How Often Does Your School Evaluate Your Progress?

Every school sets its own schedule for evaluating the students’ academic progress for the purposes of renewing financial aid. Check with your school’s financial aid office to see that policy. You made it through the alphabet soup of getting into college. You filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), got back a Student Aid Report (SAR), and got it all done in time to start school. Don’t get tripped up now, after all that work, by losing your assistance due to poor academic performance.

What is Satisfactory Academic Progress?

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) means that you are making grades that are high enough and earning adequate credits or hours to finish your program of study in a timely manner. Each school that accepts federal student aid must have an SAP policy. You can usually find it on the school’s website or get it from the financial aid office.

Some of the things to look for in your school’s SAP policy are:

  • What is the grade or grade point average you need to keep?
  • What is the number of credits or hours you must earn each period to be in good standing? This is often called making satisfactory progress toward degree completion.
  • How does it affect your SAP if you drop or receive an incomplete in a class? What if you repeat a class or transfer one in from another institution? What if you change your major?
  • How often does your institution check on your progress? They must do it at least at the end of every academic year, but some schools do it more often, so it’s an important question to ask.
  • What are the consequences if you are not achieving SAP?
  • Can you appeal a decision to stop financial aid due to failure to meet SAP?
  • Does your school allow a probationary period to get back in good standing? Under the law, they are not required to do this, but they may independently choose to use this tool to give you a second chance.
  • If you do lose your assistance, how can you become eligible again? Do you have to wait a certain length of time?

Under certain extreme circumstances, like the death of the student’s close relative, a personal injury or sickness, or another type of hardship, the school may grant a renewal of the financial aid even when SAP standards are not being met.

How is SAP Measured?

Each school must adhere to certain standards within the SAP policy.

  • The standards for SAP must have quantitative and qualitative characteristics.
  • The standards cannot be less than the standards for students who don’t use financial aid.
  • The standards must be applied equally to all students.

Schools must make sure that students are making progress toward reaching their educational goals and not racking up unreasonable debt by becoming professional students. Monitoring SAP is a good way to do that as long as clear policies exist to govern its application. It’s important to understand those rules right upfront so there are no surprises along the way.