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Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

by Partin,Wesley Benjamin last modified Apr 01, 2014 04:50 PM

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is about ensuring students are able to complete their academic program in a timely manner while achieving minimum academic standards.  In an age of increasing accountability of the use of federal student aid funds (and other federal, state, and institutional funds), institutions and students must demonstrate financial aid funds are being used to assist students in completing their academic goals in the most efficient way.

Federal regulations mandate all students are required to maintain SAP toward a degree in order to receive financial assistance through Title IV federal financial aid (including, but not limited to, the Pell Grant, Stafford Loan, Perkins Loan, Parent PLUS, Graduate/Professional PLUS, Federal Work-study, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, TEACH Grant) and need-based state aid (such as the Kentucky CAP Grant) programs. Students must meet the academic standards as outlined in the SAP policy.  These standards are for financial aid purposes only and neither replaces nor overrides academic policies outlined by the University of Louisville.  The SAP policy applies to all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students as described below.

Students are initially considered meeting SAP when admitted as new, degree-seeking Freshmen. Courses taken as a high school visitor student will impact a student’s SAP assessment beginning with the first annual SAP evaluation after the student begins enrollment as a new, degree-seeking Freshman.

Post-baccalaureate students and those seeking a second undergraduate degree should be aware assessment of their SAP status will be based on criteria established for undergraduate students.

Graduate students and students seeking a second graduate degree will be assessed according to the criteria established for graduate students.

Dental and Medical students are considered to be maintaining satisfactory academic progress if they are in good academic standing as determined by the standards and promotions committee at each school.

Law students are considered to be maintaining SAP if they are in good standing as defined by the school of Law and are meeting outlined Pace and Maximum Time Frame requirements.

Dental School SAP Policy
Medical School SAP Policy
Law School SAP Policy

Policy Components for Undergraduate and Graduate Students
There are three components of SAP consisting of quantitative and qualitative measurements.  Quantitative measurements evaluate the pace and progress by which a student is working toward the completion of his/her program.  This is measured by establishing a required percentage of credit hours that must be passed when attempted and by a maximum time frame in which a student must complete his/her required coursework.  The qualitative measurement evaluates the quality (GPA and academic standing) of the student’s academic work.

Quantitative Requirements

1.    Maximum Time Frame

All students are expected to finish their program within a maximum time frame as determined by the university.  All attempted credit hours are considered toward the maximum time allowance, regardless of whether or not the student received financial aid.

Undergraduate Students: A student’s total cumulative attempted hours may not exceed 182 hours (150% of the minimum 121 hours required to earn a bachelor’s degree -- 121 hours x 150%=182 hours)


  • If the sole academic plan is Paralegal Studies Associate Degree, the student cannot exceed more than 95 cumulative attempted hours.

Graduate Students: A student’s total cumulative attempted hours may not exceed 150% of the minimum hours needed to complete the degree program for which he/she is enrolled.

Though SAP is generally only reviewed annually for students who are not on SAP probation, if it is determined a student will exceed his or her maximum time frame established prior to the next award year’s annual SAP evaluation, the student will be reviewed on a semester basis instead of annually.  For example, if an undergraduate student is evaluated at the end of spring semester as meeting SAP and has 176 cumulative attempted hours, if the student exceeds 182 hours after the summer term, he/she will be evaluated for SAP as of the end of the summer term.
2.    Pace

Undergraduate and graduate students must be on target to complete their academic program within a set time frame. To determine if a student is meeting this standard, total cumulative earned hours are compared to total cumulative attempted hours.  This is calculated by dividing the total cumulative earned hours by the total cumulative attempted hours.  The result must be 66.66% or greater, which means a student must complete and pass at least two-thirds of his/her cumulative attempted hours.


Earned Hours
Attempted Hours
SAP Evaluation
12  24 12/24 = 50%
Does NOT meet SAP
 60  75  60/75 = 80%
 60 99
 60/99 = 60.61%
Does NOT meet SAP


Qualitative Requirements

1. GPA and Academic Standing

  • Undergraduate Students: Students must maintain at least a cumulative 2.0 official GPA and not be dismissed nor suspended from their academic program, as determined by the academic units’ policies.
  • Graduate Students: Students must maintain at least a cumulative 3.0 official GPA and not be dismissed nor suspended from their academic program, as determined by their academic units’ policies.


Evaluation and Notification
SAP will be reviewed annually at the end of the spring semester for all students who have applied for summer federal financial aid or have completed the upcoming academic year’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and who are eligible to enroll in future semesters.  In addition, students must be fully graded (no blank grades) for each of their prior semesters of enrollment at UofL.  Students who become eligible to enroll, apply or become fully graded after the first annual SAP process is run for the award year will have their SAP eligibility evaluated prior to their federal aid eligibility being determined.  For students who exceed their maximum time frame established as of the end of the summer or fall term, his/her SAP will be re-evaluated at the end of the respective term.  In order to be eligible for federal and state need-based grant financial aid, students are required to meet certain SAP standards, regardless of whether or not financial aid was received in prior semesters.  If it is determined that a student does not meet SAP standards, he or she will be ineligible for any federal and state need-based financial aid programs.  Any federal financial aid offered for the summer term prior to SAP being evaluated will be canceled if it is determined the student does not meet SAP standards.

If it is determined a student is not meeting SAP standards, he or she will be notified electronically.  The notification will include an explanation of the SAP standards evaluated and the specific standards not met by the student.

Students who lose eligibility for federal and state need-based programs due to not meeting SAP requirements may:

  • earn the necessary GPA or semester hours to meet the minimum requirements while not receiving federal and state need-based financial aid and regain eligibility the following SAP year review, or
  • submit a SAP appeal.

Unless academically dismissed, students denied federal and state need-based aid may continue attending using other aid sources or by funding their education themselves.

It is the student’s responsibility to monitor his or her academic progress and to be aware of the requirements of his or her program and SAP standards.

Appeal Process

A student determined ineligible for financial aid for failure to meet the University of Louisville’s Satisfactory Academic Progress standards has the right to make a written appeal to the Student Financial Aid Office if he or she can demonstrate:

  • failure to meet the minimum standard was caused by extreme or unusual circumstances beyond his or her control,
  • he or she has resolved the issue(s) that caused the deficit,
  • the issue(s) will not affect his or her performance in the future.


***Students held for Maximum Time Frame you must submit this worksheet, completed by their Academic Advisor as part of their appeal***

If an appeal is approved, the student will be placed on probation.  His or her SAP will be evaluated the following semester to ensure the student is still meeting the appropriate requirements.  If at that time the standards are not being met, a SAP hold will be placed back on the student’s account and any federal aid and need-based state grant aid in future semesters will be canceled. 

If it is determined a student is not meeting SAP standards and he or she self-corrects his or her issue(s) in a future semester and still meets all other SAP requirements, he or she will become eligible for federal financial aid the following summer semester.  If a student corrects his or her issue during a summer or fall term and wants to be considered for federal financial aid prior to the next award year’s annual SAP evaluation, he or she must file an appeal.  If a student corrects his or her deficit during a summer session and submits an appeal, and the appeal is approved, the student will not be eligible for federal financial aid for any summer session.  The student would be eligible beginning the fall semester.

Grade Changes
If a student is held for SAP and a professor changes one or more of his/her grade(s), the student must file an appeal to have his or her SAP re-evaluated.  There is no automatic process to clear SAP holds for students who have a grade changed.  It is the student’s responsibility to submit an appeal. If no appeal is submitted, SAP will be re-evaluated during the next award year's annual SAP evaluation process.

Multiple and Dual Degrees
For students who are pursuing a second undergraduate or graduate degree or are working on dual degrees, hours from both degrees are counted when evaluating SAP.  If determined not to meet the maximum time frame component of SAP, the student has the option to submit an appeal documenting their situation.  If an appeal is approved, the student will be placed on an academic plan which will generally allow the student to attempt up to 150% of the additional credit hours required to earn his or her second or dual degree.

Career Changes
SAP standards are evaluated based on academic careers.  Therefore, if a student switches careers while at the University of Louisville, his or her SAP standards will be evaluated based only on his or her academic data for the career he or she is currently active in.  Therefore, as an undergraduate, a student may be determined to not be meeting SAP standards.  However, if the student switches to a graduate career, the next time a SAP evaluation is completed for the student, it will only be based on his or her graduate career information; no undergraduate career information will be factored into the evaluation (unless an undergraduate course is coded as a career transfer). 

Academic Program Changes
If a student changes their academic program (changes majors), credits specific to the earlier major(s) will still be evaluated when determining a student’s SAP status.  Therefore, coursework taken by a student for enrollment in another major(s) will be counted during their SAP review.

Instructions for Submitting an Appeal

  1. Complete the SAP appeal application.
  2. Attach a typed and signed letter.  The appeal letter must explain the following:
      • a description of the unforeseen circumstance which may have prevented the student from meeting the SAP standards;
      • explain how the circumstances have been resolved, and;
      • explain how the circumstance(s) will not affect the student’s future academic progress.
  3. Attach supporting documentation.
    Documentation of circumstances described in your letter must be included with the written appeal.
    Note: The inability to attend classes due to lack of funds is not an extenuating circumstance. Refer to the list below for acceptable documentation.  Additional documentation may be requested after an appeal is reviewed.
    Circumstances Acceptable Documentation
    Student’s illness, injury, hospitalization, or disability Written documentation from a healthcare provider on letterhead detailing:
    •    Approximate date of onset of the illness, injury or disability
    •    The general nature of the illness, injury or disability that prevented the student from meeting SAP
    •    The healthcare provider’s release to return to school
    •    The prognosis for being able to medically meet standards
    Illness, accident, or injury of a significant person in the student’s life Provide documentation (i.e., physician’s statement, police report, or documentation from a third party professional) relating to the individual for whom the student provided care or support
    Death of a family member or significant person is the student’s life Provide a copy of the obituary or death certificate
    The student’s own divorce or separation or the divorce or separation of the student’s parent(s) Provide an attorney’s letter on letterhead, petition for dissolution or copy of divorce decree
    Victimization of a violent crime or natural disaster Provide a written statement on letterhead from a professional involved in the situation and/or other documentation such as police reports, insurance claims, etc.
    Exceeding the time frame as a result of changing majors or transfer credits Appeal letter must explain why the student has not yet completed his/her program and the completed Maximum Time Frame worksheet must be submitted
    Exceeding the time frame while in a second degree or dual degree program Appeal letter must explain why the student is working on a second degree and the completed Maximum Time Frame worksheet must be submitted
    Other unforeseen circumstance beyond the student’s control Appeal letter must clearly state how the situation was unforeseen and beyond the student’s control
    Provide supporting documentation that verifies the circumstances the student describes in their appeal letter

  4. Submit the appeal application, letter, and documentation to the Student Financial Aid Office.  Please retain a copy of all documents submitted for your records.  No documents will be returned to the student.

Monitoring the Status of Your Appeal
It may take up to 15 business days to review an appeal once it is submitted to the Student Financial Aid Office.  Your appeal will be reviewed by the SAP committee.  All decisions are final. A second review can only be requested if you can provide new information and documentation that may have been omitted from the initial appeal.  If a decision has not been made by the time your bill is due, it is your responsibility to pay your balance in full or discuss your payment options with the Bursar’s Office.    

You will receive written notification of the decision made on your appeal.  The status of your appeal can be monitored on your ULink To-Do-List.
Below is a listing of the potential appeal statuses:

  • In-Progress: The appeal has been received, but not reviewed.
  • Deferred: Your appeal has been reviewed, but the committee has deferred your appeal for additional information.  You will receive a letter in the mail detailing the additional information or documentation needed. Additional Information for Deferred SAP Appeal (pdf).
  • Approved: Your appeal has been approved, and you are on SAP probation.  While on SAP probation, you may only receive financial aid for ONE payment semester.  At the end of your probation semester, you must have corrected your SAP issue(s) and be meeting all SAP standards, or if placed on an academic plan, you must be meeting the requirements specified in your plan.  You will be placed on an SAP plan if it has been determined you will not be able to correct your SAP issue(s) in one semester.  You will receive written notification outlining your SAP plan.  A SAP plan will ensure you will be able to meet SAP standards by a specific point in time.
  • Denied: Your appeal was not approved based on the information you provided.  You are not eligible to receive federal or state need-based financial aid.  If you intend to remain enrolled at the University of Louisville, you must pay your bill with other sources.

Limit of appeals
There is no limit on the number of appeals a student can submit; however, a student who appeals using the same extraordinary and extenuating circumstance twice will be denied.

Other SAP Information
Additional information regarding grades, credits, academic polices and study abroad

  • Earned Hours: A,B,C,D, Deferred, Pass, CR Test hours and Transfer Hours accepted by the University of Louisville
  • Attempted Hours: All earned hours, plus W, F, I, U (with exceptions listed below)
  • Accepted Transfer and Test Credits: Count as earned and attempted hours; are not factored into the student’s GPA calculation
  • Repeat Courses: Courses count as attempted hours each time taken, regardless of whether federal financial aid is received.  If the class is passed, it is also counted as earned hours.  If a student is using any of his or her four repeat options offered through the Registrar’s Office, the initial enrollment in the course (the class which is being replaced) will be included as attempted hours and excluded from earned hours if previously passed (which impacts pace), and it will be excluded in the GPA calculation
  • Incomplete and Withdrawal Grades: Count as attempted hours; do not count as earned hours
  • Deferred Grades: Counted as earned hours and attempted hours
  • Audited/Non-Credit Courses: Excluded from all calculations and will not be considered when determining SAP
  • Credit by Exam Courses:  Courses are counted as attempted hours, and if the course is passed, it is also counted as earned hours.  If a student receives an A, B, C, D, or F grade for the course, it is factored into their GPA calculation 
  • Remedial/Developmental Courses: Courses are used in calculating pace, but are not used in determining maximum timeframe.  Although remedial courses are not calculated in the official university GPA, a separate GPA including grades in remedial course must be calculated and used for SAP if a student failed any remedial work
  • Academic Bankruptcy and Fresh Start: Will impact a student’s earlier cumulative GPA; however, has no impact on earned and attempted hours (no impact on maximum time frame and pace-hours are still counted)
  • Study Abroad: Courses accepted by the University of Louisville will be used in determining SAP.
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