Federal Satisfactory Academic Progress

Policy For Undergraduate Financial Aid Applicants

Federal regulations (CFR 668.34) require that Cornell University review the academic progress of students who apply for and/or receive financial assistance. Satisfactory academic progress is comprised of three areas as required by federal regulations. A student must complete their degree within a specified maximum timeframe, demonstrate they are progressing through their program at a pace that will ensure graduation within the maximum timeframe, and achieve a GPA that is consistent with meeting graduation requirements. This policy on satisfactory academic progress applies to all undergraduate students who apply for and/or receive federal financial aid and/or Cornell University scholarships and grants, whether a previous aid recipient or not. Note that the criteria for the New York State Tuition Assistance Program satisfactory academic progress differs from the federal and Cornell University satisfactory academic progress criteria.

Financial Assistance Programs Affected

Federal Programs

Institutional Programs

  • Pell Grant
  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
  • Work Study
  • Paul Douglas/Byrd Teacher Scholarship
  • Federal Direct Loan
  • Federal Parent PLUS Loan for Undergraduate Students
  • Cornell University Endowed Scholarships
  • Cornell University Grant
  • Cornell University Loan
  • NY Higher Educational Opportunity Grant (HEOP)
  • NY Educational Opportunity Grant (EOP)

Annual Evaluation

Annual financial aid Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) evaluations will be completed at the end of each academic year and cannot take place until final grades have been posted. This review will determine academic eligibility for the upcoming summer, fall, winter, and/or spring terms. Every student who applies for financial aid must be making Satisfactory Academic Progress, regardless of whether they are a first-time applicant or have received financial aid in the past. Any financial assistance offered for the year ahead is subject to cancellation if the minimum standards of satisfactory academic progress were not met in the year prior.

Incoming freshmen and new transfer students will be considered for financial aid for one academic year prior to the evaluation of Satisfactory Academic Progress. At the end of the first academic year of attendance at Cornell University, all students will be evaluated for Satisfactory Academic Progress.  Students will then be reviewed annually until graduation. First Year Spring Admits and students who transfer to Cornell University in January will be evaluated after their first semester.

Each student’s record will be reviewed under the direction of the Associate Director of Financial Aid for Compliance and Regulation. Students will be notified of their failure to meet the SAP standards by email notification from the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment.

Maximum Time Frame for Degree Completion

Federal regulations specify that a student must complete his/her degree within 150 percent of the published length of the program. The maximum timeframe at Cornell is measured in credits. For example, if your degree program requires 120 credits to graduate, the maximum timeframe for degree completion is 180 attempted credits (120 x 150% = 180). The number of credits required for degree completion, and therefore the maximum timeframe for degree completion, may vary by college and academic program.

Credits included in the maximum timeframe are all attempted credits (even when not a financial aid recipient). Attempted credits include:

  • Earned credits – Passed (A through D-), Satisfactory (S)
  • Repeated courses – both attempts
  • Withdrawal
  • Failures – Failed (F), Unsatisfactory (U)
  • Incomplete
  • All accepted transfer credits (including consortium agreements and Study Abroad courses) toward the degree program

Federal regulations do not allow for the exclusion of courses in which a student has remained past the drop period and earned a grade of ‘W” from its calculation of the maximum timeframe.

Required Completion Rate

Federal regulations require that a student must progress through their program at a pace that will ensure graduation within the maximum timeframe.  Progress is measured for students cumulatively.  In order to graduate within the maximum timeframe, a student must earn at least 67 percent of their attempted credits. Earned credit hours include:

  • Grades of A through D- or S (with credit)
  • Transferred credits – provided they meet degree requirements
  • Credits earned from a Consortium Agreement or Study Abroad Program

Required Grade Point Averages

Federal regulations require that a student meet minimum cumulative GPA standards to retain eligibility for aid. To meet Satisfactory Academic Progress standards, a student must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0.

Failing to Meet Satisfactory Academic Progress

Students failing to meet Satisfactory Academic Progress standards will lose their financial aid eligibility. They will be notified in writing of their status by the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment and a list of these students will be provided to the individual colleges.

Students terminated from receiving financial aid can reestablish eligibility by successfully earning the cumulative credits and GPA required for SAP. Neither paying for one’s classes nor sitting out a semester is sufficient to reestablish the financial aid eligibility of a student who has failed to meet SAP. If a special or unusual circumstance contributed to a student’s lack of satisfactory academic progress, the student may appeal the denial of financial aid.

Appeal Process

The letter of denial from the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment will describe the appeal process and a link to the appeal form will be provided. Examples of special or unusual circumstances are: personal injury or illness, death of a relative, or other circumstances as determined by the student’s college. The appeal must explain why the student failed to make satisfactory academic progress and what has changed in the situation that will allow the student to make satisfactory academic progress at the next evaluation.

The appeal must be submitted to the student’s college for evaluation. The college will respond to the appeal in writing within two weeks of receiving the complete appeal and provide a copy to the Assistant Director of Title IV Programs in the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment.

Undergraduate Colleges

Appeal Contact

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

College Registrar

College of Arts and Sciences

College Registrar

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

CALS Student Services

College of Engineering

College Registrar

College of Human Ecology

College Registrar

School of Industrial and Labor Relations

Academic Standards Committee

SC Johnson College of Business - School of Hotel Administration

School of Hotel Administration Registrar

SC Johnson Coleege of Business - Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Dyson Student Services

If the appeal is approved and the college determines that the student should be able to meet cumulative SAP standards by the end of the fall semester, the student may receive aid during the fall semester while on financial aid probation. If the appeal is approved and the college determines that the student will require more than one semester to meet cumulative SAP standards, the college may develop an academic plan specifically for the student and the student may receive aid during the fall semester while on financial aid probation. All students on financial aid probation during the fall semester will have their SAP reevaluated before the spring semester.  To remain eligible for financial aid during the spring semester, the student must be meeting cumulative SAP standards, or standards specified in their academic plan.  Students who fail to make SAP by the end of the fall semester will have their future financial aid eligibility terminated and will be notified in writing by the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment.  As stated previously, students terminated from receiving financial aid can reestablish eligibility by successfully earning the cumulative credits and GPA required for SAP.

Federal regulations prevent a student from submitting an appeal two semesters in a row. However, there is no limit to the number of appeals a student can submit if they can document there are new circumstances preventing the student from meeting SAP standards.