This policy is effective starting the first day of the Summer 2018 Term.
Federal Regulation 34 CFR 668.34 requires postsecondary institutions receiving federal student aid funds under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to establish a policy for determining whether an eligible student is making satisfactory academic progress (SAP) in his or her education program to receive federal student aid.
The Office of Student Aid monitors the academic progress of all students. Financial aid satisfactory academic progress (SAP) includes both qualitative standards and quantitative standards, which are detailed in this policy. This policy governs a student’s eligibility to receive federal student aid funds and any other student aid sources that base eligibility on federal or institutional financial aid SAP standards. This policy is separate from University criteria determining satisfactory scholarship and is at least as strict as the University’s academic standards.
All students must meet the qualitative and quantitative standards for financial aid SAP, regardless of enrollment status.
Satisfactory academic progress is measured during all periods of a student’s enrollment at Penn State, including periods in which the student is not receiving financial aid or periods where a student is in a non-degree enrollment status. Federal student aid programs subject to this policy include the following programs:
- Federal Pell Grant
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant Program (TEACH)
- Iraq/Afghanistan Service Grant
- Direct Subsidized Loan
- Direct Unsubsidized Loan
- Direct PLUS Loan
- Direct Graduate PLUS Loan
- Federal Perkins Loan
- Federal Work-Study (FWS)
Non-federal student aid programs may base a student’s eligibility on whether the student is meeting an institution’s federal satisfactory academic progress standards. Students should consult with the program sponsor to determine whether federal SAP is an eligibility requirement.
A state agency awarding state aid may establish its own academic standards. Students should consult their state awarding agencies for more information.
Appeal: A process by which a student who is not meeting one or more financial aid satisfactory academic progress standards requests that the Office of Student Aid reconsider his or her eligibility to receive financial aid subject to this policy.
Financial Aid Probation: A status assigned to a student who failed to make financial aid satisfactory academic progress, has successfully appealed, and has had his or her eligibility for student aid, as identified in this policy, reinstated.
Financial Aid Progress: A status assigned to a student who is meeting all satisfactory academic progress standards as detailed in this policy.
Financial Aid Suspension: A status assigned to a student who is not meeting one or more standards for financial aid satisfactory academic progress.
Maximum Timeframe: A period of time that is 150% of the published length of the academic program in which the student, for financial aid purposes, is expected to complete his or her academic program as specified in this policy.
Pace of Completion: The ratio, expressed as a percentage, of successfully completed (earned) credits divided by attempted credits. For most academic programs at Penn State, the minimum completion rate to continue receiving financial aid is at least 67%. Percentages are not rounded.
Payment Period: The academic period of enrollment established by an institution for which financial aid is disbursed. A payment period is usually, but not always, the same as a term.
- Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards
Students whose academic programs utilize grade-point average (GPA) must have a minimum cumulative GPA as defined below at each evaluation to be making financial aid SAP.
Undergraduate Student: 2.0 Cumulative GPA
Graduate Student: 3.0 Cumulative GPA
Law School Student: 2.0 Cumulative GPA
Teacher Certificate Program Student: 3.0 Cumulative GPA
Educational Program Exceeding Two Academic Years
A student enrolled in an educational program of more than two academic years must have a cumulative GPA of at least a “C” (2.0 GPA) or its equivalent by the end of his or her second academic year (4th semester), or have academic standing consistent with Penn State’s requirements for graduation.
Comparable Qualitative Assessments
Grade-point average is not a measurement used for certain academic programs at the University, and therefore cannot be measured for financial aid SAP. Students enrolled in such academic programs are required to successfully complete all courses attempted to be making financial aid SAP. These programs include:
- Medical Degree Programs
- Physician Assistant Program
- Practical Nursing Program
- Golf Course Turfgrass Management
Incompletes, Withdrawals, Repetitions (Course Repeats), and Transfer Credits
Credits for a course in which a student was enrolled but received a Deferred Grade (DF) or No Grade (NG) count as attempted, but do not count as earned. The student’s grade-point average for that semester will be calculated without deferred-grade and no-grade credits.
When a valid incomplete grade is finalized, it is factored into the student’s SAP status at the next evaluation. However, if the DF or NG grade was invalid (i.e., assigned in error as documented in writing by the instructor), the student must contact the Office of Student Aid after the grade is corrected to request that his or her SAP status be immediately reevaluated.
Credits for courses taken during a semester from which a student has withdrawn count as attempted, but do not count as earned. The student’s GPA is not affected by credits from which a student has withdrawn.
Repetitions (Course Repeats)
The credits of a repeated course count as credits attempted. Credits for a repeat course count as earned only if they have one of the attributes listed in the “Credits Earned Defined” section below. For information on how repeat courses impact grade-point average, see University Faculty Senate Policies 47-80 and 51-00.
A student will only receive financial aid for the first two attempts of a course.
Transfer credits earned at another school and accepted by Penn State count as both attempted and earned. The student’s GPA is not affected by credits that have been transferred to Penn State from another institution.
Transfer credits accepted by Penn State are factored into the student’s SAP status at the next evaluation.
When a grade is changed, a student’s SAP status must be immediately reevaluated (except for changes in valid incomplete grades as noted above). A student must contact the Office of Student Aid after the grade change is posted to his or her academic record to request that the SAP status be reevaluated.
Maximum Timeframe Standard
Students must complete their program within a maximum timeframe based on units attempted for their primary academic program. Credits are the unit of measure used for most academic programs at Penn State. For some programs, clock hours are used. Students can pursue additional academic objectives (e.g., majors, minors) and continue to receive financial aid as long as they do so within the maximum timeframe allowed for the primary academic program. All attempted credits (as defined below) by the student count for SAP purposes.
Once the maximum timeframe is reached, or the Office of Student Aid determines that it is not mathematically possible for the student to complete the academic program within the maximum timeframe, the student is considered ineligible for financial aid and will be assigned the status of financial aid suspension.
The maximum timeframe is calculated by multiplying the minimum units required for the academic program by 150% to determine the maximum number of units.
Maximum Timeframe = Minimum units required for academic program x 150%
For example, a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree that requires 120 credits has a maximum timeframe of 180 credits.
Attempted credits are counted for all payment periods (e.g., terms) and include transfer credits, credits for courses taken during a semester from which a student has withdrawn, credits for which the student did not receive financial aid, as well as those usually waived under academic amnesty (academic renewal).
Pace of Completion Standard
Unless otherwise specified by academic program requirements, students must maintain a pace of completion of at least 67%. This pace of completion should ensure that students will complete their academic programs within the maximum timeframe described above. Percentages are not rounded, and students who fail to meet the pace of completion risk losing eligibility for student financial aid.
Pace of Completion = (Cumulative hours successfully completed ÷ Cumulative hours attempted) x 100
The information below details when a credit is counted as successfully completed (i.e., credit earned) or as attempted (i.e., credit attempted).
Credit Earned Defined
In general, credits earned have one of the below attributes:
- Undergraduate Student: Grade of D or better; Satisfactory/Pass grades
- Graduate Student: Grade of C or better; Satisfactory/Pass grades
- Clock-Hour Student: Courses passed in accordance with academic program
- Medical School Student: Grade of Pass, Low Pass, or better
Note: For more information about grades, see University Faculty Senate Policies #47-00, #48-00, #49-00
- Transfer credits earned at another school and accepted by Penn State
- Credits earned through examination (e.g., AP, CLEP) and credit by portfolio assessment
- Credits earned for remedial courses
- Credits for ESL/EAP courses
- Previous coursework of students granted academic amnesty (academic renewal)
- Completion of research credits
Credit Attempted Defined
Attempted Not Attempted Every credit counted as earned (as defined above). Credits for a course from which a student withdrew due to military service obligations. Credits for a course in which a student was enrolled, but did not pass/earn the credit. For graduate students, credits for a course below the 400 level. Credits for a course in which a student was enrolled, but withdrew from or late dropped before the end of the course. Credits for a course in which a student was enrolled, but dropped on or before the Regular Drop Date or had administratively cancelled. Credits for a course in which a student was enrolled but received a Deferred Grade (DF) or No Grade (NG). Credits for a course a student audited; Course Audit (AU) credits.
If a credit does not count as attempted, it also does not count as earned.
The below examples illustrate how pace of completion is calculated for a student. Percentages are not rounded.
Example 1: A student has attempted a total of 59 credits after two years of enrollment, and has successfully completed 40 credits.
Pace of Completion: (40 credits successfully completed ÷ 59 credits attempted) x 100 = 67%
Eligibility Status: Student is meeting the pace of completion standard for SAP and is making financial aid progress.
Example 2: A student has attempted a total of 30 credits after one year of enrollment. The student successfully completed 18 credits, 12 in the fall and 6 in the spring.
Pace of Completion: (18 credits successfully completed ÷ 30 credits attempted) x 100 = 60%
Eligibility Status: Student is not meeting the pace of completion standard for SAP, is ineligible for financial aid subject to this policy, and will be assigned the status of financial aid suspension.
- Monitoring for Financial Aid SAP
The following evaluations occur in accordance with the federal regulation:
- All students, with the exception of clock-hour program students, are monitored annually at the end of the spring payment period (e.g., term) when the grade reporting deadline has passed.
- Clock-hour students are monitored at the end of each grading period.
- All students are monitored at the end of every payment period against the maximum timeframe standard described above.
- Students enrolled in educational programs exceeding two academic years in length are evaluated at the end of their second academic year (4th semester) for a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA.
Students who meet all financial aid SAP standards are eligible to receive financial aid. Students who are not meeting financial aid SAP standards, or for whom it is not mathematically possible to meet the standards within the maximum timeframe, will receive notification from the Office of Student Aid via their Penn State email accounts of the impact on their aid eligibility.
Financial Aid Suspension
Financial aid suspension is the status assigned to students who fail to meet one or more standards of SAP. A student assigned the status of financial aid suspension is not eligible to receive financial aid subject to this policy.
- Restoring Financial Aid Eligibility
Restoring aid without an appeal
Students who fail to meet the qualitative standards or the quantitative pace of completion standard can restore financial aid eligibility by enrolling for one or more payment periods (e.g., terms) at their own expense until they achieve the minimum financial aid SAP standards required by this policy. Students who exceed the maximum timeframe standard cannot restore eligibility without appealing to the Office of Student Aid for reinstatement consideration.
Students assigned the status of financial aid suspension may appeal to the Office of Student Aid for reinstatement of their aid. Financial aid SAP appeal forms are available upon request from the Office of Student Aid.
A student may file an appeal with the Office of Student Aid on the basis of the death of a relative, an injury or illness of the student, or other special circumstances. In the appeal, the student must explain why he or she failed to make financial aid SAP and what has changed in the student’s situation that will allow the student to demonstrate financial aid SAP at the next evaluation. To appeal, a student must complete and submit the Financial Aid SAP appeal form provided by the Office of Student Aid and supply all required supporting documentation and signatures, as detailed in the appeal form.
The Office of Student Aid will notify the student through the student’s Penn State email account of the results of the Financial Aid SAP appeal. If an appeal is denied, the student is ineligible for financial aid subject to this policy. If an appeal is approved for a student who failed to meet the pace of completion standard or a qualitative standard, the student is assigned the status of financial aid probation. If an appeal is approved for a student who failed to meet the maximum timeframe standard, the student is assigned the status of financial aid progress and must complete his or her program within the extended maximum timeframe approved in the appeal.
Students whose appeals are denied after failing to meet the qualitative standards or the quantitative pace of completion standard can restore financial aid eligibility by enrolling for one or more payment periods (e.g., terms) at their own expense until they achieve the minimum financial aid SAP standards required by this policy.
Students on financial aid probation must either meet the minimum SAP standards at the conclusion of the probationary payment period to remain eligible for student financial aid, or meet the conditions of the academic plan developed by the institution and the student to remain eligible for further financial aid. The academic plan is outlined in the email students receive from the Office of Student Aid when their SAP appeal is approved. Students are responsible for understanding and following the conditions set forth in the academic plan.
Revised Editorially: 11/5/07
Revised Editorially: 6/17/16 (Revised and became standalone policy – Appendix E –
separated from Appendix D Academic Conditions for Veterans Benefits)
Revised Editorially: 5/22/18