News for Parents

Parent Newsletter article – Fall 2012, Issue 1


by Jim Green, Assistant Director of Financial Aid

Approximately 2 out of every 5 Penn College students are recipients of a Pennsylvania state grant from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). It is important for these students and their parents to understand PHEAA’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (PHEAA SAP) Policy, because it can affect a student’s eligibility for a PHEAA Grant during a student’s second academic year. Simply put, PHEAA SAP requires students to earn 12 or more non-developmental credits for each semester they are awarded a full-time PHEAA Grant, and 6 or more non-developmental credits for each semester they are awarded a part-time PHEAA Grant. This means students with full-time PHEAA Grants for both fall and spring semesters must earn 24 or more unique, non-developmental credits by the next SAP review in May 2013. Penn College non-developmental classes have course numbers of 100 or higher; RDG001 and MTH005 are examples of developmental classes.

Note the ‘non-developmental’ criteria. Let’s say ‘Amber’ starts the Fall 2012 Semester with 16 credits and 3 of the 16 are developmental. Amber withdraws from a 3-credit, non-developmental course in October, so she can only earn 10 non-developmental credits that semester and will need to earn 14 or more non-developmental credits in the Spring 2013 Semester to achieve PHEAA SAP (10+14=24).

Remedial Exceptions: Some of you are wondering how your student can earn 12 non-developmental credits when he or she currently is enrolled in 13 credits, 3 of which are developmental. If your student has a full-time PHEAA Grant, he/she was granted what PHEAA calls a ‘Remedial Exception’ for this semester. This Remedial Exception allows a student to receive a full-time award if he/she is enrolled in 12 or more credits a semester and 6 or more of those credits are non-developmental. For these students only, the developmental credits earned can be included toward PHEAA SAP, but only during the semester for which a Remedial Exception was granted. This means that if a student fails a developmental math course in the fall semester when he/she was granted a Remedial Exception and passes the same course in the following spring semester (when no Remedial Exception was granted because he/she has 12 or more non-developmental credits) the credits earned from the developmental math can NOT be considered toward PHEAA SAP.

Note I used the word ‘unique’ in the opening paragraph when referring to the total number of credits that needs to be earned during the academic year. Let me explain why I used that word by an example:

Suppose ‘Sean’ passes all 13 non-developmental credits he was enrolled in for the fall semester. He earned a ‘D’ in ENL111 and decides to take it again during the spring semester, when he again has a total of 13 non-developmental credits. He’s re-taking ENL111 to hopefully get a better grade. However, since he’s already earned 3 credits for ENL111 in the fall semester, he is only taking 10 unique (new) credits in the spring semester and therefore can only earn a maximum of 23 (13 +10) credits for the academic year. I know 23 is ‘close’ to 24 but ‘close’ doesn’t cut it with PHEAA SAP. In May, we will determine that Sean did not achieve PHEAA SAP and he will be ineligible for any future PHEAA Grant until after he completes a semester during which he earns 1 or more unique, non-developmental credits.

Is your head spinning from the complexity of PHEAA’s SAP Policy? If so, here’s something easy for students and parents to remember:

Students that pass all their courses during every semester they have a PHEAA Grant and do not repeat any previously passed courses achieve PHEAA SAP.

Even though PHEAA mandates the responsibility of checking PHEAA SAP to the Financial Aid Office, we have no authority to make any exception to the policy. PHEAA rarely considers an exception to PHEAA SAP and only does when there are truly extenuating circumstances that are well documented such as when a student experiences a serious medical condition or accident during a semester when the student was awarded a PHEAA Grant.

Parents, please understand that when students don’t achieve PHEAA SAP, it is due to failure to pass one or more courses (including withdrawals) or, less commonly, repeating previously passed courses. These are academic issues and the Financial Aid Office’s policy is to discuss SAP questions directly with students. If a student gives us verbal permission to discuss why he/she did not achieve PHEAA SAP with you, we will do so, but only after we’ve discussed it with your student.

If your student has a PHEAA Grant and considers withdrawing from a course this fall and/or does not expect to earn the minimum number of credits explained earlier, encourage him or her to discuss future potential ramifications as soon as possible and preferably before scheduling for the spring semester. Students can contact me via e-mail at or schedule a time to meet me in the Financial Aid Office. Note that even though students are required to meet with faculty academic advisers before scheduling, the advisers do not know the details of the PHEAA SAP Policy or even what types of aid individual students receive.

For virtually all students who have summer or fall PHEAA Grants, note that PHEAA SAP will not be reviewed again until May 2013, after spring semester grades are posted. Students who know by then they did not achieve PHEAA SAP for the academic year and are considering taking summer classes should also contact me to determine how many non-developmental credits they need to pass to regain PHEAA SAP. Note that GPA (grade-point average) is not considered when we review PHEAA SAP. You should also know that PHEAA SAP is different in many ways from Financial Aid SAP, which applies to federal aid and private alternative loans.

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