During College: What to Do if Your Financial Aid Eligibility is Jeopardized Because You’re Not Making Satisfactory Academic Progress

College wasn’t easy this spring. Closed campuses. Remote learning. Scrambling for off-campus housing or moving home. Job losses. Illness. Death. The anxiety and depression accompanying social distancing. All this can undermine academic performance.

So once your spring grades are final, we hope you’re not notified that you’ve lost financial aid eligibility because you’re not making Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). But if you are, here’s what you need to know . . .

What Is SAP?

Washington requires postsecondary schools to measure student aid recipients against certain criteria so taxpayers don’t “throw good money after bad” by funding students not able or hardworking enough to graduate. Most states and colleges apply these criteria to their aid programs.

SAP is checked when each academic term finishes in programs of study lasting a year or less. In longer programs, it’s usually assessed when each academic year ends.

For SAP you get evaluated against three criteria:

  1. Quality: Your GPA must be at least a “C” or it’s equivalent;
  2. Quantity: For the clock or credit hours you attempted, you must complete enough to be on pace to graduate within the maximum time frame described below; and
  3. Maximum Timeframe: You must graduate within 150% of your program’s published length in clock or credit hours.

Not Making SAP?

If you’re not making SAP, your school may:

Immediately cut you off from additional financial aid;

  • If your program lasts less than a year, give you a “Financial Aid Warning” under which you’ll become ineligible for aid after one more academic term unless you’re making SAP at that term’s end; or
  • If you’ve finished your Financial Aid Warning term without making SAP, or if you’re program lasts a year or more, put you on “Financial Aid Probation” during which you’re not eligible for aid or loans unless you successfully appeal.

How To Appeal?

Your appeal goes in writing to your financial aid office. Explain how one or more of three situations — illness or injury to you, a relative’s death, or some other special circumstance (which could certainly be coronavirus-related) — interfered with your ability to make SAP. Explain, too, what’s changed so you can reestablish SAP by the next time your school measures it.

Be honest. Be thorough. Don’t omit relevant details. Discuss how your situation affected your academic performance. Submit supporting documentation if necessary to confirm anything in your appeal.

When To Appeal?

Don’t dawdle in composing or submitting your appeal. Processing them is labor-intensive and time-consuming, and coronavirus has caused layoffs or vacancies in many aid offices, limiting their time to review SAP appeals. Therefore, a decision may take several weeks.

After You Appeal?

If your appeal’s granted, you may be put on an academic plan requiring you to meet certain requirements by certain dates. Meet those requirements and you’ll keep getting aid.

If your appeal’s denied, you’ll get no more aid from your school until you get back into compliance with it’s SAP criteria. So, again, take this very seriously!

Are you struggling with your Satisfactory Academic Progress appeal? College Affordability Solutions will advise you on it at no charge. Contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com.

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