbursing student loans. They review student eligibility, certify student loans, and facilitate the disbursement of funds. However, various issues can arise during this process that might cause a delay in disbursement. If the office is experiencing a high volume of applications, staffing issues, or other operational challenges, it can cause delays in processing and disbursing the loans.

Below are a few examples and many of them are interrelated with previously mentioned reasons for delayed disbursement:

  • Incomplete Financial Aid Files: If you haven't submitted all required documents (tax returns, verification documents, etc.) to the Financial Aid Office, your loan disbursement can be delayed until your file is complete.

  • Errors on Submitted Forms: Any errors or discrepancies on your forms can cause delays. This can include incorrect personal information, wrong school codes, or mistakes in reported income or assets.

  • Verification Delays: If your application is selected for verification, the financial aid office will need additional time to check the information on your FAFSA against the provided documentation.

  • Office Workload: During peak times, such as the beginning of a semester, the workload of the Financial Aid Office increases, which could lead to delays.

  • Failure to Accept Awards: If you do not accept your loan awards in a timely manner, this could delay disbursement.

  • Loan Counseling Requirements: If you are a first-time borrower, you must complete entrance counseling before receiving a student loan to ensure you understand your responsibilities as a borrower. Not completing this requirement can delay disbursement.

To help mitigate delays in this area, make sure to submit all required documents accurately and promptly, keep your enrollment status in check, maintain satisfactory academic progress, and fulfill all requirements such as loan counseling. Also, ensure to communicate with your college financial aid office for updates on your loan status.

5. Lender or Servicer Delays

Sometimes, delays can occur on the lender or loan servicer's side. This can happen due to internal processing issues, technical glitches, or a high volume of loan applications. These delays may be beyond the control of the student or the educational institution. Some examples of how a student loan lender or servicer can lead to delayed disbursement include:

  • Credit Check Issues: If you're getting a private student loan, the lender will perform a credit check. If there are issues with the credit check or if it takes longer than expected, this can delay disbursement.

  • Communication Issues with School: If there are delays or issues with the school certification process, such as confirming your enrollment or the cost of attendance, this can cause disbursement delays.

  • Error in Loan Agreement: Errors or discrepancies in the loan agreement, or if you failed to sign the agreement, can delay disbursement.

  • Lender's Internal Policies: Some lenders may have internal policies that require additional checks or verifications, which could potentially slow down the process.

  • Co-signer Issues: For private loans, if there are any problems with the cosigner’s information or credit, this could delay the loan disbursement.

  • Changes in Lending Practices or Regulations: Sometimes regulatory changes or changes in the lender's policies can impact loan disbursements.

  • Technical Errors: Occasionally, technical issues, such as problems with the lender's business website or data transfer between the lender and school, can cause delays.

To lessen the risk of these types of delays — as with the other reasons for delays — make sure that all documentation is complete and accurate, follow up regularly with both the lender and the school to make sure all steps are being taken, and monitor your loan account and email for any notifications or updates. If there are issues or questions, be proactive in addressing them.

The Bottom Line on Delayed Disbursements of Student Loan Funds

Delayed disbursement of student loan funds is, unfortunately, not uncommon. And the sources of these delays are manifold. When you apply for a student loan, there are a lot of gears turning, some sequentially, others simultaneously. A lot of the reasons for a delayed disbursement are beyond your control, but there is a lot you can do on your end. This includes reviewing and proofreading all documentation that you need to provide, monitoring or checking up on the institutions involved in the student loan process, and making sure your financial circumstances are consistent with what you put down during the application process. 

Andrew DePietro

Author: Andrew DePietro

Senior Researcher, and Content Strategist

Andrew DePietro is a finance writer covering topics such as entrepreneurship, investing, real estate and college for BrokeScholar, Forbes, CreditKarma, and more.