Satisfactory Academic Progress

Special Criteria for Spring 2020

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:

Expand all SAP types | Collapse all SAP types

Time Limit/Maximum Credits

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.

Completion Rate

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.

GPA Requirements

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 as of the date that grades are due. 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.

SAP Status Descriptions

For Completion Rate and GPA measures, students who fail to meet satisfactory academic progress standards in one semester 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.

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 by email to their MSU email account. Stuinfo will also reflect the change in Hold Status.

Types of aid affected

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

Affected Aid 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.

How to appeal

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

For more information, see our Satisfactory Academic Progress FAQ.