Satisfactory Academic Progress for Students Receiving Financial Aid

In order to be eligible to receive financial aid, students must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress toward the completion of a degree or certificate.  The standards for measuring progress follow Federal and Pennsylvania State government regulations.

Financial aid satisfactory academic progress (SAP) – A measure of a student‘s successful progression in his or her educational program that is required for Federal and Pennsylvania State aid programs. Regular evaluation of SAP results in a determination that a student is or is not academically eligible for continued financial aid.

Federal Programs


Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Grade-Point Average (SAP GPA) –The calculated GPA used to measure academic performance when determining SAP. Refer to Section B below for more detail.

Pace of Completion – A percentage representing the rate of completion that a student is achieving toward the federal maximum 150% timeframe for completion of his or her educational program. Calculation is cumulative credit hours earned divided by cumulative credit hours attempted in the student’s educational program with a target pace of 66.67%. Refer to Section C for more detail.

Financial aid probation – A status assigned to a student who fails to achieve financial aid satisfactory academic progress and who has appealed and has had eligibility for federal aid reinstated.

Procedure for Federal Programs (Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Work-study, Federal Direct Stafford Student Loan, Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan) and Private Alternative Loans, effective May 2011:

  1. Point of evaluation:
    1. SAP in four-year and two-year programs is evaluated at the end of each academic year (May).
    2. SAP in less than two-year programs is evaluated after each semester of attendance.
    3. All semesters of attendance will be considered, regardless of when the student first enrolled or first received financial aid.
  2. SAP GPA: 
    1. At each evaluation, the student must achieve a SAP GPA of at least 2.00. 
    2. Courses that will be calculated in the SAP GPA are all courses completed by the student or used in the student’s most recent educational program (at the time of the SAP review). 
    3. This calculation is done by dividing the number of grade points by the total number of credits for which the student has earned a grade of ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, or ‘F’.
    4. The highest earned grade is used in cases where a student repeats a previously completed course.
    5. No other grades, such as for completed courses not needed for a student's program, are used in the calculation.
    6. SAP GPA is not calculated in the same manner as Graduation GPA.
  3. TImeframe and Pace of Completion
    1. Students may receive aid for a timeframe of up to 150% of the published credit hours for their educational program. For example, if a program requires 120 credit hours to complete, a student may receive financial aid for up to 180 credit hours in that program.
    2. Pace of Completion is calculated by dividing cumulative credit hours earned by cumulative credit hours attempted in the educational program. Pace of at least 66.67% is required to meet the 150% timeframe requirement. For example, a student who has earned 40 out of 50 credits attempted in her program has a pace of 4/5, or 80%.
  4. Course and Credit Requirements
    1. Only courses in the current educational program for which a student receives a grade of A, B, C, D, S are counted as credits attempted and earned toward SAP. Courses for which a student receives a grade of F, W, I, SP, Z, R, U or T are counted as credits attempted but not as credits earned toward SAP.
    2. Credit hours from another institution that are accepted toward a student’s current educational program are counted as both credits attempted and earned.
    3. Credits earned for repeated courses within a student’s educational program, as well as the original attempts, are counted in the Pace of Completion calculation. 
      Note: A student may receive federal financial aid a maximum of two (2) times when repeating a previously passed course (taken at Penn College or transferred in).
    4. Only courses applicable to a primary educational program (major) are considered for students enrolled in dual degrees, dual (multiple) majors, and minors.
    5. Non-credit courses and credits earned through Advanced Placement, Credit for Life Experience, or College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) are not counted in determining Pace of Completion or SAP GPA.
    6. Developmental credits are included except for any that are not needed for a student’s most recent program.
  5. Program changes:
    • A student who changes programs two or more times (enters a third different program) is ineligible for aid pending further review by the Director of Financial Aid or designee.
  6. Financial Aid Unsatisfactory Academic Progress – Ineligibility:
    • A student who does not meet the above conditions for SAP is no longer eligible to receive federal financial aid and may not be eligible for  private alternative loans. Eligibility for federal aid and private alternative loans is restored when the student again demonstrates SAP.
  7. Appeal Process for Financial Aid Probation
    1. A student may request reconsideration of eligibility for financial aid based on death of a relative, injury or illness of the student, or other special circumstances that prevented the student from achieving SAP. The student must submit a detailed, written appeal to the Financial Aid Office which includes the following information:
      • Full name and Penn College Student ID number.
      • An explanation of why the student failed to achieve SAP.
      • An explanation of what has changed in the student’s situation that will allow the student to demonstrate SAP by the end of the next semester.
      • Details that define the student’s plan to ensure future SAP.
      • The course numbers, if any, of courses that you plan to repeat.
    2. The appeal must be submitted by the student via the Financial Aid Office site on myPCT Portal.
      Contact the Financial Aid Office with any questions.
    3. The Director or designee may request documentation to support the appeal and may also request a face-to-face meeting with the student.
    4. Appeals should be submitted promptly. An appeal received and/or reviewed after a semester for which a student was ineligible because of SAP will not enable a student to receive a Federal Pell Grant, FSEOG, or Federal Work-study for that prior semester. The same is true for Federal Direct Loans unless a student is enrolled in a semester (during the same academic year) following the one s/he requests Direct Loan funds.
    5. The Director or designee will inform students in writing and usually by e-mail of the decision on the appeal. This notification will include any conditions under which an exception has been made or will explain the reason for denying the appeal and detail the action necessary for a student to regain eligibility. A student may request a review of this decision in a meeting between the student, the Director of Financial Aid, and the Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid.
  8. Grade Changes
    • The Financial Aid Office will not be aware of any changes to a grade that occur after the SAP review. It is the responsibility of a student who is notified of a grade change to inform the Financial Aid Office if s/he believes the change will impact the most recent SAP review. At that time, the Financial Aid Office will determine what impact, if any, a grade change will have on the student's most recent SAP review.
  9. Academic Probation and Academic Renewal
    1. A student on Academic Probation or Renewal as defined by Academic Affairs may continue to receive financial aid but is subject to the requirements for SAP as defined above. The Financial Aid Office will not require a separate appeal letter from the student.   The appeal documentation will reside in the Academic Affairs office for Program Review and auditing purposes.

Pennsylvania State Grant Program Satisfactory Academic Progress (PHEAA SAP) Policy (subject to revision by PHEAA)

PHEAA Satisfactory Academic Progress (PHEAA SAP):

  1. Students must successfully complete at least 12 credits for each full-time semester and at least 6 credits for each part-time semester in which PHEAA Grants were received.
  2. Developmental (remedial) credits, in many instances, do not count toward the credits required for PHEAA SAP. Remedial credits can only count toward PHEAA SAP if taken during a semester for which a student was granted a Remedial Exception and used toward the minimum number (12 for full-time or 6 for part-time) of credits needed.
  3. A course previously passed during a semester with a PHEAA Grant will not count in the PHEAA SAP calculation if taken and passed again.
  4. PHEAA mandates the responsibility of checking PHEAA SAP to the institution of attendance. As a result, students typically initially receive an award notification from PHEAA before the Financial Aid Office can review for PHEAA SAP.

PHEAA SAP will be evaluated beginning in May (after grades are posted for the Spring Semester) for all students who previously received one or more PHEAA Grants, have a Financial Aid Application for the current or upcoming year, and have been tentatively awarded a PHEAA Grant for the upcoming year.

  1. Students who were awarded a PHEAA Grant(s) during the previous academic year, including summer semester, will be evaluated for credits earned during that year.
  2. Students who were awarded a PHEAA Grant(s) prior to the previous academic year will be evaluated for credits earned during and since that year.
  3. The Financial Aid Office must review official college transcripts with final grades to determine PHEAA SAP for students whose most recent PHEAA Grant(s) was received while at another institution. It is the responsibility of students to ensure that an official transcript from a prior institution(s) is mailed to the Financial Aid or Admissions Offices.
  4. PHEAA Grants received 10 or more years prior to the current academic year are exempt from the PHEAA SAP review.
  5. Students are responsible to inform the Financial Aid Office of any grade change that occurs after the PHEAA SAP review if s/he believes the change will impact the most recent review.
  6. Students who have not achieved PHEAA SAP will be ineligible for PHEAA Grants until the semester after they have earned additional credits to demonstrate PHEAA SAP. Any 'additional' credits must be non-developmental and must be earned from an approved Pennsylvania State Grant or Federal Title IV institution in order to be considered toward PHEAA SAP.
  7. Students who believe that they had mitigating circumstances that prevented them from achieving SAP may appeal PHEAA's academic progress decision. Appeals must be made in writing and are reviewed only by PHEAA. As part of the appeal process, students first need to contact the Financial Aid Office for more information.

Non-Pennsylvania State Grant programs may have different Satisfactory Academic Progress guidelines. Students should refer to their state grant award letters for program-specific requirements.

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