Satisfactory Academic Progress: What Is It and Why Should I Care?

Hello, University of Rochester undergrads! With finals wrapping up, you’re all probably thinking quite a bit about your final grades and degree audits. You might be surprised to learn, however, that the Financial Aid Office is thinking about them too! Why? Something called “Satisfactory Academic Progress,” more commonly referred to by its acronym: “SAP.” We’re putting out this blog as a quick and easy explainer of SAP, the policies associated with it, and the potential impact it can have on your financial aid.

What is SAP?
SAP is a set of standards laid out by the federal government and the University by which we measure the progress you’re making toward attaining your degree. Aid eligibility depends on meeting these standards, so falling behind on SAP can cause your eligibility for aid to jeopardized and may require some additional steps on your part to retain your aid.

How is SAP measured?
SAP is measured using both a qualitative measure (your GPA) and a quantitative metric (known as pace), as well as a maximum time frame measurement.  We conduct a review of these factors at the end of each semester in which you’ve taken coursework. If you’re not meeting the standards on any one of the three criteria, you’ll be designated as not making SAP. We’ll address the implications of falling behind later in the blog, so let’s look at the standards themselves for now.

The qualitative GPA metric is very straightforward; you need to maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale in order to be making SAP.

The quantitative pace measurement is that you need to complete at least 67% of all credits that you attempt. In other words, if you take 16 credits in a given semester and complete 12 of them, you’ll be making SAP with a 75% pace. If you take 16 credits and complete 10 of them, you’ll be at a 62% pace and thus be behind the SAP standards.

The maximum timeframe requirement has two components, one federal and one University-based. Federally, undergraduate students are limited to attempting 192 credits, after which point they will no longer be eligible for federal aid. On the University’s side, undergraduates are limited to 8 semesters of aid eligibility, with some exceptions for special circumstances.

What if I’m not making SAP?
So what happens if you fall behind these standards? First off, it’s not the end of the world. The FAO will give you the opportunity to remedy your situation before you lose your aid eligibility altogether, and there are a few backstops to help you change course and get back on track.

The first is a Financial Aid Warning semester. When you fall behind on SAP, the University will automatically grant you this Warning semester to get your SAP back on track. There is no specific action you need to take to be granted a Warning semester, but it’s a good sign that you may want to start seeking out some additional help and resources. More to come on that later! If you are able to get your SAP standards back to the criteria detailed above by the end of your Warning semester, there will not be negative impacts or further action required.

But what happens if you are still not meeting SAP standards at the end of your Warning semester? At that point, you’ll be placed on Financial Aid Probation and will have to appeal to continue to receive aid moving forward. These appeals need to be based on legitimate extenuating circumstances and describe not only what caused you to fall behind, but also what steps you’ve taken and are planning to take to help get yourself back up to SAP standards. You’ll also need to put together an academic plan that will detail, specifically, which classes you intend to take and the grades you are setting as goals for yourself to get back to meeting SAP. You’ll need to work closely with the Center for Advising Services and your major advisor(s) on this plan to make sure that you’re setting goals that will be attainable and will also get you to timely completion of your degree requirements. You’ll also be held to that plan, meaning that any deviation from it will result in your losing aid eligibility. Upon completion of your plan, having gotten both your GPA and pace back to where they need to be, you’ll be taken off probation and your aid will be all set moving forward.

At the end of this process, if you’re not able to successfully complete your academic plan and get your GPA and pace back to SAP standards, you’ll lose eligibility for any federal and institutional aid until you are able to meet SAP standards.

Where can I get help?
The University has a wide range of offices, individuals, and opportunities that can help you with getting your academics back on track and thus ensuring your aid is secured. The most important is the Center for Advising Services, located in Lattimore 312 on the quad level. They’re the best resources on campus for academic and degree-planning counseling, and if SAP becomes an issue for you they should be your first stop in addressing the situation. You can ask your professor about office hours, or your TA about tutoring and assistance outside of the classroom. If your academic issues are rooted in something more personal, you can seek out counseling services from the University Counseling Center, too. At the end of the day, there are a TON of resources available to you. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.

Do you have a specific situation regarding SAP that wasn’t addressed above, or are you hoping to learn more about SAP in general? Check out our full policy guide!

For those of you who receive New York State-based aid, such as TAP or the New York Excellence Scholarship, there is a similar but separate set of standards required to retain that aid. We’ll review your New York State SAP standards at the same time as your federal and institutional SAP. You can find more information on the details and differences here:

As always, your counselor is happy to talk things over and make sure you’re as well-equipped as possible to make SAP every semester. Don’t hesitate to call, email, or make an appointment. We’re here to help!

About the author

Patrick Hennessey

I am an alumnus of the University of Rochester, and I've worked in the Financial Aid Office as both a student worker and now a financial aid counselor. While at the University I was an English major, history minor, and also was involved with Greek Life. When I'm not slaving away over a hot keyboard, I'm usually at home writing, reading historical fiction and non-fiction, and playing my guitar.

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