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Federal Student Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Standard

This section outlines the federal regulations our office must follow to monitor student progression toward completion of degree and certificate programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree levels.

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Introduction

The Office of Student Aid is required by federal regulation to monitor student progression toward completion of degree and certificate programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree levels. The Federal Student Assistance Satisfactory Academic Progress Standard requires three types of monitoring for students to remain eligible for student financial aid:

  1. Degree status
  2. Time-to-degree limits
  3. Pace completion rate of attempted courses, which is different from University criteria determining satisfactory scholarship necessary to maintain degree-seeking status

This revised Satisfactory Academic Progress standard is effective beginning summer 2011.

Student aid programs impacted by the standard

Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Work Study, Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Stafford Loans, Federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS), Federal Graduate PLUS Loan for graduate and professional degree students, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant Program (TEACH), some alternative loans, some outside scholarships and University aid programs are impacted.

This standard does not apply to: tuition remission for dependents of Penn State employees, athletic grants, some University scholarships, some outside scholarships, student wage payroll earnings, and state grants (i.e. Pennsylvania State Grants). State agencies awarding state grants establish their own academic standards.

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Types of monitoring

Degree Program, Grade Point Average and Effect of Non-Degree Status

Federal regulations require that students have a grade point average of at least a "C" or its equivalent by the end of their second year of enrollment, or have academic standing consistent with Penn State University's requirements for graduation. At Penn State, students who are in degree status are considered to be meeting this requirement.

Consequences of failure to meet degree program requirements

Students who are dropped to non-degree conditional or who choose to enroll as non-degree at the undergraduate and/or graduate level are not eligible for federal student aid. However, credits attempted and credits earned during non-degree enrollment do count toward credit completion rate calculations as well as toward the maximum time limit for degree completion as described in the next two sections.

Maximum Time Limit Requirement

Students must complete their degree or certificate within a maximum time frame measured by attempted credits equal to 150 percent of the number of credits required for their primary degree program. The examples shown in the chart below represent minimum requirements for the degree programs listed, and the corresponding maximum attempted credits allowed for purposes of student financial aid eligibility. If a student's degree or certificate program requires more than the minimum credits shown on the chart, the student's maximum credits allowed will reflect 150 percent of the actual program credits required.

Sample Chart to Determine Eligibility

Degree Program
Credits Required
Maximum Credits Allowed
Associate's
60 credits
90 credits
Bachelor's 120 credits
180 credits
Master's 30 credits
45 credits
Law – LLM 24 credits
36 credits
Law – JD
88 credits
132 credits
Medical
231.5 credits
347 credits

Students in Doctoral programs must complete their degree program within the maximum time frame published by their academic program and the Graduate School.

Attempted credits include all transfer credits, credit by examination (i.e. AP, CLEP, etc.), and credit by portfolio assessment in addition to all credits attempted at the undergraduate, graduate or professional degree levels while enrolled at Penn State.

Note: Students receiving federal and state financial aid must enroll in courses that count toward their degree or certificate programs.

Consequences of failure to meet maximum time limit requirement

Students will be notified as they reach the end of their maximum credits allowed as shown in the chart above. Students exceeding the maximum time limit for their program are denied further student financial aid at that level.

Completion Rate Requirement

Federal regulations require that a student complete (earn) a minimum of 67 percent of the credits they attempt in order to remain eligible to receive student financial aid.

Attempted credits and credits earned are accumulated at the end of each semester. Attempted credits include:

  • All credits for courses in which a student is formally enrolled as of the first day of class (this includes credits taken at the undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree levels and credits taken during enrollment as a non-degree student)
  • All credits that a student drops or adds at any point in the semester
  • All credits for courses in which the student enrolled, but subsequently withdrew or failed
  • Transfer credits from another school that are accepted by Penn State
  • Credits earned through examination and credit by portfolio assessment

Earned Credits include:

  • All credits completed with grades of 'D' or better as well as Satisfactory and Pass grades
  • Transfer credits from another school that are accepted by Penn State
  • Credits earned through examination and credit by portfolio assessment

Thus all Penn State students must successfully complete (earn) 67 percent of the total cumulative credits attempted throughout their enrollment at Penn State as a condition for continued student aid eligibility.

Number of Credits Earned (divided by) Number of Credits Attempted = Completion Rate

Example 1: A student who has attempted a total of 59 credits after two years of enrollment and has completed 40 credits meets the required completion rate of 67% [40 (divided by) 59 = 67%]. This student is meeting the Student Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Standard and continues to be eligible for student financial aid.

Example 2: A student who has attempted a total of 30 credits after one year of enrollment and completed 12 credits in the fall and 6 credits in the spring, for a total of 18 credits, does not meet the minimum 67% completions rate [18 (divided by) 30 = 60%] This student is below the minimum 67% required completion rate and does not meet the Student Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Standard and risks loss of eligibility to receive student financial aid.

Consequences of failure to meet the completion rate requirement: Students who fail to complete 67% of their cumulative attempted credits risk loss of eligibility for student financial aid.

Undergraduate degree students (and students in the PA Teacher Certification programs) who fail to complete a minimum of 67 percent of their cumulative attempted credits at the end of a semester will be placed on a one semester financial aid warning for their next semester of enrollment. Undergraduate and PA Teacher Certification students failing to meet the required 67 percent completion requirement after a semester on financial aid warning will be denied student financial aid in future semesters until their completion rate is back to 67 percent or more of credits attempted. Students are only allowed one financial aid warning semester.

Graduate and professional degree students who fail to meet the 67 percent completion requirement will be denied student financial aid until their completion rate reaches 67 percent or more of credits attempted. Graduate and professional students do not receive a semester of financial aid warning.

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Appeals

Students who lose student financial aid eligibility by failing to make satisfactory academic progress may appeal. Approved appeals result in a student financial aid probationary status. Students will receive financial aid as long as they are meeting requirements of the probation status as specified during the appeal process.

Maximum Time Limit Requirement

Appeal of the maximum time frame limit will be considered for the following:

  • Concurrent majors and change of majors
  • Change of degree program, i.e. associate to bachelor, graduate to undergraduate
  • Transfer credits that do not apply to degree program

Completion Rate Requirement

Appeal for completion rates below 67 percent of attempted credits will be considered for the following:

  • Completion of 100 percent of attempted credits during a semester on financial aid warning
  • Death of a relative
  • Injury or serious illness of the student
  • Other extenuating circumstances
  • Completion of 100 percent of attempted credits during a period of enrollment at Penn State or another institution during a period of financial aid denial.

Undergraduate and Law students must complete a minimum of 12 credits with a GPA of 2.01 or above with no drops, late drops and no failing grades. Graduate and other professional degree students must complete a minimum of nine credits with a GPA of 3.01 or above with no drops, late drops, or failing grades.

Note: Degree Program, Grade Point Average and Effect of Non-Degree Status

There is no appeal for failure to meet this requirement. All students must be enrolled in an eligible degree or certificate program to receive student financial aid.

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Definitions

Appeal: Appeal means a process by which a student who is not meeting Penn State's Federal Student Assistance Satisfactory Academic Progress Standard petitions the Office of Student Aid for reconsideration of their eligibility to receive federal student financial aid.

Completion Rate: Successfully completed (earned) credits divided by attempted credits. The minimum completion rate to continue receiving student financial aid is 67 percent.

Enrollment Status: Classification of student's enrollment status based on number of credits enrolled for each degree level.

Sample Chart to Determine Eligibility

Semester Enrollment Status
Full-Time Three-Quarter Time
Half-Time < Half-Time
Undergraduate
12+ credits
9 to 11.5 credits
6 to 8.5 credits
0.5 to 5.5 credits
Graduate 9+ credits
7 to 8.5 credits
5 to 6.5 credits
0.5 to 4.5 credits
Law 12+ credits
9 to 11.5 credits
6 to 8.5 credits
0.5 to 5.5 credits
Medical 9+credits 7 to 8.5 credits
5 to 6.5 credits
0.5 to 4.5 credits

Financial Aid Denial: Financial aid denial is the status assigned to a Penn State student who is not meeting all three parts of Penn State's Satisfactory Academic Progress Standard as described in Section b: Types of Monitoring: 1) Enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program, 2) Maximum time limit requirement, and 3) Completion rate requirement.

Financial Aid Probation: Financial aid probation is the status assigned to a Penn State student who has failed to make satisfactory academic progress, has appealed, had their appeal approved and their eligibility for federal student aid reinstated.

Financial Aid Warning: Financial aid warning is the status assigned to a Penn State undergraduate (as well as a PA Teacher Certification program) student who fails to meet Penn State's Satisfactory Academic Progress Standard at the end of a semester. Students can only have one semester on Financial Aid Warning status. Graduate and Professional students are not eligible for a semester in Financial Aid Warning status.

Maximum Time frame: 1) For undergraduate programs measured in credit hours, a period of time that is no longer than 150 percent of the published length of the educational programs, as measured in credit hours. 2) For undergraduate and graduate non-degree certificate programs measured in clock hours, a period of time that is no longer than150 percent of the published length of the educational program, as measured in clock hours. 3) For graduate and professional degree programs, 150 percent of the published length of the educational program, as measured in credit hours.

Satisfactory Academic Progress: Satisfactory Academic Progress is the status assigned to a Penn State student who is meeting all three parts of the Penn State Satisfactory Academic Progress Standard as described in Section b: Types of Monitoring: 1) Enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program, 2) Maximum time limit requirement, and 3) Completion rate requirement.

Provisional Admissions Status: Undergraduate students admitted in provisional status are considered to be degree-seeking for purposes of assessing academic progress. Provisional students are eligible for all benefits available to degree-seeking students and accountable for all standards applying to degree-seeking enrollment. Graduate students admitted in provisional status are not eligible for student financial aid consideration.

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Additional information

  • Courses repeated to receive a passing grade are included in the number of attempted credits as well as in the earned credits once successfully passed. Courses repeated to receive a higher grade when required by the degree program are allowed one time only.
  • Credits earned for remedial courses are also included in attempted credits.
  • Deferred grades (DF) and No Grades (NG) are not included in the credits earned until grades are assigned.
  • Course Audit credits (AU) are not included as attempted credits or earned credits.
  • For graduate students, credits for courses below the 400 level are not included, except to meet required language proficiency.
  • Students withdrawing from Penn State for Military Service will not have their credits counted in the total cumulative credits attempted.
  • Entire academic records are reviewed when considering satisfactory academic progress for all continuing, re-enrolled, reinstated, and transfer students who are applying for financial aid for the first time.
  • Students granted academic renewal do not have prior attempted credits excluded from the determination of their eligibility for student aid, as required by federal student aid regulations. Students with academic renewal status who are denied student financial aid can appeal their status.

Contact the Penn State Student Aid Office nearest you for more information about Penn State's Federal Student Assistance Satisfactory Academic Progress Standard.

The Federal Student Assistance Satisfactory Academic Progress Standard appears in its entirety in The University Faculty Senate Policies for Students.

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