Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Process

Federal regulations require that students meet specific Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements to maintain eligibility for financial aid.  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.   

Students are evaluated annually, prior to the start of the summer term, to verify academic progression. 

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.
  • Transfer hours and consortium hours: Transfer and consortium hours that have been applied toward a SMU degree plan will be included as attempted and earned hours.Transfer hours that are accepted by SMU, but do not apply toward an SMU degree plan,will not be included as attempted or earned hours and will not be used to calculate GPA.They will, however, apply toward the lifetime and aggregate limits for federal aid programs.Lifetime and aggregate limits are not subject to appeal.Once reached, you no longer qualify for that specific aid program.
  • 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.

Status Review

Student’s must successfully pass each of the standard measurements in order to continue receiving aid through the following academic year.  Students who fail any of the standard measurements will not be eligible to receive any aid for an upcoming term until they are able to successfully pass all of the SAP measurements or they are approved  to receive aid by submitting a SAP appeal to the Office of Financial. 

SAP Appeal Process

Students who fail any of the SAP measurements resulting in the loss of eligibility may submit an appeal directly to the Office Financial Aid asking for for an extension of eligibility. Each appeal is reviewed on a case by case basis.  Final approval will be determined by committee.  If approved, the student will be awarded aid for a single term.  SAP will be reviewed at the end of appeal term.  If the student has failed to pass each measurement, they will lose eligibility to receive aid until they can successfully pass of all of the measurements or submit a second appeal for consideration.  Students may appeal a maximum of two times before SMU requires a one on one consultation between the student, Academic Advisor, and the Financial Aid Advisor.

  • 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 met with the student, discussed the SAP issue, and have created an academic plan for the student 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.Aid is awarded for a single term only.
    • Appeal denied:If the appeal is denied, the Financial Aid Advisor will notify the student via there SMU email account. Any aid that has been awarded for future terms will be cancelled.

      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. 

      Course 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 - These hours are included as attempted but not earned.
      • Repeat classes and First Year Repeat – Failed classes courses will apply as attempted hours and will adversely affect your GPA.They are NOT counted as earned hours. Successful completion of a previously failed course will be applied as hours earned.First year repeats and will be included in a student’s attempted hours.

        IMPORTANT:  Federal regulations considers any course with a final grade of A, B, C, or D to be a successful completed.  A course with a final grade of F, W, or I is considered to be unsuccessfully completed.  A course that is unsuccessfully completed may be repeated no more than two times while using financial aid funds to cover the repeat hours.  Once a course is successfully completed, a student can repeat the course only once while using federal funds to cover the costs.    

        Each time a course is attempted, regardless of grade or the number of attemps, the hours are included in the total attempted hours.  Courses that are successfully completed (initial and repeat) with a passing grade are included in the total number of earned hours. 


  • Incompletes – These hours count toward attempted hours.Once completed, the hours are applied as hours earned.If the course is never completed,a failing grade is assigned.This grade counts toward GPA.
  • Summer hours count toward attempted and earned hours and GPA calculations.
  • 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).