I am not eligible for federal funding at this time because of
unsatisfactory academic progress. My appeal was denied and I was told
I would again be eligible for federal funding after "the satisfactory
completion" of 6 non-federally funded credit hours in an semester. I
could easily accomplish this if it weren't for the fact that I don't have
the money to pay for the classes to begin with.
— Megan B.
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Sections 484(a)(2) and (c) of the Higher Education Act of
1965 and the regulations at 34 CFR 668.16(e), 34 CFR 668.32(f) and 34
CFR 668.34 require a student to be making satisfactory progress in the
course of study the student is pursuing in order to continue receiving
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federal student aid. This requirement is often referred to as making
"satisfactory academic progress" or SAP. The college's satisfactory
academic progress policy must include both qualitative (grade-based)
and quantitative (time-related) standards. The qualitative standards
require students to maintain at least a C cumulative grade
point average or have academic standing consistent with the
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requirements for graduation. Colleges are permitted to have stricter
standards, such as requiring a B average for graduate and professional
students. The quantitative standards require students to demonstrate
progress toward the degree within a maximum timeframe that is no more
than 150% of the normal timeframe for obtaining a degree (e.g., 3
years for a 2-year degree and 6 years for a 4-year degree).
Students who fail to make satisfactory academic progress not only lose
eligibility for federal student aid, but may also lose eligibility for
institutional and state student aid programs. Most private
scholarships also require the student to be making satisfactory
academic progress. Some scholarships have stricter standards, such as
requiring at least a B.
Colleges may waive the satisfactory academic progress requirements
when the failure to make satisfactory academic progress was caused by
"undue hardship" based on the death of a relative of the student, the
personal injury or illness of the student, or other special
circumstances as determined by the college.
Some colleges provide for a "financial aid warning" or "financial aid
probation" in their satisfactory academic progress policies. Pending
regulatory changes will define these terms and formalize this process
starting July 1, 2011.
If a student loses eligibility for federal student aid because of a
failure to maintain satisfactory academic progress, the student may
regain eligibility for federal student aid by improving his or her
academic performance. However, this usually requires the student to
pay for at least one semester on his or her own, without the support of
federal student aid.
This often leaves students in a Catch-22 situation, where they need
federal student aid to help pay for college so that they can improve
their academic performance, but they can't get federal student aid
until they improve their academic performance.
Since traditional student financial aid funding is not an option,
students who are not making satisfactory academic progress must rely
on other sources of money to pay for school. This can include
working part-time on or near campus, private student loans,
peer-to-peer education loans, money from friends and
family, savings and selling personal possessions.
While students who fail to make satisfactory academic progress are
ineligible for federal work-study, part-time jobs are often plentiful
on or near college campuses. The free Fastweb scholarship matching
service integrates information about part-time jobs into the
scholarship search results based on distance from the job to the
student's school or home address. Working up to 15 hours a week can
help improve grades by forcing the student to learn time management
skills. Working a full-time job, on the other hand, is not recommended
as it takes too much time away from school and can hurt academic
The Hope Scholarship tax credit, Lifetime Learning tax credit and the
Tuition and Fees deduction do not require students to be making
satisfactory academic progress.