Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

Federal regulations require the Office of Student Financial Aid to monitor the academic progress of students. (Note: SAP is strictly a financial aid policy. Your academic advisor and/or college are monitoring your academic progress under the University's Academic Probation Policy.)

SAP standards apply to undergraduate and graduate students who wish to establish or maintain financial aid eligibility. These standards apply to a student's entire academic record at Iowa State University (including all credit hours transferred to Iowa State University from another school), whether or not financial aid was received for prior terms of enrollment.

*Not all financial aid programs require students to meet the SAP standards outlined in this policy. For example, many scholarships have other eligibility requirements, and the student must contact the scholarship program to determine the specific eligibility requirements.

College of Veterinary Medicine: Academic progress is monitored by the College of Veterinary Medicine.


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Undergraduate Students | Graduate Students


Undergraduate Students

The Registrar’s records are reviewed at the completion of every semester of enrollment to determine compliance with the SAP policy. There are three components to the SAP policy:

  1. Minimum GPA
    Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of a 2.0 or higher to remain eligible for financial aid. Academic records are reviewed at the completion of every term of enrollment (Fall, Spring, Summer) to determine SAP.
  2. Minimum Pace-of-Progression
    Students must complete coursework at a cumulative rate of 67%. Completed coursework is defined as any course for which the student receives a passing grade. Academic records are reviewed at the completion of every term of enrollment (Fall, Spring, Summer) to determine SAP.

    Use the formula below to determine the pace of progression. The minimum pace requirement is 67%.

    Completed Semester Hours (all passing grades)

    All credit hours with a passing grade on a student's academic record according to the Office of the Registrar (A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D-, P, S, T), and all transfer, remedial, English as Second Language, IEOP, and early credit hours taken in high school.

    divided by

    Attempted Semester Hours

    All completed credit hours listed above, and all credit hours with a non-passing grade (F, NP, X, I) on a student's academic record according to the Office of the Registrar

    See the pace of progression examples below for more information.

  3. Maximum Time Frame
    Federal regulations limit financial aid eligibility to 150% of the published length of the education program, as measured in attempted credit hours. When the student has attempted 125% of their education program, a letter is mailed to the student and a message is posted to the student’s AccessPlus account as notification that they are approaching the maximum time frame. Additionally, Federal regulations state that a student is ineligible when it becomes mathematically impossible to complete their program within 150% of the published program length.

The following are counted when determining minimum Pace of Progress and Maximum Time Frame Requirements:

  • Transfer (including courses taken in high school for college credit), Remedial, English as Second Language, IEOP, and Early credit hours :
    These courses are counted as both attempted and completed towards pace of progression and maximum time frame.
  • Repeating a course:
    The credit hours from a repeated course are counted as attempted if the student receives a grade of I, NP, F, or X on their academic record. Once the course is passed, the credit hours are counted as both attempted and completed credit hours. Also see our policy on repeated courses and the impact on financial aid.
  • Incompletes:
    All incomplete grades count towards attempted hours for pace of progression and maximum time frame.
  • Academic Renewals:
    All academic renewal credit hours are counted towards pace of progression and maximum time frame requirements.
  • Receive a non-passing grade in ALL semester credit hours:
    Grades defined as non-passing are I, NP, F, or X, and credits for non-passing grades are counted as attempted towards pace of progression and maximum time frame.

    View the following document for more information on unofficial withdrawal from classes/last date of attendance:

  • Withdrawal from all semester courses:
    All courses a student withdraws from at Iowa State University are counted towards attempted credit hours for pace of progression and maximum time frame. Also see policy on Withdrawal from Classes.
  • Students seeking an additional undergraduate degree after graduating:
    Financial Aid eligibility for students seeking an additional undergraduate degree is limited to Federal Direct Stafford student loan eligibility for up to 90 credit hours attempted for the additional degree, or 270 total undergraduate credit hours attempted at all institutions, whichever limit is met first.

Pace of Progression Examples

(Completed hours and hours with non-passing grades or incompletes)

Example 1
First-year Freshman Fall Semester Spring Semester Cumulative Total
Hours Completed 6 10 16
Hours Attempted 12 12 24
Pace of Progression 50% 83% 67%
Financial Aid Status after Semester Warning Met SAP Eligible for Aid

Example 2
First-year Freshman Fall Semester Spring Semester Cumulative Total
Hours Completed 6 8 14
Hours Attempted 12 12 24
Pace of Progression 50% 67%* 58%
Financial Aid Status after Semester Warning Suspension Not Eligible (needed 67%)

Example 3
Continuing Student† Fall Semester Cumulative Total
Hours Completed 3 50
Hours Attempted 12 72
Pace of Progression 25%‡ 69%
Financial Aid Status after Semester Met SAP Eligible for Aid
Spring Semester Cumulative Total
Hours Completed 6 56
Hours Attempted 12 84
Pace of Progression 50%‡ 67%
Financial Aid Status after Semester Met SAP Eligible for Aid
Summer Semester Cumulative Total
Hours Completed 3 59
Hours Attempted 6 90
Pace of Progression 50% 65%
Financial Aid Status after Semester Warning Remains Eligible (needs 67%)
Fall Semester Cumulative Total
Hours Completed 8 67
Hours Attempted 12 102
Pace of Progression 67% 66%
Financial Aid Status after Semester Suspension Not Eligible (needed 67%)

Financial Aid Warning

Students are placed on Financial Aid Warning for one semester if they do not meet the Minimum GPA and/or Minimum credit hours. A letter is mailed to the student and a message is posted to the student’s AccessPlus account as notification of being placed on Financial Aid Warning.

Financial Aid Suspension

Students are placed on Financial Aid Suspension for one of the following reasons:

  1. Do not meet the SAP requirements after one semester on Financial Aid Warning.
  2. Do not meet the requirements of their Academic Plan.
  3. Meet or exceed the Maximum Time Frame requirement to obtain a degree.
  4. Withdrawal from ALL semester credit hours or receive a non-passing grade or incomplete in ALL semester credit hours while on financial aid warning.
  5. Withdrawal from ALL semester credit hours or receive a non-passing grade or incomplete in ALL semester credit hours in back-to-back semesters.

Students are not eligible for financial aid while on Financial Aid Suspension. A letter is mailed to the student and a message is posted to the student’s AccessPlus account as notification of being placed on Financial Aid Suspension.

To regain financial aid eligibility students may: 1) Meet minimum SAP requirements while not receiving financial aid, or 2) Submit an Academic Intervention Self-Assessment (AISA) in AccessPlus. (refer to Appealing Financial Aid Suspension)

Academic Plan

The Academic Plan is reviewed after one semester after an appeal is approved to determine continuation of financial aid eligibility. The maximum length of an Academic Plan cannot exceed one calendar year (e.g., Fall/Spring/Summer, Spring/Summer/Fall, Summer/Fall/Spring) to meet the minimum cumulative GPA, pace of progression, and/or maximum time frame requirements.

Financial aid will be suspended if any of the following requirements are not met while a student is on an Academic Plan:

  • Semester GPA is below a 2.00
  • Semester pace of progression is below 67%

The student will remain eligible for financial aid while on an Academic Plan if the semester GPA is equal to or greater than 2.00 and the semester pace of progression meets or exceeds 67%.

Please note: Some students may also be required to meet with the ISU Academic Success Center (ASC) to fulfill Academic Plan requirements and continue to receive financial aid. The Office of Student Financial Aid will notify students via email upon SAP approval and establishment of an Academic Plan if they are required to meet with the ASC.

At the end of the final semester of an Academic Plan, the student must be meeting all of the following requirements:

  • Cumulative GPA equal to or greater than 2.00
  • Cumulative pace of progression equal to or greater than 67%
  • Maximum time frame less than 150% of published program length
If any of the requirements listed above are not met, the student’s financial aid will be suspended.

Appealing Financial Aid Suspension

Students on Financial Aid Suspension may submit an appeal to the Office of Student Financial Aid if extenuating circumstances prevented them from meeting the SAP requirements.

The deadline to submit an appeal for consideration of reinstatement of aid eligibility for a semester is the midterm of that semester.

Students not meeting the minimum GPA or Pace of Progression standards must complete an an Academic Intervention Self-Assessment in AccessPlus to appeal for the reinstatement of financial aid.

Students who have reached 150% of the published length of their education program must also complete an AISA in AccessPlus to appeal for the reinstatement of financial aid.

Basis for SAP Appeal: The death of a relative, an injury or illness of the student, or other special circumstances. Attach documentation to support the basis of appeal.

SAP Appeal Process: Completed Academic Intervention Self-Assessment's (AISA's) in AccessPlus will be reviewed within three to five business days. Students will be notified by ISU e-mail as to whether their appeal is approved or denied.

Please note: Per Federal financial aid regulations, appeals are not automatically approved and may be denied based on failure to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements set forth at Iowa State University.

Graduate Students

The Registrar’s records are reviewed at the completion of every semester of enrollment to determine compliance with the SAP policy.

Graduate students must review the Graduate College Handbook regarding minimum grade point average requirements. Federal financial aid eligibility for graduate students ends when the total semesters enrolled equal the limits outlined below (Graduate College Handbook, Chapter 4):

Degree Semesters Enrolled
Master's 10
Ph.D. (began Ph.D. at ISU with Master's earned) 10
Ph.D. (began Ph.D. at ISU without Master's earned) 14

Approaching the Maximum Time Frame

Graduate students approaching the maximum time frame of their degree will be notified by the Office of Student Financial Aid and will remain eligible for financial aid until the limit outlined above is met.

Financial Aid Suspension

Graduate students are placed on Financial Aid Suspension for one of the following reasons:

  1. Meet or exceed the Maximum Time Frame requirement to obtain a degree.
  2. Withdrawal from ALL semester credit hours or receive a non-passing grade or incomplete in ALL semester credit hours in back-to-back semesters.

Students are not eligible for financial aid while on Financial Aid Suspension. A message is posted to the student’s AccessPlus account as notification of being placed on Financial Aid Suspension. See Appealing Financial Aid Suspension.

Appealing Financial Aid Suspension

Students on Financial Aid Suspension may submit an appeal to the Office of Student Financial Aid if extenuating circumstances prevented them from meeting the SAP requirements.

The deadline to submit an appeal for consideration of reinstatement of aid eligibility for a semester is the midterm of that semester.

Graduate Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Appeal This appeal is for graduate students who have not met the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Duration of Eligibility requirements.

Basis for SAP Appeal: The death of a relative, an injury or illness of the student, or other special circumstances. Attach documentation to support the basis of appeal.

SAP Appeal Process: Completed SAP appeals will be reviewed within three to five business days. Students will be notified by ISU e-mail if the appeal is accepted or denied.

Please note: Per Federal financial aid regulations, appeals are not automatically approved and may be denied based on failure to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements set forth at Iowa State University.