Satisfactory Academic Progress for Graduate Students

All Columbia College graduate students, full-time and part-time, who are receiving Title IV funds must meet the following guidelines for satisfactory academic progress (SAP). Graduate federal aid recipients are required to be in good standing and to maintain SAP toward their degree requirements each semester in which they are enrolled. SAP is evaluated once per year at the end of the spring semester for students in certificate and degree programs, and once per semester for students in certificate programs that are shorter than 12 months. 

Please note: although the SAP policy only applies to graduate students who are receiving Title IV funds, all graduate students must meet the academic standards established by the School of Graduate Studies.

In order to maintain SAP, all graduate students must meet the following requirements each semester they are enrolled, including summer term, even if they are not receiving financial aid for that semester:

Establishing Maximum Timeframe

Students who have attempted the maximum attempted hours or years and have not achieved their degree will no longer qualify for federal financial aid. There are no probationary terms for maximum time frame.

Please check below for information on the measurements to establish maximum timeframe based on individual graduate program.

Notification of SAP status

Columbia Central will notify all graduate students via their student email of their financial aid suspension at the end of each spring semester immediately following the grading period if they fail to meet the minimum standards for academic progress. Students who successfully met the SAP standards will not receive a notification. 

The below SAP statuses are applied to all graduate students receiving Title IV funding for degree programs and certificates. Students enrolled a program with a duration of 12 or less will have their SAP status reviewed each semester and will receive an additional SAP status of warning after the first semester in which they are not meeting the SAP standards. The purpose of the warning is to alert the student that he/she is not meeting the standards of SAP and could lose eligibility if SAP standards are not met. If a student enrolled in a program with a duration of 12 months or less is not meeting SAP standards after being placed on warning, he/she will be placed on SAP suspension.

Graduate students will be immediately suspended from receiving federal financial aid if, at the end of the spring semester, they failed to meet the minimum requirements for SAP for one or more of the following reasons:

  • A student’s cumulative GPA is below the 3.0 requirement; and/or
  • A student did not meet the minimum pace (75%) toward their degree progress; and/or
  • A student has reached the maximum time frame for his/her degree program and not completed the degree program.

Graduate students may enroll for future terms at Columbia College Chicago but they are ineligible to receive financial aid while on suspension. 

Students who complete the appeal process (see Appeals) and are approved are placed on probation for one semester. Students on probation are eligible to receive financial aid. Students must meet the following terms and conditions during their probationary semester in order to maintain good academic standing for financial aid:

  • Successfully complete all coursework attempted during the semester with a grade of B or better; and
  • Meet the academic requirements outlined in the student’s academic plan; and/or
  • If the student has reached maximum timeframe, the student must complete all coursework attempted and all outstanding degree requirements necessary to complete the degree program.

The student and his/her Faculty Advisor will design an academic plan as part of the appeal process. If approved, the student is required to follow this academic plan during the probationary term. Failure to meet any or all of the academic plan requirements will result in the student’s suspension of financial aid eligibility for future terms.

Regaining Eligibility
Graduate students who lose eligibility for Title IV aid due to GPA or completion rate can regain eligibility by continuing their attendance at Columbia without the benefit of Title IV aid, and meeting the cumulative standards outlined above. If a student has reached his/her maximum timeframe for a degree program, he/she cannot regain elibility for Title IV aid.

Treatment of Grades Reported

Grades of A,B,C, and D, as well as failing grades (F), are counted toward a student's grade point average, completion rate, and maximum time frame. This is true whether an F grade is received due to non-attendance or due to poor academic performance.

Grades of incomplete (I), unreported (NG), pass (P), unsatisfactory (U), course withdrawal (W), and no show (NS) are not counted toward a student's grade point average, but are counted toward completion rates and maximum time frame. 

Grades of incomplete (I), course withdrawal (W), fail (F), and unsatisfactory (U) negatively impact a student’s completion rate.

Due to COVID-19, Columbia expanded options for the Spring 2020 semester for Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (SX/U) courses.  SX signifies that satisfactory knowledge in the content area has been met, credit is earned, and GPA is unaffected.

Grade Changes
When a grade change is reported to the Office of the Registrar, the student is evaluated for SAP compliance at that time. If the student is not in compliance with the standards of SAP based on the grade change, he/she will be notified and the below policy and procedures will apply.

Repeated Courses
If a graduate student repeats a course to improve his/her grade, the grade achieved in the retaken course (whether higher, lower, or the same) is included in the computation of the grade point average, completion rate, and maximum timeframe calculations.


Columbia Central recognizes there may be extenuating and mitigating circumstances affecting student performance. Graduate students may appeal their satisfactory academic progress status if any of the following circumstances exist:

  • Death of a relative; and/or
  • Illness or injury; and/or
  • Other circumstances directly affecting academic performance.

Columbia Central will provide instructions for appeal as part of the notification sent to students placed on suspension. Graduate students placed on suspension after the spring semester must submit an appeal and appropriate documentation in order to receive financial aid consideration for fall enrollment. 

Deadlines to Appeal

  • Fall/Summer Suspension: 7 days after notification of dismissal
  • Spring Suspension: July 1 for fall enrollment

Appeal Processing

A SAP appeal must be submitted on or before the established deadline for the appropriate term and is subject to approval. Columbia Central will review all appeals submitted and notify a student of its decision within 10-15 business days. 

Students who have been suspended may be eligible to appeal their SAP standing and should speak with a Columbia Central counselor about the appeal process and requirements. Students who complete the appeal process and are approved will be placed on probation. Students who are ineligible to appeal, whose appeal is denied or who fail to submit an appeal will remain on financial aid suspension.

Academic Dates and Deadlines