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Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy

Background

For purposes of determining financial aid eligibility under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, an institution must establish reasonable standards for measuring whether a student is maintaining satisfactory academic progress (SAP). On October 29, 2010, the Secretary of Education published final rules aimed at improving the integrity of programs authorized under Title IV of the HEA, as amended.

Effective July 1, 2011, institutions must comply with the published regulations that impact SAP. The Office of Financial Aid has revised its satisfactory academic progress policy to comply with the new regulations.

Introduction

Federal regulations require all schools participating in Title IV financial aid programs to have a SAP policy. Title IV financial aid programs include: Pell Grant, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH), Subsidized Stafford Loan, Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, PLUS Loan, and Work-Study. The requirements of this policy apply to all students as one determinant of eligibility for financial aid.

Minimum Standards

To remain eligible for federal grants, loans, and work-study, students must meet the standards indicated below at the end of each semester. Please note the standards to establish and maintain eligibility for Title IV assistance are more stringent than the University’s academic standards for continuous enrollment. At the end of each term of enrollment, students must earn the minimum cumulative GPA, minimum number of credit hours, and be within the maximum timeframe. Failure to meet the minimum cumulative standards may result in a loss of financial aid eligibility.

  • Qualitative Measure of Progress

The qualitative requirement sets a minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) for the degree level at which a student is classified. Note: This is the GPA used to determine one’s status and includes grades from courses taken at all other schools that are accepted by Nicholls. To remain in compliance, a student must maintain the following cumulative GPA after each period of assessment:

Minimum Cumulative GPA
Undergraduate Students 2.0
Graduate Students 3.0
  • Quantitative Measure of Progress

The quantitative requirement contains two components, (1) Pace of Progression and (2) Maximum Timeframe.

  1. Pace of Progression/Completion Rate
  2. The credit hour completion rate reflects the pace at which students must progress to ensure that they are able to complete their degree program within the maximum timeframe. The pace of progression is calculated by dividing the cumulative number of hours the student has successfully completed by the cumulative number of hours the student has attempted. All students regardless of classification must earn 67% of all hours attempted. This is a cumulative calculation and includes credits attempted at all schools before and while attending Nicholls.

  3. Maximum Timeframe

The maximum timeframe for students to complete their degree cannot exceed 150% of the published length of the academic program. Hours are counted starting with the semester the student entered school, even those semesters in which he/she did not receive financial aid. The maximum timeframes are listed below:

Maximum Timeframe
Associate’s Degree 90 Attempted Hours
Bachelor’s Degree 180 Attempted Hours
Master’s Degree 150% program length

Hours Attempted: Hours attempted include all hours pursued in the student’s career and are counted in the maximum timeframe whether or not financial aid was received. Attempted hours also include the following: withdrawals, incompletes, failing grades, remedial coursework, repeated coursework, and transfer credits accepted by the University.

Repeated Coursework: Students are allowed to repeat a previously passed course and have it count toward enrollment for financial aid eligibility only once. However, all repeats count against the maximum timeframe (total attempted credits) and reduce the pace/completion rate because they count as earned credits only once.

Dropped or Withdrawn Courses: Drops and/or withdrawals do not affect a student’s cumulative GPA for SAP, but count as credit hours attempted toward both pace and maximum timeframe.

Incomplete Grades: At the time of evaluation (the end of each period of enrollment), incompletes (grade of “I”) do not influence a student’s cumulative GPA for SAP, but count as credit hours attempted toward both pace and maximum timeframe. For financial aid purposes, incomplete (“I”) grades and in progress (“X”) grades equal “F” until removed according to University regulations.

Transfer Credit: Transfer credits and credits taken while cross-enrolled that are accepted by Nicholls count toward a student’s cumulative GPA and attempted and earned credit hours, therefore, impacting the maximum timeframe and a student’s pace/completion rate.

Change of Major / Pursuing Multiple Majors: Credits earned under all majors will be included in the calculation of attempted, earned, and maximum timeframe credits, as well as the GPA calculation.

Developmental/Remedial Coursework: Developmental/Remedial hours are included in the total hours attempted and, if successfully completed, hours earned. Students may receive financial aid for 30 hours of developmental courses. Students taking developmental courses in excess of 30 hours are not eligible to receive financial aid for these courses. Once the limit is reached, eligibility is determined based on the student’s enrollment in 100-level or above courses.

Grades, Hours Earned, and Grade Point Average: Students will receive a grade for each course at the end of the semester. Passing grades are: A, B, C, D, and S. Grades that are not passing are: F, I, U, X, AU, and W. See the Nicholls State University Catalog for a more detailed description of the grading system and an explanation of how a grade point average is computed.

“Not for Degree Credit” Courses and Audited Coursework: Students may not receive financial aid for continuing education courses, audited courses, or any other courses that are not part of their curriculum.

Academic Renewal: All attempted hours will be included in determining a student’s financial aid eligibility. However, coursework included in an academic renewal does NOT count in earned hours. This means that the completion rate of a student with an academic renewal may be adversely affected.

Evaluation and Notification of Eligibility

The minimum progress standards will be checked after each semester of enrollment (Fall, Spring, and Summer). At the end of each term of enrollment, students must earn the minimum cumulative GPA, minimum number of credit hours, and be within the maximum timeframe. At the time of each evaluation, a student who has not achieved the required GPA, or who is not successfully completing his or her educational program at the required pace, is no longer eligible to receive assistance under the Title IV programs unless the student is placed on financial aid warning or the student has appealed and has been placed on financial aid probation.

Students can find their SAP status within the Financial Aid menu on Banner Self Service. Using the qualitative and quantitative measures of progress, a student may be placed in one of the following SAP statuses:

  • ‘Passing‘ is a status assigned to a student who is eligible for financial aid and is meeting the minimum standards.
  • ‘Warning’ is a status assigned to a student who fails to make SAP at an institution that evaluates SAP at the end of each payment period and is assigned without an appeal or other action by the student. The student may continue to receive Title IV aid for one payment period. To be removed from ‘Warning’, the student must attain the required cumulative GPA and credit completion rate by the end of his/her ‘Warning’ period.
  • ‘Suspension’ is a status assigned to a student who fails to make SAP after one payment period of aid while in ‘Warning’ status or a student who fails to make SAP (or the requirements outlined in the student’s Academic Plan) while in ‘Probation’ status. Note: Students in ‘Suspension’ status are NOT eligible for financial aid. To be removed from ‘Suspension’ status, a student must reestablish eligibility or an appeal for reinstatement must be approved. For more information, please refer to the “Reestablishing” and/or “Appeals” section of this policy.
  • ‘Probation’ is a status assigned to a student who fails to make SAP and an appeal is approved. At the end of one payment period on ‘Probation’, the student must meet the minimum SAP standards or meet the requirements of his/her Academic Plan (if applicable) to qualify for further funds. While a student is on ‘Probation’, the student may be required to fulfill specific terms and conditions such as taking a reduced course load or enrolling in specific courses.
  • Near Maximum Timeframe’ is a status assigned to a student who has attempted more than 125% of his/her degree requirements.  Students in this status are still eligible for aid but may want to plan their coursework to complete their specific degree program within the maximum timeframe.
  • ‘Exceeded Maximum Timeframe’ is a status assigned to a student who has exceeded the 150% maximum timeframe of his/her degree requirements. Students in this status are NOT eligible for financial aid and will be required to personally pay for any additional semesters necessary. Students who have exceeded the maximum timeframe may request for a brief extension of their financial aid by completing a financial aid appeal. For more information, refer to the “Appeals” section of this policy.
  • ‘Denied’ is a status assigned to a student whose appeal is denied. Students in this status are NOT eligible to receive financial aid for their next period of enrollment and are responsible for making the appropriate financial arrangements to pay for tuition and fees. Students may submit a new appeal and Academic Plan after their next period of enrollment for a reevaluation of future aid eligibility.

 

Appeals

If extenuating circumstances prevented a student from meeting the requirements, a SAP Appeal may be filed. The appeal must be submitted with accompanying documentation and a completed academic plan by the deadline date given. All supporting documents will be retained in the student’s financial aid file. Nicholls’ Satisfactory Academic Appeal Form may be found at www.nicholls.edu/financial-aid/forms.

The following are examples of circumstances under which a student would be permitted to submit an appeal: death of a relative, injury or illness of the student, or other special circumstances. A student’s appeal must explain the circumstances that prevented him/her from making SAP and the reasons for the basis of this appeal. The student must address the following:

  1. what the problem was;
  2. when did the problem occur;
  3. how long did the problem last;
  4. how did this affect his/her ability to complete coursework; and
  5. the steps taken to ensure that the minimum standards will be met at the next evaluation.

An appeal may NOT be approved without the submission of a completed academic plan. If the student deviates from the academic plan, financial aid eligibility will be suspended.

In order to be eligible for financial aid for a semester in which financial aid has been suspended, an appeal must be approved prior to or during that semester. To ensure that an appeal is reviewed, students must submit their appeal no later than two weeks prior to the end of the semester. Appeals will NOT be considered for a semester that has already ended. It is the responsibility of the student to pay all outstanding balances on his/her account while waiting for an appeal decision. Regardless of the appeal decision, students are responsible for any late fees incurred.

Note: Financial aid appeals are NOT the same as academic appeals. Students are ineligible for financial aid while academically suspended from the University.

Reestablishing

If an appeal is denied or is not submitted, a student may regain financial aid eligibility by making SAP. The student must personally pay for each period of enrollment until the minimum cumulative GPA and pace requirements are met. The student will regain eligibility for future periods of enrollment after reestablishing.

Enrollment Status

When you register for classes, your enrollment status will be based on the number of credit hours for which you enroll. For financial aid purposes, enrollment status is based on the following:

No. of Credit Hours Undergraduate Status Graduate Status
Twelve (12) or more Full-time Full-time
Nine (9) to eleven (11) Three-quarter-time Full-time
Six (6) to eight (8) Half-time Half-time
Five (5) or less Less-than-half-time Less-than-half-time

Your enrollment status is NOT official until after the Census Day, which is the 14th class day in a regular semester. For all other sessions, the Census Day will vary. After the Census Day in a given semester/session, your enrollment status is set, and this status is used in determining award amounts and minimum number of hours to complete. A recalculation of eligibility based on your enrollment status as of the University’s Census Day may result in repayment of some or all of your financial aid.

NOTE: Certain degree programs, such as Nursing, consider students to be “full-time” in their specific program when enrolled with less than 12 hours of courses. However, “full-time” for financial aid purposes and “full-time” in your specific degree program have different meanings. According to the federal government, all students, regardless of their degree program, are treated equally for financial aid purposes. Therefore, financial aid is awarded according to the actual number of hours a student is enrolled. This means that, even if 9 hours is considered full-time for your degree program, for financial aid purposes, you are considered a three-quarter-time student.

Class Attendance Policy

As a recipient of federal funds, you must attend all courses if you want to keep your financial assistance. Failure to attend class could result in a reduction or cancellation of your aid. You could be required to repay some or all of your financial aid, and you could lose your eligibility for future financial assistance.

For specific questions regarding satisfactory academic progress, please contact our office for assistance.

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