Dropping or Failing a Class: What Are the Implications?

College is a time for making friends, finding new interests, and expanding your horizons. But unfortunately it also costs money, so as you focus on having fun, also keep finances in mind.

When it comes to college expenses, food and textbooks are probably some of the first things that come to mind, but what about credit hours? The classes you take — or drop — relate directly to how much you pay over the course of your education. So if you find yourself thinking about dropping a class in college, first take these points into consideration.

Getting the most for your money

At most colleges, an undergraduate student has to take an average of 15 credit hours per semester to finish a bachelor’s degree in the standard four-year cycle. Many universities offer a flat tuition rate for students taking between 12 and 18 credit hours per semester.

With this setup, there are financial benefits of taking more classes and staying in them. If you look at the price per credit hour, a student who takes 12 hours is essentially paying 33 percent more for tuition than a student taking 18 hours.

Extra term, extra costs

Taking fewer credit hours can really start to hurt near the end of college. You risk having too few credits to graduate after four years and needing to stay on for an extra term. This, of course, costs more money and may also be outside the terms of any financial aid package you may have. To see how this can play out, let’s take a hypothetical-but-average college student, James, a marketing major at a university that requires 120 credit hours for a bachelor’s degree.

James tends to stay up late and has a hard time making it to early morning classes. He usually enrolls in 16 hours per semester but has dropped classes from time to time, leading to an average of 13 to 14 hours completed per semester.

At the end of eight semesters, James has 108 credit hours and will need an extra semester to get that degree in marketing. Because of the classes he dropped, James may have lost anywhere from $9,000 to more than $40,000, depending on the university, and that doesn’t count the cost of lost income and benefits that James could have been earning from a full-time job if he had graduated on time.

What About Failing or Skipping Class?

Along with dropping a class, failing or even skipping class could also have a financial impact.

Failing classes: Scholarships often depend on grade-point average. Failing a class will have a big impact on your GPA and could lead to the loss of any scholarships you have. Even if you can re-take the class and replace the grade, you could still face the financial implications of delayed graduation.

Skipping classes: Some instructors and degree programs have mandatory attendance policies, which means skipping too many classes can hurt your grade. Sometimes, missing a class is unavoidable, but it’s always better to go to class when you can and save your few unexcused absences for when you really need them.

It’s important to enjoy your time in college, but don’t let that keep you from graduating on time. The easiest way to lower the cost of higher education is to get your degree as fast as possible so you can focus on a job hunt instead of trying to find ways to make up for lost class time.

Learn more money tips that college grads wish they’d known.


This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and irs.gov for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.