Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Appeal Reviews

March 8, 2021
  • Student Success
  • Academic Advising
  • Financial Aid
  • Financial Aspects of Enrollment Management
  • Student Success
male college student meeting with male college counselor

By Kenneth McGhee, Director of the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG) within the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in Washington, D.C. 

Numerous students experience some academic challenges while attending college. Students might lose their financial aid eligibility due to not meeting the required grade point average, the rate of completing courses, and/or the maximum time frame allowed for receiving funding. The official name for the Federal Student Aid (FSA) policy involved in these cases is Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). Specifically, it typically comes into play when students: have a grade point average under 2.0; successfully complete less than 67 percent of their courses; and/or have taken more than 150 percent of the courses required for a degree program. (At a two-year college, this is three years of attempted credits; at a four-year college, this equals six years of attempted credits). 

To assist students in these circumstances, it is necessary to outline how to successfully move forward in an academic plan. This provides a great opportunity for financial aid administrators and academic advisors to work as a team to promote student success and retention. Many students get back on track academically and move on to graduate and have a career. Below are some ideas to consider when advising students after first reviewing their grades and then talking to them about their dreams, current academic major, personal circumstances, and career goals.

Recommendations for academic majors:

Continue pre-selective program courses – Many students are taking general education courses to be considered for admissions to a degree program that is highly selective. Examples are nursing, allied health professions, and education programs. It is common for students to feel pressure to obtain the required grade point average and complete classes in enough time for an upcoming application deadline. After reviewing the student’s transcript, you may notice some success and also challenges. Reviewing the student’s work schedule is important. Depending upon the situation, recommending not working, or cutting back on hours, might be a consideration. Also assisting the student with a time management schedule is also important. 

Change from a pre-selective major to another program of study – A student might have spent two or three years working to meet the admissions requirements for a highly selective program. Based upon a review of the student’s transcript and a discussion with them about their goals, an alternative academic major might be offered for consideration. This idea could potentially be combined with applying for the first choice major one more time before making a final decision. Many students can combine their first and second choice and end up in a related career path. An example is a student changing their major from engineering to engineering technology, or a pre-nursing student changing their major to respiratory therapy. 

General change of major – A student might have attended a few colleges and changed their major a few times. They now have more than enough college credits to graduate but not enough in a specific area to fit an academic field. If a general studies or individualized major degree is available at your school, this is an option to consider. The preferred emphasis or current academic major of interest can be made clear when applying for jobs and/or graduate school. In other circumstances, the current major is not a good fit for the student’s skill set. An example involves students who are majoring in business but have been unsuccessful numerous times in the entry-level math classes. The student can be referred to math tutoring, but in some cases another major would be a better fit. Reviewing options that are better for the students should take place. 

In addition to these recommendations, it is also important to consider what additional student support and retention approaches might be needed. Look out for an upcoming Connect article focusing on this aspect of the SAP appeal review process. 



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