Satisfactory Academic Progress for Undergraduate Students

Updated May 23, 2018

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is a federal requirement for Title IV (federal financial aid) recipients. SAP refers to academic requirements that federal financial aid recipients must meet to retain eligibility for federal financial aid, which includes federal grants and loans. If a federal financial aid recipient fails to meet these standards, the student will lose eligibility for federal financial aid at Columbia.

Please note, Columbia’s policy for academic standing requires that all undergraduate students meet the standards outlined below regardless of if they are Title IV recipients. If an undergraduate student fails to meet the SAP standards, the student will be prohibited from registering for future courses at Columbia unless the student successfully appeals, as outlined below.

All previous SAP policies that students may have in their possession are no longer valid, and students will not be "grandfathered" under old policies. 

Staying in SAP Compliance

To maintain SAP compliance, all undergraduate 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:

• Maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or above, and
• Successfully complete at least two-thirds (67%) of their attempted credit hours, and
• Complete their degree program within the maximum time frame, which is 150% of the length of their academic program in credit hours.

The above standards apply even if a student has changed majors. All coursework completed under the prior major will be included in the SAP calculation.

If a student is completing a second bachelor's degree at Columbia, only the coursework required for the second bachelor's degree will be evaluated for SAP and the student will be given a maximum timeframe that is 150% of the number of credit hours required to complete the second bachelor's degree.

Maximum Timeframe

Students whose attempted credit hours, including transfer credit hours, exceed 150% of the length of their academic program in credit hours lose eligibility for federal financial aid and cannot register for future courses (Financial Aid Suspension/Academic Dismissal). Additionally, if it is determined through the SAP review that a student is not on track to complete the academic program within 150% of the length of the academic program in credit hours, the student will be placed on Financial Aid Suspension/Academic Dismissal. A student can appeal the maximum timeframe, and if the appeal is successful, the student is placed on an academic plan that holds the student accountable for degree completion within a specific time frame. 

To calculate maximum timeframe, students should multiply the length of their academic program in credit hours by 150%. For example, if a student is completing a BA degree that is 120 credit hours in length, the student’s maximum timeframe is 180 credit hours (120 x 150% = 180).

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), course withdrawal (W), and no show (NS) are not counted toward a student's grade point average, but are counted toward completion rate and maximum time frame.

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, the student will be notified and the below policy and procedures will apply.

Remedial Coursework

Columbia does not offer remedial courses, nor does it accept remedial courses as transfer credit. Therefore, remedial coursework taken at another institution has no impact on SAP at Columbia.

Treatment of Transfer Credit

Columbia accepts transfer coursework from eligible institutions. Grades from accepted transfer coursework are not included in the Columbia grade point average (GPA). Accepted transfer coursework is included in a student’s calculation of completion rate and maximum time frame.

Retaking Course Work Not Designated as Repeatable for Credit

Students are permitted to attempt a course a second time to improve their earned grade, provided the course is not designated repeatable for credit. Students may retake a course to improve their grade no more than once (total of two attempts) unless they receive special approval from the academic department. Official Withdrawals from a course (W grade) are not included in the total of two attempts.

The retaken course must be the same as, or equivalent to, the original course, and students will pay tuition and fees for the retaken course. The grade achieved in the retaken course (whether higher, lower, or the same) is included in the computation of the grade point average, and the course is included in the completion rate and maximum time frame calculations. The original course title and original grade remain on the student’s academic record. Any credit earned in the first attempt will be replaced by any credit earned in the second attempt; credit can only be earned once for courses not designated as repeatable for credit. The student’s academic record will reflect the current academic transaction and SAP compliance for each semester of enrollment. Federal and state financial aid may only be used for one retake of a course in which a passing grade (D- or above) was previously earned.

Courses Designated as Repeatable for Credit

Students may register in successive semesters for skill-building, special topics courses, and workshops classified as repeatable for credit courses on the Course Schedule. The number of times a repeatable for credit course may be taken varies, and students should always consult their Academic Advisor prior to registration for these courses. Grades received for courses designated as repeatable for credit will appear separately on the transcript. Tuition and fees are paid each time the course is taken. Courses designated as repeatable for credit may not be retaken to improve a grade.

Notification of SAP Status

At the end of each term (fall, spring, summer) each student’s cumulative GPA, completion rate, and maximum timeframe will be evaluated. Students who do not meet these standards will be notified of their SAP status by the Office of the Registrar.

These notifications include the following four statuses: Financial Aid Warning (Academic Warning), Financial Aid Suspension (Academic Dismissal), Financial Aid Probation (Academic Probation), Financial Aid Probation Continuance (Academic Probation Continuance).

The Office of the Registrar notifies students of their SAP status and the impact on financial aid eligibility via their Loop email account at the end of each semester immediately following the grading period. Students who have met the SAP requirements are considered in good standing and do not receive a written notice.

Financial Aid Warning (Academic Warning)
Students who do not maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or above or do not meet the minimum completion rate after one semester will be placed on Financial Aid Warning. Additionally, any student who has attempted 165 credit hours or more and has not completed their degree program will be placed on Financial Aid Warning. Students who receive this notification should meet with the College Advising Center for counseling before registering for the subsequent semester. Students are eligible to continue receiving financial aid and register for future courses while on Financial Aid Warning.


Financial Aid Suspension (Academic Dismissal)

Students who do not maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or above or do not meet the minimum completion rate after a semester on Financial Aid Warning will be placed on Financial Aid Suspension. Additionally, students who were previously placed on Financial Aid Warning due to maximum time frame and did not complete their degree program during the semester on Financial Aid Warning will be placed on Financial Aid Suspension. Students on Financial Aid Suspension are prohibited from registering for future courses and are not eligible for financial aid.



Students who are on Financial Aid Suspension may be eligible to appeal their standing and should speak with their Academic Advisor about the appeal requirements and process.



Financial Aid Probation (Academic Probation)

Students who complete the appeal process and are approved will be placed on Financial Aid Probation. While on Financial Aid Probation, students are eligible to register for courses and receive financial aid. Students on Financial Aid Probation status must meet the terms outlined in their academic plan. Failure to regain SAP eligibility or to meet the terms of their academic plan after this subsequent grading period will result in the student being placed on Financial Aid Suspension and being prohibited from registering for future courses and receiving financial aid.



Financial Aid Probation Continuance (Academic Probation Continuance)

Students who failed to meet the minimum SAP requirements but who adhered to their academic plan may be eligible for Financial Aid Probation Continuance. Students on Financial Aid Probation Continuance maintain eligibility for financial aid and are considered in good academic standing once they renew their academic plan with the College Advising Center. A Financial Aid Probation Continuance Appeal must be submitted by the established deadline for the appropriate term and is subject to approval.



Students who do not submit an appeal or whose appeal is denied are placed on Financial Aid Suspension and are prohibited from registering for future courses and are not eligible for financial aid.

SAP Appeals

Columbia recognizes there may be extenuating and mitigating circumstances affecting student performance. Columbia allows students to appeal their SAP status by submitting a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal/Academic Standing Appeal with appropriate documentation to the College Advising Center for consideration if any of the following circumstances exist:

• Death of a relative; and/or
• Physical or mental health illness or injury; and/or
• Extraordinary and unusual change in personal circumstances that affected academic performance; and/or
• Demonstrated significant academic progress.

The student’s appeal must describe why the student didn’t maintain SAP, provide reasonable documentation of that circumstance, and explain how the student will maintain SAP in future terms.

An appeal committee comprised of professionals from the College Advising Center and Columbia Central reviews all SAP appeals. Because Columbia’s academic standing policy and SAP policy are the same, students submit one appeal for both standards and the decision of the committee applies to both the student’s financial aid eligibility and the student’s ability to continue pursuing a degree at Columbia. If the appeal committee denies a student's appeal or a student declines to submit an appeal, the student is no longer eligible for financial aid and is prohibited from registering for future courses at Columbia.

Deadlines to Appeal 


Fall SAP Suspension: 15 days after notification of Financial Aid Suspension 
Summer SAP Suspension: 7 days after notification of Financial Aid Suspension 

Spring SAP Suspension: 30 days prior to the start of Fall Enrollment

Students who do not submit an SAP Appeal by the established deadline and/or whose appeal is denied will be ineligible to receive financial aid and prohibited from registering for future courses at Columbia.

Regaining Eligibility

Because Columbia’s academic standing policy is the same as its SAP policy, students who do not complete an appeal or whose appeal is denied must sit out from Columbia for at least two semesters. During this time, the student must attend another college or university and demonstrate academic progress at that institution for at least two semesters prior to applying for readmission at Columbia and submitting a new SAP appeal. Students interested in readmission should speak with the College Advising Center.

If a student is granted readmission to Columbia and the SAP appeal is approved, the student is placed on Financial Aid Probation and the above policy applies. 

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