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Types of Aid

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Process

Federal regulations require that students meet specific Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements to maintain eligibility for financial aid.  Students are evaluated annually, prior to the start of the summer term, to verify academic progression.  The following information describes various measurements used to determine satisfactory academic progress and the minimum SAP requirements to retain eligibility for federal, state, and institutional financial aid programs.

**NOTE**  Most SMU merit-based scholarships require a minimum GPA that is greater than standard requirement.  For more information on the retention requirements for your specific academic scholarship, please refer to your academic advisor or academic catalogue.

Standards of Measurement


Qualitative Measure of Satisfactory Academic Progress:  Cumulative GPA
All careers & academic programs are measured at the end of the spring term each year (unless otherwise stated).  Measurement is based on the following.

  • Undergraduate Students:  Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 or higher.
  • Graduate Students:   Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 for all program unless otherwise required by the academic department or graduate program of study.   Academic departments may require a minimum cumulative GPA which is greater than 2.000 for all students enrolled in a specific programs of study.   The GPA used to determine SAP for any specific program will be stated in each school’s academic catalog.  If there is no GPA requirement listed for the school or program, a GPA of 2.000 will be used.
Quantitative Measure of Satisfactory Academic Progress: Completion Rate
Schools are required to ensure that students are progressing toward completing their degree at a reasonable rate.  The rate of completion is measured as follows:

Completion rate = Total number of earned hours ÷ Total number of hours attempted.    

  • Undergraduate:  Required completion rate of 75%.
  • Graduate:  Required completion rate of 60%.

Program/Time Limits:


  • 150% Hour Limit:  Students, both undergraduate and graduate, are not allowed to attempt more than 150% hours required to complete their degree.  Students exceeding the 150% are not eligible to receive federal, state and institutional aid.
    • Changing Majors:  A student who has attempted 150% of the hours needed to earn his/her degree because the student has changed majors, is an example in which professional judgment can be used to allow additional hours to be attempted.
    • Transfer Hours:  Hours transferred to SMU from other institutions that meet the degree plan course requirements and are accepted for transfer credit will be included in the 150% calculation.
  • Maximum Term Limits:
    • Undergraduate students are limited to 12 terms or six academic years.
    • Graduate students are limited to the time frame determined by the specific academic program.   Information on program length can be found in the course catalog for your programs of study.  Maximum term limits for Doctoral programs are determined on a case by case basis with advisement from the academic department.
    • Students attending less than full time will be allowed extra terms to complete their degree.

SAP Status


  • Meets: Students who meet the minimum standards previously mentioned are given a satisfactory status of “Meets SAP” and will remain eligible to receive Federal Title IV and State financial aid funding for the upcoming academic year.
  • NOT Meets: This unsatisfactory status will be assigned to any student who does not successfully pass both the Quantitative and Qualitative measurements for their program of study.  Students failing one or more of the required measurements will be flagged as “Not Meets SAP” and immediately notified that they are no longer eligible to receive financial aid funding.  Any financial aid awarded for upcoming terms will be cancelled.  SAP notification is sent via SMU email.  Hard copy letter may be sent as a follow up if a student has not responded.  
    • SAP Notification letter notifies the student that they are no longer eligible to receive Title IV funds based on the standards of satisfactory academic progress.  It also explains why they are failing SAP and gives instructions on how to re-establish eligibility.    
  • Approval on Appeal with Probation (APPB) - Status given based on appeal approval.  Appeal documentation will be retained in the student’s file.   APPB is for one term only and allows students to receive aid for only one term.  At the conclusion of the probationary term, SAP will be measured again to determine if they are successfully making progress.  Students successfully meeting all of the requirements will remain eligible to receive aid.  The SAP status will be updated to “Meets SAP”.  Failure to successful meet all of the measurements will render the student ineligible for aid and the SAP status will be updated to “Disqualified”.    
  • Approved with an Academic Plan (APPL) - Status given based on appeal approval and is assigned with a multiple term improvement plan developed between the student, the academic advisor and financial aid advisor.   May be used when the academic advisor recommends consistent improvement over multiple consecutive terms.   SAP is monitored and measured after each term.  A student that begins the term on an Academic Plan and fails one of the SAP tests will be reviewed by the advisor in consultation with the academic advisor for improvement toward the goal of meeting the standard measurement based on the initial appeal documentation.  Students will not be required to submit a new appeal at the end of each term.   
    • If student is complying with establish academic plan, student will be awarded aid for the next term.
    • If Student is not complying with the established agreement, the student will be allowed to appeal one more time for aid.  The appeal documents will be sent electronically to the student.  Aid will be awarded if the appeal is approved by the Financial Aid Appeals committee. Students whose appeal is denied will be contacted electronically by the financial aid advisor and will be given a detail plan on how to regain eligibility for aid.
    • A Financial Aid Hold blocking enrollment may be placed on students with an academic plan.
    • A financial aid advisor or academic advisor may recommend use of an Academic Plan if the situation deems it necessary.
  • Approved per Professional Judgement (APPJ) - Status given based on appeal approval.  Appeal documentation will be retained in the student’s file.  Used for Doctoral programs or Dissertation terms where progress cannot be measured by GPA or Enrollment.  Recommendation is given by the Academic advisor.  
  • Disqualified:  Student has exhausted all appeals is no longer eligible to receive financial aid funds.

SAP Appeal Process:


Students who fail any of the SAP measurements resulting in the loss of eligibility may submit an appeal for an extension of eligibility directly to the Office Financial Aid.  Each appeal is reviewed on a case by case basis.  Final approval will be determined by committee.

  • Elements of a SAP Appeal:
    • A personal letter/email from Student to his/her Financial Aid Adviser is required. The letter should explain student’s mitigating circumstances.  Mitigating circumstances are considered to be any circumstance that prevents the student from successfully completing the required measurements as previously mentioned.   Some examples of mitigating circumstances are:  student illness, family illness, other family problems, emotional upsets, interpersonal problems with other students, problems adjusting to college life, balancing school, work, etc.  (the FA Adviser has the responsibility, using professional judgment, to determine if other circumstances documented by the student can be considered)
    • Signed statement from the Academic Adviser confirming that they have meet and discussed the SAP issue and they have worked with the student to develop a plan to improve academic standing. A detailed course plan, signed by the academic advisor, is  required for students with a GPA of less than 1.8 and/or a completion rate of less than 70%.
  • Appeal Decision:
    • Appeal approved:  Financial Aid Adviser will send a notification to the student via email.  The student will also receive an electronic notice when their financial aid has been awarded.  
    • Appeal denied:  If the appeal is denied, the Financial Aid Advisor will notify the student via there SMU email account.

The Financial Aid Advisers have the responsibility of reviewing and approving an appeal.  At the Financial Aid Advisor discretion, the appeal may be submitted to the Appeals Committee consisting of various staff members within the Division of Enrollment Services, as selected by the Associate Directors of Undergraduate and Graduate Advising. The Appeals Committee will meet as needed.

Withdraws/Repeats/Incompletes/Failures:

Earned hours and attempted hours all count toward the quantitative measure of 150% of hours a student may attempt when working toward a degree.

  • Withdrawals and failures = included in attempted hours  but not earned hours
  • Transfer hours and consortium hours – included in attempted and earned hours not toward GPA.
  • Repeated classes and First Year Repeat – failed classes count toward attempted hours and will adversely affect your GPA but will not count as earned hours. First year repeats will not be excluded from attempted hours and will be included in a student’s attempted hours. Successful completion of hours will be included in earned hours.
  • Incompletes – count toward attempted hours and if never completed student is assigned a failing grade and this grade counts toward GPA.  Incompletes that are completed count toward attempted and earned hours and GPA.  
  • Summer hours count toward attempted and earned hours and GPA.  
  • Pass /Fail courses – Passing is counted in attempted and earned hours (not counted in GPA).  Failing is counted in attempted hours but not earned hours.
  • Non Credit or Remedial Courses - SMU does not offer Federal Financial Aid to students who enroll in non-credit or remedial courses or to those students who attend the University in the summer for probationary or remediation status before the first year (Upward Bound Program, Athletes and Academic Prelude).