All About Satisfactory Academic Progress

You have to meet some academic requirements to get federal financial aid like loans, Pell grants and work-study. These requirements are called Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP. If you don't receive federal financial aid, you don't have to meet these requirements.

Your SAP status is determined when you apply for financial aid. It's based on your academic history. After you receive financial aid, the Financial Aid Office will look at how you did at the end of each semester to see if you meet SAP requirements.

SAP Requirements

There are different SAP requirements for undergraduate students, graduate students and law students.

Undergraduate Students

  • Your cumulative grade point average (GPA) must be 2.0 or higher. If you've earned less than 45 credit hours in three semesters or less, it must be at least 1.6.
  • You must pass at least 67% of the credits you take.
  • You have to be on track to complete your degree within a certain amount of time. You can only get financial aid for one-and-a-half times (150%) the number of credits your degree requires.

For example, if your degree requires 120 credits, you can get financial aid for 180 credits (120 divided by 2 is 60. 120 plus 60 is 180.).

Graduate Students

  • Your cumulative GPA must be 3.0 or higher.
  • You must pass at least 67% of the credits you take.
  • You have to be on track to complete your degree within a certain timeframe. You can find the timeframe for your degree in our financial aid policies.

If you're working on more than one graduate degree, the credits will be combined. You'll need to complete an SAP appeal for maximum timeframe.

Law Students

  • Your cumulative GPA must be 2.2 or higher.
  • You must pass at least 67% of the credits you take.
  • You have to be on track to complete your degree within a certain timeframe (135 credits).

What If I Don't Meet SAP Requirements?

If you don't meet SAP requirements at the end of a semester, the Financial Aid Office will tell you in an email and a letter in the mail. You can still take classes without federal financial aid and try to meet the requirements in the future. You would be responsible for all the charges during that time.

Or, you can look into submitting an appeal. This means giving more information to explain your situation. If your appeal is approved, you can receive federal financial aid even though you didn't meet the SAP requirements.  

If your SAP appeal is denied, but you are academically eligible to enroll, you can still attend NIU. However, you will not receive financial aid and you will be responsible to pay all of your charges. A private loan may be an option, but some lenders require students to meet SAP standards in order to be approved for a private loan.

Submitting an Appeal

Log in to MyNIU to see if you're eligible to submit an appeal. If so, there will be several items in your To-Do List. You need to submit the course plan, student letter and third-party documentation by the deadline. You can find the deadline in our financial aid policies.

Financial Aid will complete the SAP appeal after they review your information. You'll get an email that tells you if your appeal was approved or not. Please allow at least seven to 10 days for processing after you submit your information. You will receive an email from Financial Aid with the decision of your appeal.

Course Plan

Fill out the top section, "Part I - All Students," and send the plan to your academic advisor. You may need to meet with them to talk about the classes you should take or the GPA you need toearn for that semester.

Submit your plan after it has been completed and signed by your advisor. If you send in a plan that's incomplete or not signed, it can cause a delay in the review of your appeal. Be sure to give your advisor enough time before the deadline to help you with the plan.

Student Letter

Write a letter that explains what happened during the semester that made it hard for you to meet the SAP requirements. Give a lot of detail and write about when the difficult situation started, up until the recent semester. If the situation involves a member of your family, include their name and relationship to you.

Some examples of difficulties that are usually approved are death, divorce, accident, illness and hospitalization. Having a hard time adjusting to college or online learning is usually not approved, unless there are other factors.

If you submitted an appeal in the past, don't use the same difficulties in a new appeal. Focus on what happened during the most recent semester.

Your letter should also mention the course plan you created with your advisor. Write about the plan and the steps you will take to improve your GPA.

Third-party Documentation

You need to provide proof of the difficulties you write about in your letter. If your letter includes a family member, be sure that the third-party documents include the family member(s)’ name and dates of their situation(s) on it. Some examples of the documentation you can provide are:

  • Death certificate/obituary.
  • Copy of divorce papers.
  • Proof of hospitalization or other medical records.
  • Legal documentation.

SAP and Transferring

The SAP GPA requirement is based on your GPA at the school you're attending. This means that you may be able to get federal financial aid at a different college or university, if you can't receive financial aid at NIU.

You'll need to add the new school's code to your FAFSA. You should also see how much financial aid you're still eligible for by creating an account on the Federal Student Aid website.

If you come back to NIU after attending another school, your SAP GPA will not restart automatically (even if you qualify for an academic GPA restart). You'll need to submit an SAP appeal. Your letter should reflect the time you spent at NIU and the circumstances that led to you leaving NIU. You can write about how you improved academically while at the other school.

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