Financial Aid for Undergraduate Students
Satisfactory Academic Progress
Purpose of Satisfactory Academic Progress RegulationsTo 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 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 a hindrance to any student in good academic standing.
Financial Aid Programs Subject to Satisfactory Academic ProgressAcademic 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 USC’s Financial Aid Office to provide students with financial assistance. Specifically included are the Federal Pell Grant, Federal ACG Grant, Federal SMART Grant, 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 Direct Stafford Loans and for Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loans. Satisfactory academic progress standards also apply to students receiving state-supported grants, either within or outside California; to students receiving agency-sponsored assistance; and to students participating in all scholarship, grant, loan or employment programs provided through university funds.
Recipients of tuition assistance benefits and departmental awards who are not receiving any other federal, state or university funds are not bound by these guidelines.
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 RequirementTo 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. See here (undergraduate).
Yearly Progress RequirementTo maintain satisfactory progress, undergraduate students must complete a minimum number of units for credit each semester as illustrated in the following table:
|SAP Semester Number||Units Required Per Term||Minimum Cumulative SAP Units Required|
Satisfactory Academic Progress Semester NumberNew 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 a 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 are not counted as SAP semesters.
Maximum Time AllowanceTo show satisfactory progress, students must complete their degree objective within a specified amount of time. The time frame will depend on the student’s 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 for students pursuing a second bachelor’s degree.
Students Who Change MajorsIf a continuing USC student changes from one major to another, a one-time-only reevaluation of the student’s unit and semester allowances is made. 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 Who Declare MinorsIf a USC student declares or changes a minor program of study, no adjustment will be made to the student’s unit and semester allowances. Minors must be completed within the same time frame as the student’s major program(s) of study.
Students Pursuing a Second Bachelor’s DegreeStudents pursuing a second bachelor’s degree are eligible for a limited number of financial aid programs. Refer to the Financial Aid for a Second Bachelor’s Degree section of this catalogue. Students seeking financial aid for a second bachelor’s degree are monitored for satisfactory academic progress based on the following:
(1) Students who have received their first bachelor’s degree from another institution will be granted a maximum of 64 additional units or five semesters, whichever comes first, to complete their second bachelor’s degree at USC.
(2) Students who have received their first bachelor’s degree from USC will be granted a maximum of 44 additional units or four semesters, whichever comes first, to complete their second bachelor’s degree at USC.
(3) The maximum unit and semester allowances for a second bachelor’s 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 MonitoredSatisfactory academic progress is monitored for all students at the end of each enrolled semester. The Office of Academic Review monitors the minimum grade point average requirement as well as declarations of primary majors 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 GradesStudents should be aware that academic units given grades of W, UW, IN, F, IX, MG, NC, NR, NP and V do not apply toward a degree. Students therefore exclude from 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 section of this catalogue 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 WorkAll repeated course work counts toward the student’s 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 USCStudents 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 student’s 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 student’s 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 student’s 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 WorkUnits attempted at USC during the summer session will count toward the student’s cumulative maximum unit allowance, and the term will 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 student’s 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 USC.
Non-Summer Classes Taken Outside of USC by a Continuing StudentOne hundred percent of non-summer session work accepted by USC for a continuing student will count toward the student’s cumulative maximum unit and semester allowances. See here for residence requirements for courses taken in fall and spring semesters.
Failure to Maintain Satisfactory Academic ProgressThe Financial Aid Office will evaluate Satisfactory Academic Progress at the end of every enrolled semester. Students who do not meet satisfactory academic progress requirements are notified, via email at their USC email address, 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 do not meet the yearly progress requirement are placed on a one-semester financial aid warning period.
Financial Aid Warning PeriodStudents on academic probation for GPA or those who do not meet the yearly progress requirement will be placed on a one-time, one-semester financial aid warning period. Students may continue to receive financial aid while in their one-semester warning period. Students who are placed on the financial aid warning period are encouraged to seek both academic and financial aid advisement. By the end of the financial aid one-semester warning period, the student must meet all satisfactory academic progress requirements. If, at the end of the one-semester warning 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 only one, one-semester warning period during the course of their enrollment. Students in their one-semester warning period who receive grades of D, W, UW, IN, F, IX, MG, NC, NR, NP and V will no longer be considered to be making satisfactory academic progress and will become ineligible for financial aid. Only one, one-semester financial aid warning is available to students throughout their degree program. Students who subsequently fall below the standard will be considered ineligible for financial aid.
Regaining Financial Aid EligibilityStudents who have lost eligibility for financial aid due to insufficient GPA or lack of yearly progress can be reinstated by successfully completing sufficient units or bringing their GPA up to meet the accepted standards. The student must notify the Financial Aid Office once the requirements have been met.
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. Maximum time limitations will not be increased for a student pursuing 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 satisfactory academic progress requirements. The following can be considered: extended illness; one-time extenuating circumstances that have since been resolved; and 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 student must also provide a written appeal letter that includes the following information/explanation: (a) What caused the work at USC to fall below acceptable standards? Students should think carefully and be specific. (b) How have those conflicts been resolved? (c) How does the student intend to maintain good academic standards and progress toward his or her degree if the appeal is granted?
The appeal will be evaluated and the student will be notified of the decision. Appeal for insufficient progress and/or GPA are approved through the use of a semester-by-semester SAP Contract. Students placed on an SAP Contract are eligible for financial aid strictly according to the terms of the contract. The SAP Contract is a written agreement between the student, the academic advisor and the financial aid office, in which the student commits to following a specific academic plan. 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 and must regain eligibility before the end of the semester for which the aid is sought. Financial aid cannot be reinstated retroactively for a past semester. As with any type of financial aid appeal, Satisfactory Academic Progress appeals are funded on a funds-available basis.