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University of Southern California
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Undergraduate Education

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Purpose of Satisfactory Academic Progress Regulations

To be eligible for federal, state and university aid, students are required by the U.S. Department of Education and the state of California to maintain satisfactory academic progress toward their degree objectives. In compliance with prescribed regulations, USC has established guidelines that are designed to promote timely advancement toward a specific degree objective.

The following guidelines provide academic progress criteria for all students receiving financial aid at USC. Although the requirements for students receiving financial aid are somewhat more restrictive than for the general student population, they are based on reasonable expectations of academic progress toward a degree. Accordingly, these guidelines should not be an encumbrance to any student in good academic standing. Entering students with a significant number of prior college credits are encouraged to contact the Financial Aid Office early in their academic careers.

Financial Aid Programs Subject to Satisfactory Academic Progress

Academic progress criteria apply both to recipients of financial aid programs created under Title IV regulations of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, as well as to recipients of those other programs used by the Financial Aid Office at USC to provide students with financial assistance to meet their financial need. Specifically included are the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Perkins Loan Program, and Federal Work-Study programs. These standards of satisfactory academic progress also apply to students maintaining eligibility for Federal Stafford Loans. Satisfactory academic progress standards also apply to students receiving state-supported grants, either within or outside California; receiving agency-sponsored assistance; and participating in all scholarship, grant, loan or employment programs provided through unrestricted university funds.

Specifically not bound by these guidelines are recipients of tuition assistance benefits and departmental awards who are not receiving any other federal, state or university funds.

Definition of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

At USC, satisfactory academic progress is defined by the following three criteria:

(1) Meeting a minimum grade point average requirement.

(2) Earning a minimum number of units for credit per semester (yearly progress).

(3) Completing the degree objective within a maximum number of semesters enrolled and a maximum number of attempted units (maximum time allowance).

Grade Point Average Requirement

To maintain satisfactory academic progress, students must meet the grade point average requirements for continued enrollment at USC, as stated in the Academic Standards and the Requirements for Graduation sections of this catalogue (undergraduate or graduate).

Yearly Progress Requirement

To maintain satisfactory progress, undergraduate students must complete a minimum number of units for credit each semester as illustrated in the following table:

SAP Semester NumberUnits Required Per ItemMinimum Cumulative SAP Units Required
0.56
1.01212
1.518
2.01224
2.531
3.01438
3.545
4.01452
4.559
5.01567
5.574
6.01582
6.590
7.01698
7.5106
8.016114
8.5121
9.014128
9.5135
0.014142
10.5149
11.014156

Satisfactory Academic Progress Semester Number
New freshmen entering USC with no prior college credits begin at satisfactory academic progress (SAP) semester number 0.0. Entering students with prior college credits begin at their calculated SAP semester number explained in the Yearly Progress Requirement table. Thereafter, each semester in which a student attempts 6-11 units is counted as an 0.5 SAP semester. Each semester in which a student attempts 12 or more units is counted as a 1.0 SAP semester. Semesters in which a student attempts fewer than six units and summer sessions are not counted as SAP semesters. Entering students with a significant number of prior college credits are encouraged to contact the Financial Aid Office early in their academic careers to avoid any unnecessary SAP problems as they approach graduation.

Maximum Time Allowance

To show satisfactory progress, students must complete their degree objective within a specified amount of time. The time frame will depend upon the studentís enrollment status and educational objective.

Undergraduate students in single-degree, four-year programs requiring 128 units are eligible for financial aid for a maximum of 144 total attempted units or a maximum of nine SAP semesters, whichever comes first. See the previous section for an explanation of SAP semesters. The allowances will be increased as necessary for single-degree, four-year programs requiring more than 128 units. Students pursuing a five-year, single-degree program or enrolled in a program of study leading to two diplomas will be eligible to receive financial aid for a maximum of 176 attempted units or 11 SAP semesters, whichever comes first.

The following guidelines have been established for students who change majors and students pursuing a second bachelorís degree.

Students Who Change Majors
If a continuing USC student changes from one major to another, there will be a one-time-only reevaluation of the studentís unit and semester allowances. The student, together with his or her academic advisor, must complete a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form and submit it to the Financial Aid Office. The maximum increase that will be made for any student is 16 units and one semester.

Students Pursuing a Second Bachelorís Degree
Regular funding is not available for students pursuing a second bachelorís degree. Students seeking financial aid for a second bachelorís degree are monitored for satisfactory academic progress based on the following:

(1) Students who have received their first bachelorís degree from another institution will be granted a maximum of 64 additional units or five semesters, whichever comes first, to complete their second bachelorís degree at USC.

(2) Students who have received their first bachelorís degree from USC will be granted a maximum of 44 additional units or four semesters, whichever comes first, to complete their second bachelorís degree at USC.

(3) The maximum unit and semester allowances for a second bachelorís degree may be reconsidered if additional units are required for completion of a specific program of study. The student, together with his or her academic advisor, must complete a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form and submit it to the USC Financial Aid Office.

How Satisfactory Academic Progress is Monitored

Satisfactory academic progress is monitored for all students at the end of the academic year and for some students each semester. The Office of Academic Review monitors the minimum grade point average requirement as well as the requirement that students declare a primary major by the completion of 64 units. The Financial Aid Office monitors yearly progress and the maximum time allowance.

The following guidelines have been established for treatment of non-credit grades, repeated course work, transfer course work and summer course work.

Incompletes, Withdrawals, Repetitions, Remedial Work and Other Non-credit Grades
Students should be aware that units awarded grades of W, UW, IN, F, IX, NC, NP, and V do not apply toward a degree. Therefore, students must not count in their calculations of completed SAP units any classes in which they received these grades. Units awarded these grades will be counted toward the maximum time allowance. Please refer to the Academic Standards for a detailed definition of these grades.

Students required to complete remedial work (Chemistry 040, Math 040, Physics 040, Composition 040, English 075) may apply up to 10 units of course work toward yearly progress unit requirements. These units are only counted for satisfactory academic progress (SAP) purposes and will not count toward graduation. Remedial course work will be counted toward the maximum time allowance. Semester and unit allowances will not be increased for students enrolled in remedial course work.

Repeated Course Work
All repeated course work counts toward the studentís maximum time allowance. The maximum unit and semester allowances for repeated course work may be reconsidered if repeated course work is necessary for basic degree completion. The student, together with his or her academic advisor, must complete a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form and submit it to the USC Financial Aid Office. Regular funding may not be available for repeated course work.

Course Work Completed Prior to Matriculation at USC
Students with a significant number of prior college credits are encouraged to contact the Financial Aid Office early in their academic career. All AP units taken prior to matriculation at USC will count toward the studentís satisfactory academic progress (SAP) cumulative maximum unit allowance, but will not count toward the semester allowance. All other non-USC college credits taken prior to matriculation at USC will count toward both the studentís SAP cumulative maximum unit and semester allowances. The non-AP transfer units are divided by 14 to calculate the number of SAP semesters the student completed prior to enrollment at USC. These numbers, subtracted from the studentís maximum SAP unit and semester allowances, determine the number of units and semesters the student has remaining. This, in turn, determines the number of units required per term to maintain satisfactory academic progress (refer to the table in the Yearly Progress Requirement section).

Summer Course Work
The summer session is considered to be an optional semester for satisfactory academic progress purposes. Students who have fallen behind in yearly progress may wish to use summer session enrollment to make up the deficiency. Units attempted at USC during the summer session will count toward the studentís cumulative maximum unit allowance, but the term will not count as a SAP semester. Transferable summer classes taken outside of USC are treated in the same way. Transferable summer classes will not improve a studentís USC grade point average; only summer courses taken at USC can be used to improve the USC grade point average. Students are encouraged to consult with the Financial Aid Office regarding funding options prior to enrolling at USC for the summer, as regular funding is generally not available. Students are also encouraged to consult with their academic advisor regarding allowable transfer summer work prior to enrolling outside of USC.

Non-Summer Classes Taken Outside of USC by a Continuing Student
One hundred percent of non-summer session work accepted by USC for a continuing student will count toward the studentís cumulative maximum unit and semester allowances. See residence requirements for courses taken in fall and spring semesters.

Failure to Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress

Students who do not meet satisfactory academic progress requirements are notified, in writing, by the Financial Aid Office. Students who have reached the maximum time allowance are ineligible for further financial aid. Students who are academically disqualified from the university are ineligible for further financial aid. Students who fail to meet the yearly progress requirement are placed on financial aid probation.

Financial Aid Probation
Students who do not meet the yearly progress requirement will be placed on financial aid probation. Students may continue to receive financial aid while on probation. Students who are placed on financial aid probation are encouraged to seek both academic and financial aid advisement. By the end of financial aid probation the student must meet all satisfactory academic progress requirements. If, at the end of the probationary period, the student does not meet the minimum requirements, he or she will no longer be considered to be making satisfactory academic progress and will become ineligible for financial aid. Students will be allowed one probationary period during the course of their enrollment.

Regaining Financial Aid Eligibility
Students who have lost eligibility for financial aid due to lack of yearly progress can be reinstated by successfully completing sufficient units to meet the desired standards. The student must notify the Financial Aid Office once the units have been completed.

Maximum time limitations may be appealed if there is an increased unit requirement for completion of a specific program, or if the student is pursuing a double major or adding a minor. The student and the academic advisor must submit a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form along with supporting documentation to the Financial Aid Office. Students who have changed majors may also request a maximum time extension, explained in the section Students Who Change Majors.

Students may appeal the determination that they are not meeting the satisfactory academic progress requirements. The following can be considered: extended illness; participation in certain time-demanding university sponsored cocurricular activities; one-time extenuating circumstances which have since been resolved; enrollment limitations due to academic advisement. The student and the academic advisor must submit a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form with complete supporting documentation to the Financial Aid Office. The appeal will be evaluated and the student will be notified of the decision. Some appeals are approved through the use of an academic year contract or a semester-by-semester contract. Students placed on a contract are eligible for financial aid strictly according to the terms of the contract. Reinstated eligibility through a contract can alter the quantity and quality of the financial aid for which a student is eligible. Any deviation by the student from the terms of the contract results in the forfeiture of future financial aid eligibility.

Students who have lost eligibility for financial aid due to an insufficient grade point average must obtain guidance from the Academic Review Office. If the student is readmitted to the university by the Academic Review Office following academic disqualification, the student must notify the Financial Aid Office for financial aid processing to resume.

Any student who is appealing his or her Satisfactory Academic Progress status must meet all financial aid application deadlines and other eligibility requirements. As with any type of financial aid appeal, Satisfactory Academic Progress appeals are funded on a funds-available basis.