How Do I Make This Work? Satisfactory Academic Progress Guidance

Schools may be clear on the changes to the satisfactory academic progress (SAP) regulations, however what may be less apparent is how to make them work for their student populations. 

Institutions may find themselves scratching their heads when dealing with students who left their institution years ago for SAP issues and are now returning.  The questions:  Under what status should these students return?  If the school reviews SAP each payment period and the student was not making SAP when last enrolled, can the student be placed on financial aid warning for one payment period?  

Based upon guidance received from the Department of Education (ED), assuming students return under the same status they left, if an institution reviews SAP after each payment period, these students could return under financial aid warning for their first payment period.  

Below are some scenarios for clarification, in which each school is semester-based. Under the prior rules, the school allowed a student not making SAP to have one semester of probation to make SAP. Under the new rules, the school’s SAP policy uses the regulatory financial aid warning and financial aid probation statuses.  

  • Scenario 1:  After completing the spring 2010 semester, the student was determined not to be making SAP.  The student withdrew after that semester, and did not resume enrollment until the fall 2011 semester.  In this situation, the school could place the student on financial aid warning.
  • Scenario 2:  After completing the spring 2010 semester, the student was determined not to be making SAP.  The student completed the fall 2010 semester and withdrew before beginning the spring 2011 semester.  The student failed to meet the SAP standards again.  The student did not resume enrollment until fall 2011.  In this situation, the student is ineligible for Title IV and must appeal before the school could place him on financial aid probation.

In the first scenario, the student began his or her last term of attendance in good standing and then failed to meet SAP standards.  In the second scenario, the student began his last term of attendance having previously failed to meet SAP standards, and then failed to meet SAP standards again.

  • Scenario 3:  The student is a third year student and never applied for Title IV before the fall 2011 semester.  The school determines the student is not making SAP. In this situation, the school could put the student on financial aid warning.

It is important to remember that schools that evaluate SAP after each payment period or term are not required to utilize a financial aid warning period for their students.   It is an additional flexibility that these schools are given in the regulations. If a school chooses not to use the financial aid warning status, ED’s guidance still applies.

Similarly, for institutions that evaluate SAP only annually, the guidance from ED also applies.  It assumes, of course, that your students return in the same status they left.  

Below is an example of a school that only evaluates SAP annually.  It does not have the option of utilizing the financial aid warning status. Under the prior rules, the school required a successful appeal that allowed a student not making SAP to have one academic year of probation to meet SAP standards before losing eligibility. Under the new rules, the school’s SAP policy uses the regulatory financial aid probation status, which requires a student to successfully appeal and be evaluated at the end of the next payment period:

  • Scenario 1:  A student, who successfully appealed was placed on probation after the spring 2010 term under the prior rules, does not enroll for the next three terms. The student returns for the fall 2011 term.  The student is awarded aid and is evaluated at the institution's next regular evaluation point under the new regulations.  If at that point, the student is still failing to meet SAP standards, the student may be placed on financial aid probation and/or have an academic plan put in place after a successful appeal.   

Resources

 

Publication Date: 10/4/2011

View Desktop Version