Maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

SPS Undergraduate SAP Policy

Federal and state regulations require recipients of financial aid to maintain satisfactory academic progress in their program of study. It is the University's expectation that students will make progress towards completion of the degree or professional development program in which they are enrolled. These requirements apply to part-time as well as to full-time students for all terms of enrollment within an academic year, including those terms for which no financial aid was granted.

SCS students must demonstrate satisfactory academic progress in three fundamental ways:

  1. Maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher
  2. Complete two-thirds of all credits attempted per academic term
  3. Complete program within a specified period of time

1. Maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher

The satisfactory Academic Progress regulations require that you maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) in order to remain eligible for financial aid. This cumulative GPA is a 2.0 (on a 4.0 scale).
If you drop below a cumulative GPA of 2.0, you will be placed in financial aid warning. While in financial aid warning, you will continue to receive your financial aid for one academic term, but you will need to bring your GPA above a 2.0 by the end the warning term.

2. Complete two-thirds (66.6%) of all credits attempted per academic term:

In order to meet the minimum standard of academic progress each academic term, students must complete at least two-thirds of the credits attempted per academic term. Courses dropped after the second Saturday of each term will be counted towards credits attempted. Grades of D, F, Y (incomplete), W (withdrawal), or X (unofficial withdrawal) do not satisfy the requirements for the 2/3 completion rate. Please note that this requirement is more stringent than the school's Drop policy, which may be found at http://sps.northwestern.edu/program-areas/undergraduate/student-services.php

3. Complete your Program within a Specified Period of Time:

  • Students must complete their programs within the following timeframe:
    • All degree-seeking students: 23 full-time terms
    • Pre-Medicine Professional Health Students:6 full-time terms
    • Pre-Physical Therapy Professional Health students:6 full-time terms
    • Pre-Nursing Professional Health Students: 5 full-time terms
    • Pre-Physician Assistant Professional Health Students:9 full-time terms
    • Pre-Clinical Psychology Professional Health Students: 5 full-time terms

All periods of enrollment, including Summer Session, are counted toward the maximum number of terms. Periods of academic leave or non-enrollment will not count against the maximum terms of enrollment. Students who are enrolled in two courses for a term as of the Drop/add date will use 2/3 of one term of eligibility. Students enrolled in 1 course as of the Drop/add date will use 1/3 of one term of eligibility. Students enrolled in three or more courses as of the Drop/add date per term will use one full term of eligibility.

Remedial and repeated coursework is counted in the same manner as all other coursework for the purposes of Satisfactory Academic Progress.

Students who earn credits through a consortium/contractual agreement, students who change majors, or students working on a second major do not qualify for additional terms of eligibility.

Students who have completed all required coursework for his or her degree or certificate but has not yet received the degree or certificate cannot receive further federal or state financial aid for that program. The Office of Financial receives a report form the SPS Registrar of all students who have fulfilled all degree or certificate requirements.

Students must be on track to complete their degree within their maximum time-frame in order to maintain their financial aid eligibility.

Transfer Credits and Completion Rate

If a student receives transfer credit for work completed at other academic institutions, each transfer credit counts as one credit attempted and one credit earned. The maximum terms for completion will be reduced by one term for every three transfer credits, rounded up the nearest whole quarter. For example, a student who brings in five transfer credits, which is equal to one and one third full-time terms in SPS, will be eligible for financial aid for 22 quarters of full-time enrollment. The maximum timeframe is determined by the Office of Financial aid and is documented in the student file when a student first applies for financial aid. All previous quarters of enrollment will count against terms of eligibility, even if no financial aid was received.
Students who have questions about determining their personal maximum timeframe may contact the Office of Financial Aid.

Evaluation of Satisfactory Academic Progress

Evaluation of satisfactory academic progress is made at the end each term by the Office of Financial Aid once grades are published in the university system. This review is completed through a manual review of grades received, courses attempted, pace toward graduation and GPA. SAP progress will be evaluated up to four times per academic year.

SAP Warning

If a student fails to meet the requirements for Satisfactory Academic Progress for any academic term, he/she is placed on SAP warning for one academic term. During this warning period, the student will still be eligible for federal and state financial aid but he/she must meet the following criteria:

  1. Complete at least two-thirds of all credits attempted during the following term with a grade of C- or higher. Courses dropped after the second Saturday of each term will be counted towards credits attempted. Grades of D, F, Y (incomplete), W (withdrawal), or X (unofficial withdrawal) do not satisfy the requirements for the 2/3 completion rate.
  2. Maintain or earn a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher.
  3. Be on track to complete their degree within their maximum allowed time-frame.

The student will be notified via their NU email account that he/she has been placed on SAP Warning.

If a student does not enroll in the following term after a SAP warning is issued, the warning period will move to the next term of enrollment.

SAP Suspension

Students who do not meet the terms of their SAP warning period will be subject to a SAP Suspension, during which the student will not be eligible for federal or state financial aid. In order to reinstate federal and state financial aid eligibility after a SAP suspension, students must meet the following criteria for reinstatement:

  • Complete 100% of the courses you enroll in for your suspension term with a grade of “C-“ or higher. Grades of D, F, X, Y, N, W, and V will not be considered sufficient for meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress. Receiving these grades will disqualify you from receiving financial aid in the following quarters.
  • You must complete at least two classes according to the criteria above. Therefore, if you only enroll in one class for your first term after a SAP suspension, you must complete that course with a grade of C- or higher and then complete 100% of all courses for which you enroll in the subsequent term before your aid can be reinstated.
  • Any term that you do not enroll does not count toward Satisfactory Academic Progress. Therefore, your suspension period will roll over to next term of enrollment.
  • Be advised that any courses you are enrolled in as of 11:59 PM on the second Saturday of the term according the SPS Calendar will count toward your SAP calculation. Therefore, any classes dropped after that date will mean a failure to complete 100% of your classes with a grade of C- or higher and will result in continued suspension of your financial aid.
  • Maintain or achieve a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher.


Once a student meets all requirements for reinstatement of financial aid after a suspension, it is the student’s responsibility to contact the Office of Financial Aid to request a SAP review for reinstatement of federal and state financial aid eligibility. Once the Office of Financial Aid determines that a student is now in compliance with SAP requirements, aid will be reinstated for the following academic term.

Appeals

If a student fails to meet the SAP requirements for reinstatement of completing 2/3 of all coursework attempted as of the end of drop/add or is not on track to complete their degree/certificate within the maximum timeframe due to extenuating circumstances such as a family member’s death, illness (of the student or immediate family member), etc, the student may submit a written appeal in a word document format. The appeal must be received by the Office of Financial Aid prior to the first day of the subsequent academic term.

If students have not met the minimum GPA requirements, they may appeal only if they have maintained a cumulative GPA of 1.75 to 1.99. If the cumulative GPA is 1.74 or below, students are not eligible to appeal their status. However, students would regain financial aid eligibility when the GPA is raised to the minimum requirement of 2.0 and all other satisfactory academic progress requirements as outlined in this policy are fulfilled.

The written appeal should be in a word document format (i.e. not email) and explain any relevant extraordinary circumstances, address the reason(s) for failing to meet the minimum academic requirements, and offer some solution to the problems that affected prior academic performance. Supporting documentation, such as statements from academic advisers, professors, professional health care workers, etc., is also required. The appeal will be reviewed by a committee chaired by the Director of Financial Aid. All decisions made by the committee are final. Students will be notified if their appeal is granted or denied via an email to their NU email account.

If an appeal is granted, the student will be placed in one of two categories:

1. SAP Probation
If a student is placed on SAP Probation after an appeal, he/she will be eligible for aid during one additional academic term. During the probationary period, the student must meet all SAP requirements. If the student meets the all SAP requirements, his/her aid will be awarded for subsequent quarters of the academic year. The student will be required to meet SAP for all subsequent quarters. If the student fails to meet SAP during their probationary period, their aid will be suspended without the ability to appeal. In order to reinstate federal and state financial aid eligibility after a SAP suspension, students must meet the criteria for reinstatement listed above without the use of federal or state financial aid.

2. SAP Academic Plan
Students may be placed on an academic plan upon submission of a successful appeal. If it is mathematically impossible for a student to resolve all deficiencies during one term of attendance and the student’s reason for appeal is appropriate according to federal regulations, the student may be placed on an academic plan with the end goal being to resolve all deficiencies. An academic plan varies in length and is determined by the SAP committee. It does not have to equate to the exact number of terms it would take a student to resolve all deficiencies. If the student is meeting the criteria identified in the SAP appeal approval at each quarterly review, the student’s academic plan may be extended.

Special Considerations for First-time Financial Aid Applicants

Current students who apply for financial aid are required to meet the satisfactory academic progress requirements. If you are a currently enrolled student, you are applying for financial aid for the first time, and your coursework does not meet the minimum academic progress requirements, you will need to complete a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) appeal for first-time aid filers. Your appeal should include the following:

  1. Describe a specific reason, event, or circumstance that prevented you from meeting the academic progress requirements.
  2. Provide a specific plan/corrective action to improve your academic progress.
  3. Meet with your academic advisor to discuss your plan of action and obtain a signature from your advisor to document that you have discussed your plan/corrective action together.