Jul 19, 2024  
2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

SMU Satisfactory Progress Policy

-Back to Table of Contents-  


(Federal, State and Institutional Financial Aid)

As of July 2011, SMU has updated their Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) policy to accommodate the changes to the Federal Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements as prescribed by the Program Integrity Regulations of 2010.

Federal regulations require students to meet specific Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements to maintain eligibility for financial aid. Students are evaluated annually, prior to the start of the summer term, to verify academic progression. The following information describes various measurements used to determine satisfactory academic progress and the minimum SAP requirements to retain eligibility for federal, state, and institutional financial aid programs.

**NOTE** Most SMU merit-based scholarships require a minimum GPA of 3.000 or higher. For more information on the retention requirements for your specific academic scholarship, please refer to your academic adviser or academic catalog.

Standards of Measurement:

Cumulative GPA (Qualitative Measurement)
All careers & academic programs are measured at the end of the spring term each year (unless otherwise stated). Measurement is based on the following.

  • Undergraduate Students – Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 or higher.
  • Graduate Students – Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 for all programs unless otherwise required by the academic department or graduate program of study. Academic departments may require a minimum cumulative GPA which is greater than 2.000 for all students enrolled in a specific program of study. The GPA used to determine SAP for any specific program will be stated in each school’s academic catalog. If there is no GPA requirement listed for the school or program, a GPA of 2.000 will be used.

Degree Completion Rate (Quantitative Measurement)
Schools must ensure that students are progressing toward completing their degree at a reasonable rate. The rate of completion is measured as follows:

Completion rate = Total number of earned hours ÷ Total number of hours attempted.

  • Undergraduate - Required completion rate of 75%.
  • Graduate - Required completion rate of 60%.

Program/Time Limits

  • 150% Hour Limit – Students, both undergraduate and graduate, are not allowed to attempt more than 150% hours required to complete their degree. Students exceeding the 150% are not eligible to receive federal, state and institutional aid.
    • Changing Majors – A student who has attempted 150% of the hours needed to earn his/her degree because the student has changed majors, is an example in which professional judgment can be used to allow additional hours to be attempted.
    • Transfer Hours – Hours transferred to SMU from other institutions that meet the degree plan course requirements and are accepted for transfer credit will be included in the 150% calculation.
  • Maximum Term Limits
    • Undergraduate students are limited to 12 terms or six academic years.
    • Graduate students are limited to the time frame determined by the specific academic program. Information on program length can be found in the course catalog for your program of study. Maximum term limits for Doctoral programs are evaluated on a case by case basis with advisement from the academic department.
    • Students attending less than full time will be allowed extra terms to complete their degree.

SAP Status

  • Meets – Students who meet the minimum standards previously mentioned are given a satisfactory status of “Meets SAP” and will remain eligible to receive Federal Title IV and state financial aid funding for the upcoming academic year.
  • NOT Meets – This unsatisfactory status will be assigned to any student who does not successfully pass all required measurements for their program of study. Students failing one or more of the required measurements will be flagged as “Not Meets SAP” and immediately notified that they are no longer eligible to receive financial aid funding. Any financial aid awarded for upcoming terms will be canceled. SAP notification is sent via SMU email. A hard copy letter may be sent as a follow up if a student has not responded.
    • An SAP Notification letter notifies the student that they are no longer eligible to receive Title IV funds based on the standards of satisfactory academic progress. It also explains why they are failing SAP and gives instructions on how to re-establish eligibility.
  • Approval on Appeal with Probation (APPB) – Assigned by the financial aid adviser as part of successful SAP appeal. Appeal documentation will be retained in the student’s file. APPB is for one-term only and allows students to receive aid for only one term. At the conclusion of the probationary term, SAP will be measured again to determine if the student has met all required measurements. Students who successfully meet the minimum requirements will remain eligible to receive aid. The SAP status will be updated to “Meets SAP”. Failure to successfully meet all measurements will render the student ineligible for financial aid and the SAP status will be updated to “Disqualified”. Students who fail to meet all required measurements, but have demonstrated significant progress toward meeting the minimum requirements may be instructed to meet with the academic adviser to determine if the student has shown a measured improvement toward meeting SAP. Based on the academic adviser assessment, students may submit a second appeal with a multi-term academic plan that will achieve the minimum requirements for SAP. If approved, the SAP status is changed from APPB to APPL (Approved with an Academic Plan).
  • Approved with an Academic Plan (APPL) – Assigned by the financial aid adviser as a result of a successful SAP appeal designed specifically for the student by the academic advisor.  A academic plan is a multi-term agreement between the student and the academic advisor that must demonstrate consistent, progressive improvement over multiple consecutive terms until the student is once again maintaining satisfactory academic progress Once placed on an academic plan, SAP is measured at the conclusion of each term for improvement based on the adviser approved academic plan. Eligibility for financial aid will be approved on a term by term basis. Students who fail to show measurable improvement toward meeting the minimum SAP requirements will be disqualified for financial aid funding.
    • If the student is complying with the established academic plan, the student will be awarded aid for the next term.
    • If the student is not complying with the established agreement, the student will be allowed to appeal one more time for aid. The appeal documents will be sent electronically to the student. Aid will be awarded if the appeal is approved by the Financial Aid Appeals Committee. Students whose appeal is denied will be contacted electronically by the financial aid adviser and will be given a detailed plan on how to regain eligibility for aid.
    • A Financial Aid Hold blocking enrollment may be placed on students with an academic plan.
  • Approved per Professional Judgment (APPJ) – Assigned by the financial aid adviser as a result of a successful SAP appeal. Appeal documentation will be retained in the student’s file. This status is typically used for students enrolled in doctoral programs or during terms when students may be working on a dissertation where progression cannot be measured by GPA or Enrollment. Recommendation is given by the academic adviser. 
  • Disqualified – Assigned by the financial aid adviser when a student has exhausted all appeals and is no longer eligible to receive financial aid funds.


Students who fail any of the SAP measurements resulting in the loss of eligibility may submit an appeal for an extension of eligibility directly to the Office of Financial Aid. Each appeal is reviewed on a case by case basis. Final approval will be determined by committee.

Elements of a SAP Appeal

  • A personal letter/email from the student to his/her Financial Aid Adviser is required. The letter should explain the student’s mitigating circumstances. Mitigating circumstances are considered to be any circumstance that prevents the student from successfully completing the required measurements as previously mentioned. Some examples of mitigating circumstances are: student illness, family illness, other family problems, emotional upsets, interpersonal problems with other students, problems adjusting to college life, balancing school, work, etc. (The Financial Aid Adviser has the responsibility, using professional judgment, to determine if other circumstances documented by the student can be considered.)
  • Signed statement from the Academic Adviser confirming that they have meet and discussed the SAP issue and they have worked with the student to develop a plan to improve academic standing. A detailed course plan, signed by the academic adviser, is required for students with a GPA of less than 1.8 and/or a completion rate of less than 70%.

Appeal Decision

  • Appeal approved – Financial Aid Adviser will send a notification to the student via email. The student will also receive an electronic notice when their financial aid has been awarded.
  • Appeal denied – If the appeal is denied, the Financial Aid Adviser will notify the student via their SMU email account.

The Financial Aid Advisers have the responsibility of reviewing and approving an appeal. At the Financial Aid Adviser’s discretion, the appeal may be submitted to the Appeals Committee, a committee which consists of various staff members within the Division of Enrollment Services and is selected by the Associate Directors of Undergraduate and Graduate Advising. The Appeals Committee will meet as needed. 

Withdraws/Repeats/Incompletes/Failures – All hours attempted and earned will count toward the quantitative measure of 150% of hours a student may attempt when working toward a degree.

  • Courses withdrawals and failures – Hours from a course with a final grade of “W” or “F” will be included as attempted hours but not earned hours for the purpose of SAP measurements. 
  • Transfer hours and consortium hours – Hours are included in attempted and earned hours. They are not counted in the cumulative GPA.

Repeated Classes and First Year Repeat – A course with a with a final grade of A, B, C, or D is considered to be successfully completed.  A course with a final grade of F, W, or I is considered to be unsuccessfully completed.  A successfully completed course may be repeated once when utilizing financial aid funds to cover the course.  A course that is unsuccessfully completed may be repeated no more than two times while using financial aid funds to cover the repeat hours. Once a course is successfully completed, a student can repeat the course only once and retain eligibility for financial aid funds. 

Each time a course is attempted, regardless of the grade, the hours are included in the total attempted hours. Courses that are successfully completed (initial and repeat) with a passing grade are included in the total number of earned hours. 

  • Grade of “F” – Counts toward GPA and attempted hours. They will not count as earned hours and could impact the progression rate percentage.
  • Incomplete Courses – Count toward attempted hours and if never completed, the student is assigned a failing grade. The grade of “F” counts toward GPA. Once an incomplete course is completed, the hours will count toward attempted and earned hours and GPA.
  • Summer Hours – Count toward attempted and earned hours and GPA.
  • Pass /Fail Courses – A passed course counts toward attempted and earned hours (but are not counted in GPA). A failed course is counted in attempted hours but not earned hours.
  • Non Credit or Remedial Courses – SMU does not offer Federal Financial Aid to students who enroll in non-credit or remedial courses, or to those students who attend the University in the summer for probationary or remediation status before the first year (Upward Bound Program, Athletes and Academic Prelude).

-Back to Table of Contents-