Federal Satisfactory Academic Progress

Policy For Undergraduate Financial Aid Applicants

Federal regulations (General Provision CRF 668.1) 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 period, demonstrate they are making progress towards the completion of their degree by earning a minimum number of credits hours each semester, and achieve a GPA that is consistent with meeting graduation requirements. This regulation applies to each financial aid applicant, whether a previous recipient or not.

This policy on satisfactory academic progress relates specifically to full-time undergraduate students who apply for and/or receive federal financial aid and/or Cornell University scholarships and grants. In addition to meeting the standard for receiving financial aid, students must also meet the academic standards of their college at Cornell University. Please review individual college information in Courses of Study. 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
  • Perkins Loan
  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
  • Work Study
  • Paul Douglas/Byrd Teacher Scholarship
  • Direct Loan
  • Stafford Loan
  • Parent 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 based on the standards of their designated academic level. They will then be reviewed annually until graduation. Students who transfer to Cornell University in January will not be evaluated until they have completed three regular semesters.

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 guidelines via a letter 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% of the published length of the program. The maximum time frame at Cornell is measured in semesters. With the exception of the five-year program in architecture, which requires ten semesters of full-time enrollment, a student can earn their degree in eight semesters. Therefore, the maximum time frame to complete the five-year architecture program for full-time students cannot exceed fifteen semesters and all others cannot exceed twelve semesters. There are no appeals to the maximum time frame regulation.

Credits counted in the maximum time 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 time frame.

Required Completion Rate

Federal regulations require that a student make steady progress toward degree completion by earning a minimum number of credit hours each semester. Progress is measured for all students by semester. In order to graduate within the maximum time frame (twelve or fifteen semesters depending on your program), a student must earn at least eleven credits per semester. 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 the student to meet minimum cumulative GPA standards to retain eligibility for aid. By the end of four semesters (measured by period of time, not grade level), a student must attain a C average, or an academic standard consistent with the college’s graduation requirements. For the purposes of this regulation, the Degree GPA will be used. Credits that have been transferred to Cornell are not included in the Degree GPA.

Undergraduate Colleges

GPA Graduation Requirement

Architecture, Art and Planning

2.0

Arts and Sciences

2.0

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

2.0

Engineering1

2.0

Human Ecology

2.0

Industrial and Labor Relations

1.72 / 2.03

Hotel Administration

2.0

1 While there is no GPA graduation requirement for Engineering, the basic requirement for making satisfactory academic progress in Engineering is GPA greater than or equal to 2.0 each semester.

2For students who matriculated prior to the Fall 2008 semester

3For students matriculating in or after the Fall 2008 semester

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 completing the required number of credit hours and by attaining the overall required grade point average by the end of the next semester. 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 a personal injury or illness, death of a relative, or other circumstances as determined by the student’s college. The appeal must explain how the special or unusual circumstances have been resolved so that the student will now be able to complete the required number of credit hours or attain the required grade point average.

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 with a copy provided to the Associate Director – Compliance and Regulation in the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment.

Undergraduate Colleges

Appeal Contact

Architecture, Art and Planning

College Registrar

Arts and Sciences

College Registrar

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

CALS Student Services

Engineering

College Registrar

Human Ecology

College Registrar

Industrial and Labor Relations

Academic Standards Committee

Hotel Administration

College Registrar

If the appeal is approved, the student's financial aid will be reinstated for one semester. By the end of that semester, the student must have successfully completed the required number of credit hours and attained the overall required grade point average. Students who fail to make SAP by the end of that semester will have their future financial aid eligibility terminated. 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.

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 making SAP.