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Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy

Measuring the progress toward the completion of a program of study

A+Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is a set of standards for financial aid progress to insure that all students receiving federal (Title IV) or state aid are making progress toward completion of a degree.  The policy requires the measurement of satisfactory academic progress to include all periods of enrollment at the institution, including those periods for which the student did not receive any financial aid.

New federal regulations effective July 1, 2011, affect Satisfactory Academic Progress policies and procedures.  The rules limit the length of time that students not making progress can continue to receive Title IV aid and require a more structured, comprehensive, and consistent approach to the development and implementation of institutional financial aid satisfactory academic progress policies.


» Purpose
» Procedures
» Monitoring
» Financial Aid Statuses
» Appeals


Institutions of higher education are required by federal regulations to establish minimum standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for students receiving financial aid.  It is the expectation that students are to achieve minimum levels of progress toward completion of a degree. The progress is measured both qualitatively and quantitatively.  The maximum timeframe for an academic program is divided into increments to ensure that the student is making sufficient progress toward completion of the degree. The institution will determine at the end of each increment (semester) if the student has completed a minimum of percentage of work toward completion of the degree.  All semesters and credit hours attempted at the institution will calculate in this determination, regardless of whether or not the student has received financial aid in the past.  The Standards will apply to all students applying for or receiving federal or state aid.

The student is responsible for understanding the SAP policy and for being in compliance.  The student is also responsible for understanding the consequences for noncompliance. All financial aid recipients are required to meet SAP guidelines established by Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) and financial aid standards of progress, pursuant to Federal regulations.


To be eligible for financial aid, students must meet the following minimum guidelines:

Qualitative Standard— Maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.00 each semester as computed by Financial Aid’s standards – this may be different than your transcript GPA. Developmental courses are not included in the semester GPA or cumulative GPA.

Quantitative Standard— Complete 67% of all credit hours attempted from the beginning date of enrollment at the college.  Developmental course hours are included in this measurement. Cumulative credit hours attempted will include all hours for which the student was enrolled as of the census date of the class (10% point of the class). Credit hours otherwise marked as forgiven under the previous Academic Forgiveness policy are included in hours attempted and hours completed if appropriate based on the grades received.  Transfer credit hours that are accepted toward the student’s educational program will count as both attempted and completed hours.

Maximum Time Frame— Complete the program of study within the maximum timeframe.  Federal regulations specify that the timeframe may not exceed 150% of the published length of the program as measured in credit hours.  (If the academic program length is 60 hours the maximum timeframe for the program cannot exceed 90 credit hours attempted).  Credit hours for developmental courses required by placement testing will be excluded (up to 30 credit hours) from the 150% calculation of hours. Transfer credits accepted from other schools that apply toward the student’s program of study are included in the maximum timeframe.


The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid will monitor satisfactory academic progress for all students receiving or applying for federal or state aid to ensure that they are making progress toward program completion. The progress for all students receiving federal or state aid will be reviewed at the end of each semester. Students will be notified by e-mail regarding the status.  Failure to receive notification will not change the student’s status.  Not enrolling for one or more terms does not change the student’s status.

Cumulative Credit Hours Attempted—Cumulative credit hours attempted are defined as all credit hours attempted at CVCC, and all credit hours transferred from other institutions. Attempted credits include courses with grades of A, B, C, D, F, or P (pass), WP (withdraw passing), WF (withdraw failing), I (incomplete), or R (repeat) count as attempted hours.

Repeated Courses—will be counted as hours attempted, hours completed, and also toward maximum credits allowable for each type of program for financial aid.  Only one repetition of a previously passed course may be counted in the enrollment status.  A course that has not been passed may count in the enrollment status until the course has been successfully completed.

Cumulative Credit Hours Completed—Credit hours successfully completed are defined as grades of A, B, C, D or P.  Credit hours with a grade of F, WP, WF, I, or R do not count as successfully completed credit hours.

Audited Courses—Credit hours taken for a grade of "audit" do not apply toward a degree program.  The grade of “audit” is not included in determining status for financial aid and does not count in the calculation of satisfactory academic progress.

Incomplete Grades—Courses with grades of "I" (Incomplete) will be considered as credit hours attempted and not completed. Students who have made arrangements with the instructor to complete required course work are not required to re-register for the same class during a subsequent semester to complete the work.  If the "incomplete" grade resulted in a student being placed on financial aid probation or suspension, once completed, the student must notify the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to have their progress reevaluated.

Cumulative Grade Point Average – The minimum cumulative GPA for graduation at CVCC is 2.00.  The student receiving financial aid must meet the minimum standard of the school.

Course Withdrawals – Any student who withdraws from a class, either officially or unofficially should know how the withdrawal could affect the eligibility for financial aid as determined by the SAP Standards.  A withdrawal will count as attempted, but not completed credit hours.  A grade of WP will affect the quantitative measure, but not the qualitative measure, as it will not count in the GPA calculation.  A grade of WF will affect both the quantitative and qualitative measure, as it will count in the GPA.  Financial Aid recipients should discuss the consequences of withdrawing from a class with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid before doing so.

Developmental Courses— Federal regulations allow financial aid recipients to take a maximum of 30 credit hours of developmental coursework. Developmental courses are included in the calculation in the quantitative measure (hours attempted versus completed). The grade received for the developmental class, however, is not included in the GPA.  To remain in good standing, students enrolled in developmental courses must receive grade of P.

Transfer Students— All transfer credit hours granted to the student will be included in the measurement of maximum timeframe.  Transfer credit hours that are accepted toward the student’s educational program will count as both attempted and completed hours.

Program of Study— Students who change their program of study without graduating from a program will assume the timeframe of the new program of study and all hours previously attempted will count toward the maximum timeframe of the new program of study.  Frequent changing of programs without graduating could result in the loss of federal or state eligibility. If a student graduates from a program of study and desires to pursue another program, the student will assume the maximum timeframe of the new program less any attempted hours related to courses not required in the program previously completed. It is always in the best interest of the student to contact the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid before changing programs of study.  A student is allowed to receive financial aid for the completion of only two academic programs.

Two Programs of Study—Students who choose two programs of study (pursue multiple programs at the same time) will assume the maximum timeframe of only one academic program.

Summer Session—Credit hours attempted and earned during the summer session are included in the calculation of Satisfactory Academic Progress. Full-time status is the same for summer session as it is for the fall and spring semesters (12 credit hours).

Enrollment Status—Full time (12 credit hours or more), 3/4 time (9-11 credit hours), 1/2 time (6-8 credit hours), less than 1/2 time (less than 6 credit hours)

Financial Aid Statuses

If a student does not have a 2.0 cumulative grade point average (GPA) AND pass at least 67% of the credit hours on a cumulative basis, the student is placed on WARNING for the next term attended. A student will be granted only one term to regain satisfactory academic progress. Financial aid may be received during this WARNING term.

For students in clock hour programs, the review of progress will be done at the point the scheduled clock hours for that payment period are successfully completed.  In order for the student to be eligible for the next payment period, the student must have successfully completed both the clock hours and the weeks of instructional time for the required period.

At the end of the WARNING period, students whose term completion rate and GPA do not meet SAP standards (67% completion of all hours attempted and a 2.0 cumulative GPA) will be on SUSPENSION.  Students who are suspended will no longer be eligible to receive financial aid.  At this time, the student must pay for college expenses each semester until the SAP standards are met or submit an Appeal if documentation can be provided to indicate extenuating circumstances that impacted academic performance.

Maximum Time Frame
If a student begins his/her academic career in a longer program (i.e. an associate or diploma program) and then changes to a shorter program (i.e. certificate program), he/she may automatically be put on MAXIMUM TIME FRAME.  For example, a student completes 35 credit hours under an associate’s program that requires 60 credit hours to complete.  The student changes to an 18 credit hour certificate program.  Under the associate program, 150% is 90 credit hours, but 150% for an 18 hour certificate is 27 credit hours (18 x 150%).  Because the student has already completed 35 credit hours and the maximum time frame for the certificate program is only 27, the student has exceeded the 150% time frame.   Once a student reaches the 150% limit, his/her SAP status will update to MAXIMUM TIME FRAME and the student will no longer be eligible for state or federal financial aid.

Probation on Appeal
When a student has been reinstated by an approved appeal by the SAP Committee, the student will be placed on PROBATION ON APPEAL and assigned an Academic Plan. The student can receive financial aid for the term he/she is on probation. If the student does not meet the probationary requirements, he/she will be placed on SUSPENSION for the next enrolled semester.


A student may appeal the Suspension of financial aid by submitting a Satisfactory Progress Appeal Form.  Students must submit in writing along with supporting documentation, a) the extenuating circumstances and how it directly contributed towards the student’s inability to meet satisfactory academic progress and b) what has changed his/her situation that will allow him/her to make satisfactory academic progress at the next evaluation. Please note that simply experiencing an extenuating circumstance does not guarantee an exception to the SAP regulations.  ONLY ONE APPEAL PER ACADEMIC YEAR WILL BE CONSIDERED.

Federal regulations give some examples where allowances might be made for mitigating circumstances.  Mitigating circumstances are defined as (1) death of an immediate relative (spouse, parent/legal guardian, brother/sister, child) of the student, (2) an injury or extended illness or hospitalization of the student (documented by a doctor) or immediate family member, (documented by a doctor and documentation to show the student was required to provide care for the family member) (3) other special circumstances such as involuntary call to active military duty, unanticipated/serious medical or psychological difficulty causing undue hardship to the student and beyond reasonable control of the student.  The extenuating circumstances must have occurred during the term you received failing grades and/or withdrew from classes.

Circumstances related to the typical adjustment to college life, such as voluntary pause, lapse or termination of employment, pregnancy/childbirth, taking too many classes, working while attending school, financial issues related to paying bills, childcare issues, incarceration resulting from a guilty verdict and car maintenance/travel to and from campus are not considered extenuating circumstances.  Chronic conditions such as (but not limited to) diabetes, migraines, asthma, hypertension, previously diagnosed learning, physical or psychological disabilities and other similar conditions are expected to be managed by the student appropriately for him/her to meet SAP requirements.

An Appeal cannot be based on the student’s lack of knowledge regarding the policy or simply the need for financial aid. A student may not submit an appeal because he/she does not agree with the final decision of the SAP Committee. An Appeal based solely on financial and/or emotional needs without sufficient explanation and documentation will not be approved. Appeals submitted without proper documentation will be DENIED and incomplete forms will not be reviewed.

Other than when an appeal is granted for unusual or mitigating circumstances, a student can reestablish eligibility only by taking action that brings the student into compliance with the qualitative and quantitative components of the SAP requirements including the maximum timeframe. Neither paying out-of-pocket for one’s classes, nor sitting out for a semester is sufficient by itself to re-establish eligibility.

Students who wish to appeal the 150% timeframe rule are required to complete the Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal Form and have an academic advisor complete the Satisfactory Academic Progress Academic Plan Form to determine how many courses remain toward graduation. The advisor must provide the student with an educational plan that will allow the student to complete the degree.  The student must successfully complete 100% of everything attempted from that point forward to complete the degree (no withdrawals, no incompletes, and no grades lower than a C) and must earn a minimum term-based GPA of 2.50. If the student fails in these requirements, the aid will be suspended. ONLY ONE APPEAL PER ACADEMIC YEAR WILL BE CONSIDERED.

The Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal and Academic Plan Forms, along with all supporting documentation, MUST be submitted to the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid BEFORE the FIRST DAY OF CLASS for the enrolled semester. The SAP Committee will review submitted appeals and will determine if justifiable evidence or extenuating circumstances exist and if the student may receive financial aid for a specified probationary term.  All decisions are made on a case by case basis.  The SAP Committee may have up to 14 days to make a determination and the decision will be final.  The U.S. Department of Education dictates much of the financial aid appeal process and may differ from other colleges/universities financial aid processes.  The student will be notified by e-mail of the decision.

Students on financial aid SUSPENSION who are seeking to regain eligibility for financial aid through the Appeal process will remain ineligible for assistance until the Appeal process is completed and a decision has been made.  Students on suspension CANNOT depend on financial aid to pay for costs of tuition, books, and other fees, and should be prepared to pay from their own resources pending the outcome of their financial aid Appeal.

If an Appeal is approved, the student will be placed on PROBATION ON APPEAL.  The student must meet with the Advising Center to create an Academic Plan. The Academic Plan must be submitted to the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid and must be completed accordingly.  ALL changes to the Academic Plan MUST be approved by the Advising Center.

The PROBATION ON APPEAL status will hold the student to a higher term-based standard for SAP evaluation.  PROBATION ON APPEAL students MUST earn a minimum term-based GPA of 2.50 (or equivalent if course is repeated) AND complete 100% of hours attempted for the term.  Those meeting the standard will continue in this status until they regain full satisfactory SAP status (67% completion and 2.0 cumulative GPA). Failure to meet the PROBATION ON APPEAL conditions will result in SUSPENSION of aid.

If your Appeal is denied, you will be asked to attend CVCC at your own expense and earn the deficiency either in the hours, GPA or both (you cannot make up a deficiency if your appeal was due to exceeding the maximum timeframe to earn a degree). If you did not maintain SAP due to a deficiency in credit hours, you may take the credit hours at another institution as long as CVCC accepts the transfer hours. After you complete this semester (or semesters), you must submit an appeal form to the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid so your progress can be reevaluated.

Each student will notified by e-mail when placed on probation or suspension. If the student takes the necessary action that brings the student into compliance with the qualitative and quantitative components of the SAP requirements, the Federal Pell Grant and other types of financial assistance (depending on availability of funds) are reinstated at the beginning of the next term of attendance, if otherwise eligible. Whether approved by the SAP Committee or approved after one semester of satisfactory progress, the student’s status upon reinstatement will be satisfactory.


It is your responsibility to understand this policy.  If, at any time, you have questions regarding this policy, please contact the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.