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Monitoring satisfactory progress

Per federal law, Michigan State University must monitor Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for all federal financial aid recipients. This policy has been updated effective Fall semester 2021.

Students who are federal financial aid recipients are evaluated at the end of each semester of enrollment. In addition to MSU’s published academic standards, eligibility for financial aid also depends upon meeting several other criteria according to federal and institutional standards.

The following types of monitoring are performed by Michigan State University:
First baccalaureate degree students are allowed to earn 150% of the required number of credits to earn a degree. Most undergraduate degrees require 120 credits. Therefore, a student enrolling in a semester after earning their 180th credit is no longer considered to be making Satisfactory Progress toward the degree. The 180 credit total includes all MSU assessed credits. (Assessed credits are defined as credits the student is enrolled in at the end of the official drop and add period and for which the student is charged, even if they drop those credits later.)

Agriculture Technology and Veterinary Technology Certificates require up to 60 credits. The 150% limit is specific to the published credit requirement for the program. A 48-credit program would have a limit of 72 credits.

All credits earned at any higher education institution (transfer credits) are counted in both the attempted and completed totals, whether or not MSU has accepted them toward the degree and whether or not the student received aid for them. This includes credits earned in another major or degree program, whether or not they are accepted into your current degree program.

Repeated, remedial, and incomplete credits count as assessed credits.  Even though a repeated course will count only once toward the student's academic requirements and the student's GPA, each repeat is assessed separately and thus counts separately for aid purposes.  See also how financial aid pays for repeated credits.

Students are also monitored for degree completion. Once a student has successfully completed the degree requirements, they are not eligible for further aid, even if they continue to enroll and do not apply to have the degree conferred.

Second undergraduate degree students are limited to 90 assessed credits beyond those earned for the first undergraduate degree.

Students in graduate programs may not receive financial aid if they have exceeded the time limits published in Academic Programs for the appropriate master's, doctoral, or professional program. 

Master's students have five calendar years to complete the degree, with exceptions for Arts & Letters, Human Medicine, Natural Science, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine, Social Science, and Veterinary Medicine, which allow six calendar years, and Master of Fine Arts in the College of Arts and Letters, which allows nine.

Doctoral degrees require the completion of all requirements within eight calendar years of the first course taken for the doctoral program.

Consequences of failure to meet this requirement: Students who reach their maximum credits or time limit without completing the degree will be denied further financial aid as a student at that level. For example, if an undergraduate exceeds 180 credits, the student is denied further aid until the degree is conferred (the student graduates). The student then regains eligibility for a second undergraduate or a graduate degree.

If the student is attempting a master's degree and reaches the five year eligibility limit, they are denied further aid until a master's degree has been conferred, at which time they would regain eligibility for a second master's, doctoral, or professional degree.
Students must successfully complete 67% of all assessed credits (all courses taken at Michigan State University). Assessed credits are defined as credits the student is enrolled in at the end of the official drop and add period, even if they drop those credits later. Successful completion of these credits means the student receives passing grades for them, even if the grades do not meet degree requirements specific to their program. If a course is repeated, each instance of the course is counted as an attempt, but the student can only earn credit for the course once.

Completion rate is initially calculated on the semester grading date, where the semester courses are added to the student’s previous course record to determine if the overall completion rate is above 67%.

All courses, including dropped or withdrawn credits, incomplete credits, repeated credits, and remedial credits are evaluated for completion rate. Courses with a grade of I, or ET are considered incomplete and are treated as unsuccessful attempts until the student receives a final grade.

Consequences of failure to meet this requirement: Students who fail to complete 67% of their cumulative assessed credits will be placed on warning for one semester. Failure to restore a 67% cumulative completion rate by the end of the next enrolled semester will result in aid denial until the cumulative completion rate is brought to 67%. Semesters of non-attendance are not counted in this calculation. However, courses dropped after the end of the regular drop and add period are counted as courses the student has failed to complete.
Students must have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) sufficient to meet University graduation requirements. For undergraduate students, this is a 2.00 minimum. Graduate students must have at least a 3.00.

GPA is calculated at the end of the semester once a grade has been posted for every course for which a student was enrolled. All graded credits, including repeated and remedial credits, are counted for GPA purposes. This includes credits earned in another major or degree program, whether or not they are accepted into your current degree program. If a student has incomplete coursework at the time that grades are due to be reported, those courses are not counted as part of the GPA calculation, as an incomplete grade (I or ET) doesn't count for GPA. The student is generally expected to finish the coursework and get a grade by the midterm of the following semester, so the grade will factor into the SAP determination at the end of that next term.

Dropped or withdrawn courses are not completed, so are not graded and not included in GPA.

The grade of DF (deferred) for dissertation credit hours does not affect a graduate student’s SAP status, as these credit hours indicate satisfactory work in progress and will be changed upon a student’s successful defense of the dissertation.

Courses which were graded at the end of the semester but which are changed later by the instructor due to an appeal or an error may change the GPA. This change is taken into account at the time it is reported and will affect the next monitoring report. A student may contact the Office of Financial Aid at any time if such a change brings them into good standing so their SAP status may be reset.

GPA requirements as set by the University and the department or college of the major are online.  Undergraduates see Academic Programs, undergraduates.  Graduates see Academic Programs, graduate school section.

Students in graduate/professional programs that grade by Pass/NoPass rather than by a numerical grade must pass 80% of their courses. Additionally, if the college places a student on academic suspension, the student will also be placed in Financial Aid Denial status by the Office of Financial Aid.

Consequences of failure to meet this requirement
: Students with a cumulative GPA or pass rate below the standard will be placed on warning. If the cumulative GPA is still below the standard at the end of the next semester of enrollment, the student is denied financial aid until they regain the required cumulative minimum GPA or pass rate.

Determining SAP status

SAP status is determined by the criteria failed as well as the number of consecutive semesters with unsatisfactory progress. A student can be in WarningDenial or Probation status.
For Completion Rate and GPA Requirements measures, students who fail to meet satisfactory academic progress standards in one semester are placed in Financial Aid Warning status. Students will receive one subsequent semester of aid while in Financial Aid Warning status. 

At the end of the warning period, a student who still has not met the standards is changed to Financial Aid Denial status for the next enrolled semester. The student's federal and MSU aid is terminated at this point and is not reinstated unless the student subsequently meets the required standard or appeals successfully.

For Time Limit/Maximum Credits students who reach their time limit or maximum credit limit will be placed in Financial Aid Denial status. This status endures until the student graduates.

Students may appeal their denial of aid, under certain circumstances (see below). If the student files a successful appeal, the status will be changed to Financial Aid Probation.  The student is monitored at the end of each semester. If the student does not reach SAP good standing, the status will revert to Financial Aid Denial.

A student has a single SAP status each semester. For example, a student whose SAP status is Financial Aid Warning for failure to meet the GPA requirement at the beginning of a semester could end the semester meeting the GPA requirement but may have failed the 67% Completion Rate requirement during that semester. The student will begin the next semester in Financial Aid Denial status since the student has failed SAP for two semesters, albeit for different reasons.

Students who move into Warning, Denial or Probation status are notified in their student portal (


Types of aid affected

Students with a Financial Aid Denial SAP status will be denied aid from the following programs:

  • Federal aid (Pell Grant, Supplemental Grant, TEACH Grant, Work-Study, Stafford Loans, Parent PLUS Loans, Grad PLUS Loans)
  • Any MSU need-based award (Student Aid Grant, Spartan Advantage, MSU Program Fee Grant MSU Disabled Veteran’s Assistance Program, etc.)
  • Any MSU scholarship with a GPA or SAP requirement, if the student fails to meet the requirement
  • Any private scholarship with a GPA or SAP requirement, if the student fails to meet the requirement  

Students who have an aid offer for a future semester may receive temporary aid credit through the first full week of that semester, in order to allow the student time to file an appeal. If the appeal is not filed or not approved, the credit is canceled and the student is expected to pay the bill in full at that time. Note that temporary aid credits never result in a refund.

Appealing a denial of financial aid

Students may appeal the denial of financial aid under certain circumstances including the death of a relative, injury or illness of the student, or other special circumstances. Documentation of the circumstances and a plan for recovery to good standing is required. Students must include the following in their appeal:

  • An explanation of why they failed to meet the SAP requirements (documentation may be requested depending upon circumstances)
  • Specific information about what has changed to allow them to meet the requirements in the future
  • A statement from their academic advisor supporting the appeal
  • An academic plan that has been agreed upon by the student and academic official and that has been approved by the college Dean or authorized designee

Students should be prepared to seek other funding options if the appeal is not approved.

Students wishing to appeal should use the online SAP Appeal Form. If a student cannot access this online form, they should contact the Office of Financial Aid.

Students whose appeals are approved will have aid offers reinstated or finalized based upon federal regulations and availability of funds. If funds are exhausted, students may have a smaller award total than expected.

If a Multi-Term Appeal is approved, the student will not need to appeal every semester; however, the student will be expected to meet the terms of the appeal and continue to meet the academic standards agreed upon during the appeal process. If the student does not meet the terms of the agreement, the student will be denied future financial aid and will be required to file another appeal.

An appeal must be received by the midterm date for the semester in which the student is seeking reinstatement of aid. Late appeals will not be processed.

Q. What happens after an appeal is submitted in the web system?

A. OFA will review the appeal to ensure it is complete. Then an OFA advisor reads the appeal and either approves it or refers it to an OFA committee for further review. The student's first appeal may be approved at the OFA advisor level. However, if the student is appealing for the second time (or more), or if the explanation or recovery plan is marginal, the advisor will submit the appeal to the OFA SAP committee. This is a group of financial aid advisors and Assistant or Associate Directors. This group either approves the appeal or refers it to the MSU University Financial Aid Appeal Committee for a final decision.

Q. What is the MSU University Financial Aid Appeal Committee?

A. The MSU UFAAC is a group of faculty and administrators who are appointed to review more complex financial aid eligibility appeals in a collaborative setting. There are no representatives from the Office of Financial Aid on this committee. The decisions of this committee are final.

Retroactive changes

If errors in grades are corrected or withdrawals are granted retroactively and these changes affect SAP, the Office of Financial Aid will allow consideration of aid restoration for a maximum of one semester prior to the current term.  However, aid will not be restored across aid years (a new aid year begins each fall semester).

Continuing at MSU after aid is denied

Unless academically dismissed by MSU, students denied financial aid generally may continue attending using private aid sources or by funding their education themselves.

Frequently asked questions about Satisfactory Academic Progress

For this information in a PDF, see our Satisfactory Academic Progress FAQ.

General Questions

Students will be considered for an extension due to severe illness of the student or a family member or death of a family member during the semester in which he/she failed to meet the monitoring criteria. Students must document this with third-party statements, medical records, etc., which should be supplied to the academic official and kept on file in the student’s academic folder.  The academic advisor must then indicate on the appeal form that he or she has received documentation of the circumstances.
Students in a Warning or Probation status will have a future-dated Financial Aid Denial entered
on their record for the semester after the Warning or Probation. Because of the MSU billing and payment system, your financial aid will be applied to the student account as a pending aid credit. This credit acts as any other form of payment on your account and will allow you to become registered but will not produce a refund. If the student successfully appeals for an additional semester of financial aid, the pending aid will become actual payments. If the student does not successfully appeal, then the pending aid will be cancelled and the student will become responsible for paying all university charges. It is important to note that there are timing issues that may allow a student to receive a payment of financial aid instead of pending aid. If this occurs, the aid payment may be allowed until an appeal decision has been rendered. If, in that case, the appeal is denied, the financial aid will be cancelled and the student will be billed for that cancelled aid.
Financial Aid Denial will keep a student from receiving any federal aid programs, such as Pell Grant, SEOG, TEACH, Federal Work Study, Direct Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, Parent PLUS Loans, and Graduate PLUS Loans. In addition, students are ineligible for all MSU need-based grant funds, as well as any MSU or private funds that require Satisfactory Academic Progress as a condition of the award. Other student awards will be reviewed if a student is in Financial Aid Denial to determine whether the student may continue to receive the award.


A student who fails the monitoring will receive a message in their student portal (  The dean and academic advising director in the student’s college, in addition to the Dean of Undergraduate Education (for undergraduates) and the Dean of The Graduate School (for graduate and graduate-professional students), will be able to access a secure website where they can view detailed information for their students.

  • All residential college (James Madison College, Lyman Briggs College, Residential College in the Arts and Humanities) students will be reported to their college.
  • Agricultural Technology students will be reported to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
  • All other freshmen and sophomores will be reported to the University Undergraduate Division.
  • All other upper division students, including all graduate students, will be reported to their college.

The Appeal Process

Students are required to submit an online appeal, then to meet with their academic advisor. If the academic official supports the appeal, he/she will complete the advisor portion. The appeal then must be approved by the Associate Dean before being forwarded to the Office of Financial Aid.

The appeal is then reviewed by OFA staff to determine if it can be approved on its merits or if it must be forwarded for further review.  This review may be conducted by the SAP Coordinator if it is the student’s first appeal. If the student is appealing for the second time (or more), or if the situation is marginal, the SAP Coordinator will submit the appeal to the OFA SAP committee. Appeals may be approved at this stage, but if denied within OFA, they will be forwarded to the University Financial Aid Appeal Committee for a final decision.

The UFAAC is established to review the more complex financial aid eligibility appeals in a collaborative setting that includes both academic and administrative perspectives. Five people form the committee base which includes faculty and representatives from support units other than the Office of Financial Aid. The decisions of this committee are final.

. It is reasonable to expect that approval will occur within one week of submission for an appeal that OFA can approve on its own. An appeal that must be reviewed by the UFAAC may take up to 3 weeks for review. Students are advised to make plans accordingly.

Any person who has direct knowledge of circumstances that negatively affected a students academic performance can submit a letter of support for purposes of the financial aid appeal. It is recommended that the student obtain this letter and share it with the academic official who is providing a statement or academic plan rather than submitting it to the Office of Financial Aid as part of their appeal.

There are other circumstances under which a student might be permitted to file an appeal of the denial of financial aid. Many of these circumstances result from a deterioration of financial circumstances after a financial aid application (FAFSA) has been submitted. OFA can provide information to students and parents about how to prepare such an appeal.

The federal government prohibits paying financial aid to students who have completed their degree requirements but have not asked to have the degree conferred. This is true even if the student does not have the minimum GPA required for degree conferral. Such a student can continue taking classes but without federal financial aid. OFA will work with the student to determine if there are other sources of aid that might replace all or some portion of the lost federal aid, but finding such funds is not assured. Also, students who are ineligible for financial aid due to general federal regulations cannot appeal this denial. This includes students who are not enrolled in a degree granting program, not a US Citizen or eligible noncitizen, and students in default on federal debts. These situations are fully detailed on the federal student aid website
There are no provisions for the student to appear in person to the Committee. All appeals are made through documents and information submitted for review. Students are expected to meet with an academic official in the preparation of the appeal materials, however.
Yes. A subsequent appeal after one has been granted will be held to stricter scrutiny. The first appeal outlines a plan by which the student may regain SAP during the term(s) for which the aid is requested. If the student fails to meet the terms of that plan, careful consideration will be given to subsequent appeals to determine if circumstances have indeed changed to allow the student to be successful now.

The Appeal Form

An academic plan is an academic official’s recommended courses for a student to take for the future semester(s). Usually, a grade point average is specified for each semester in order to demonstrate the student’s progress toward graduation. Specific courses might be mandated or a set of courses might be suggested from which a student must choose a specific number. Similarly, minimum grades for specific courses might be mandated. An academic plan also can include recommendations for repeating courses.
An academic plan is a contract between the student and a curriculum agent of the university. Colleges differ in who is allowed to authorize an academic plan. It may be your academic advisor or a college administrator. Your academic advisor will know who can create and authorize a plan for you.
An academic plan can be submitted for any appeal of denial of financial aid and is an obviously helpful planning tool for a student. A plan must be submitted when you are appealing the 180 credit limit on receiving aid for a first undergraduate degree. An academic plan also is required when your GPA falls below the required university minimum, unless you meet one of the conditions cited previously here. (It was your first aid Denial and you took too few credits to raise your GPA.  You took only courses graded on a Pass/No Pass basis.) Please note that an academic official has the authority to require an academic plan for any reason and OFA must support that decision.
A statement of support from an academic official simply adds additional credibility to a student’s explanation of circumstances and does not include any required courses or minimum grades. An academic plan specifically lays out a set of courses and grades that will move a student to good standing and/or graduation. A statement of support from an academic official is required but does not take the place of an academic plan for those circumstances in which one is mandated.
All documentation submitted to the Office of Financial Aid will become part of the student’s electronic financial aid file. It will be accessible to all financial aid staff and all academic officials who are in positions that require them to prepare materials for the financial aid appeal process and make related academic decisions. The material also must be provided to auditor or program reviewer if requested.
Any medical and mental health documents that contain information the student wishes to be considered in a financial aid appeal but which the student does not wish to submit directly to the Office of Financial Aid should be submitted to the student’s academic official. That person will provide a summary statement that will substitute for the detailed information for the financial aid appeal and will keep the original documents or sufficient information from those documents to support the summary statement.

Withdrawals and Retroactive Schedule Changes

Such situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis. The Office of Financial Aid will be as generous as regulations permit in retaining aid until the student is able to file an appeal if that is necessary.
A student on Financial Aid Warning or Probation who withdraws with grades reported will be monitored for financial aid eligibility for that semester according to the grades received. A student on Financial Aid Warning who withdraws with no grades reported will be placed on Financial Aid Denial in their next enrolled semester. A student who is on Financial Aid Probation and withdraws with no grades reported will be Denied further financial aid and will be required to submit a new or revised appeal if they wish to be considered for aid in the next enrolled semester.

GPA Questions

The student would be denied financial aid at the end of that semester and would have to appeal. The academic advisor could support an extension of financial aid for another semester or more under these circumstances, provided that the student still has required coursework that is graded and that makes it possible for the student to reach the required GPA in a reasonable amount of time.
Students in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Human Medicine must pass at least 80% of their courses, or meet the established standard of the college. The OFA works closely with the medical schools to determine which students must be placed on Financial Aid Warning and Denial.
GPA monitoring will follow the grading rules of the primary degree or academic level.
The student will still need to appeal. We would expect this circumstance would be cited by the academic official as a reason that the student needs more time to rehabilitate the GPA.
Generally, summer is treated as any other term in which a student enrolls. A student enrolled less than full time who is on Financial Aid Warning would still need to file an appeal in the subsequent semester if they are not back in good academic standing. However, if a student takes fewer credits in a semester than is mathematically required to improve the GPA to good standing, they will likely be granted an additional semester of Probation. We would expect this circumstance to be cited by the academic official as a reason that the student needs more time to rehabilitate the GPA.
Carrier courses are used as placeholders in the MSU system to substitute for courses a student is taking at another institution while studying abroad. Since carrier courses do not convert to MSU courses or affect the GPA, the student cannot improve the GPA during that semester and may need to appeal for additional time to improve the GPA. The academic official can support the appeal by noting that the student completed the coursework satisfactorily if that is the case.
GPA is tested as of the day after grades are posted. The GPA at the test date will reflect only the coursework graded on that date and will be used to determine the student financial aid status. The student may appeal the Denial of aid if a course graded after the test date brings the GPA to at least the minimum. An appeal under such circumstances would be approved.
As long as the student’s academic advisor approves repeating a course, it will be treated as any other enrolled course for financial aid purposes. Regulations limit the number of times a student may receive aid to repeat a course that has been previously passed.
Remedial coursework is not treated differently than any other course for the purposes of GPA calculation and SAP monitoring.

Time to Degree

Because dual degree programs are highly variable in length, the maximum number of eligible credits for financial aid is 180, but academic officials will note the required additional time for a specific student and this extension generally will be approved.

Completion Rate

Students may drop or add courses during the “drop and add” period, also known as the refund period, with no consequences. But if a class is dropped after the census date (“quarter of term”) of that particular class, the drop is counted for completion rate purposes. This type of drop is also known as a “charged drop” or forfeiture, because the tuition cost is not refunded to the student.

Depending upon the start and end dates and the length of the class, it may have a non-standard census date. Students and academic advisors should use care when considering dropping a non- standard course.

If a drop is backdated to allow a tuition refund, it is considered that the student was not in the class on the census date, and therefore the drop is not counted for completion rate purposes.  (There may be other effects, such as a recalculation of aid based upon the new credit level, but it does not affect the assessment of a student’s completion rate during the semester.)
GPA is tested as of the day after grades are posted. The GPA at the test date will reflect only the coursework graded on that date and will be used to determine the student financial aid status. The student may appeal the Denial of aid if a course graded after the test date brings the GPA to at least the minimum. An appeal under such circumstances would be approved.
All repeated and remedial courses are treated in the same way as other coursework for completion monitoring.

Degree Completion

Students in a Degree Completion status are those working on the first baccalaureate degree only. These students lose Federal Pell Grant and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) funds, since the federal rules permit students to receive this aid only for the first degree. Students may continue to receive other federal and MSU aid funds.

Degree completion is monitored by the Registrar’s Degree Audit system, and notifies OFA when the student has enrolled in the final required course(s) in the specified term.  Even if the student chooses not to apply for graduation, he or she is eligible to graduate and will be denied further Pell or SEOG.  Students may not appeal this decision.