Policy for Graduate Students
Effective July 1, 2011 

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is the term used to define successful completion of coursework to maintain eligibility for financial aid. Catholic University is required by federal and state regulations and institutional policy to determine whether a student is meeting SAP requirements. SAP evaluation for graduate students occurs once a year at the conclusion of the spring semester.

The student’s entire academic career history must be considered when determining SAP status regardless of whether or not the student has received financial aid during each period of enrollment.

Requirements of the SAP Policy

The following components are measured to determine whether the student is meeting SAP standards: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Maximum Timeframe.

Qualitative (Grade Point Average)

The qualitative component is measuring the quality of the student’s SAP by conducting a review of the student’s cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA). To meet the qualitative requirement, the student must have a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

Specific federal, state, and institutional scholarships and grants may require a higher GPA for continued eligibility. This is a separate and distinct factor in renewing or continuing eligibility for these specific financial aid funds. The GPA for specific scholarships and grants supersedes the GPA requirements referenced above. Information about the terms and conditions of specific student aid programs that have GPA requirements are provided to the student at the time the award is offered.

The following grades and their values are used in computing your semester and cumulative GPA for SAP purposes: 

Grade* Grade Point Value**
A 4.00
A- 3.67
B+ 3.33
B 3.00
B- 2.67
C 2.00
F 0.00
F* 0.00
I 0.00

*Other grades such as (W) and (P) are not included in the GPA.

**Only the grade(s) of record for a repeated course will be used to determine your cumulative GPA. The grade record is determined and maintained by the Registrar.

Quantitative Measure (Calculating Pace or Completion Ratio)

The quantitative component measures the pace at which the student must progress through his or her program of study to ensure completion within the maximum timeframe permitted and provides for the measurement of the student’s progress at the time of the evaluation. The pace or completion ratio is calculated by determining the cumulative number of credit hours the student has successfully completed divided by the number of cumulative credit hours the student has attempted. Credits accepted from other schools that are applied to a Catholic University degree are counted in the calculation as both attempted and completed hours. To meet the quantitative requirement, the student’s completion ratio must be 67% or higher.

For financial aid purposes, the following definitions and conditions apply:

To earn hours at Catholic University, one must receive a grade of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C, or P. All other grades, including F, F*, I, and W do not earn credit hours.

Audited courses count as attempted but not earned hours. Therefore, auditing classes will negatively affect a student’s ability to satisfy the hours earned standard. Accepted transfer credit will have no effect on cumulative GPA.

Maximum Timeframe Measure

To meet the maximum timeframe requirements, the following rules apply:

Graduate Student Pursuing a Master's Degree Graduate Student Pursuing a Doctorate Degree
Not to exceed 60 attempted credit hours OR... Not to exceed 106 attempted credit hours OR...
6 years (from first semester of enrollment) 10 years (from first semester of enrollment)

The maximum number of years requirement begins with the first semester for which a student has enrollment in the degree program begins. The table below provides an example of the maximum year requirement for student starting in academic year 2011-2012.

Degree Degree start term and year Will be meeting the number of year requirement until the end of
Masters Fall 2011 Fall 2017
Spring 2012 Spring 2018
Summer 2012 Summer 2018
Doctorate Fall 2011 Spring 2022
Spring 2012 Spring 2022
Summer 2012 Summer 2022

A student who completes the academic requirements for a program but does not yet have the degree or certificate is not eligible for further additional federal student aid funds for that program.

Additional SAP Information

Effects of Pre-Requisite and Repeated Courses

Pre-requisites (or preparatory courses) do not count toward the student’s degree requirements; however, they are counted as earned hours and are used to determine a student’s academic grade level or classification. Pre-requisite courses are classified as undergraduate, thus, for SAP purposes credit hours earned and attempted and grades are evaluated in accordance with the Financial Aid SAP Policy for Undergraduate Students.

If the student repeats a course, those credits and grades are used when measuring the qualitative standard. When a student repeats a course, the total attempted hours will increase with each repeat, but the student may only earn hours for a successfully completed course once.  Therefore, repeating courses negatively affects the student’s ability to satisfy Quantitative and Maximum Timeframe measures.

Effects of Withdrawal and Incomplete Grades

If the student withdraws from a course after the drop/add period for any given semester (e.g., the student receives a grade of W for the course), the course credits are included in the count of attempted credit hours. Thus, withdrawn courses are calculated in the Quantitative and Maximum Timeframe measures.

Credits for an incomplete course (e.g., the student receives a grade of “I” for the course) are counted as credits attempted for quantitative and maximum timeframe measures but only included in the credits completed when the “I” grade is replaced with a passing grade. The “I” grade is treated as an “F” in the qualitative measure (i.e., cumulative GPA calculation) until the incomplete grade is replaced with a passing grade.

Effect of Change in Major

If a student changes majors, the credits the student earns at Catholic University under all majors will be included in the calculation of qualitative, quantitative, and maximum time frame measures.

Additional degrees

If a student successfully completes a degree and enrolls in a subsequent degree program at the University, that student’s SAP eligibility will be “reset” and reviews of SAP for the subsequent degree will only count coursework completed towards the additional degree. This reset provision does not pertain to a change in program/major/minor.

Regaining Eligibility for Financial Aid:

To regain eligibility for financial aid, a student may consult with a financial aid counselor to determine the appropriate alternatives. The following may be considered for regaining eligibility for financial aid:

  • Taking courses during the summer sessions(s)
  • Repeating failed courses
  • Removing incomplete grades
  • Completing courses at another institution

Cumulative GPA can only be improved by coursework at Catholic University. Hours-earned deficiencies may be remedied by attendance at Catholic University or another institution. However, if enrolling elsewhere, the student must complete the appropriate transfer study forms and have the coursework pre-approved by the academic school/department before enrolling at the other institution. Following the completion of coursework elsewhere, the student must request that an academic transcript be sent to their academic school/department and follow the appropriate policy to have transfer credits evaluated. Once deficiencies have been remedied, the student must notify the Office of Financial Aid and request reinstatement of eligibility. This request should be made after all grades and credit hours are officially recorded by the appropriate academic offices.

Neither paying for one’s classes nor sitting out for one or more terms affects a student’s academic progress standing, so neither is sufficient to reestablish aid eligibility.

SAP Definitions:


An appeal is a process by which a student who is not meeting SAP standards, petitions the school for reconsideration of his eligibility for federal student aid funds. An appeal must explain why the student failed to make satisfactory academic progress, along with supporting documentation, and what has changed in the student’s situation that will allow the student to make satisfactory progress by the next evaluation.

Financial Aid Probation

Financial Aid Probation status is assigned to a student who fails to make SAP and who has successfully appealed and has had eligibility for financial aid reinstated.  A student who is placed on financial aid probation may receive financial aid for one subsequent payment period. A student on Financial Aid Probation may be required to meet certain terms and conditions.  A student placed on Financial Aid Probation will be placed on an Academic Plan.  At the conclusion of the SAP Academic Probation payment period, the student must either meet the SAP standards or fulfill the requirements specified in the SAP Academic Plan, or be placed on Financial Aid Suspension.

Financial Aid Suspension

Financial Aid Suspension is a status assigned to a student who fails to make SAP, fails to regain eligibility by meeting the minimum SAP standards after a successful appeal and a probationary period, or does not fulfill the requirements outlined in his or her Academic Plan when placed on Financial Aid Probation.  A student who is placed on Financial Aid Suspension may only receive financial aid if the student re-establishes eligibility by meeting the standards outlined in this policy.

Academic Plan

An Academic Plan is a written agreement between the student and the Office of Student Financial Assistance that may extend the student's probationary period beyond one semester and specifies specific requirements (i.e., minimum course completion ratio and GPA) that the student must maintain while on probation in order to maintain financial aid eligibility. Academic progress will be measured at the end of each semester while a student is on an Academic Plan. A student who fails to meet the requirements of the Academic Plan will be placed on Financial Aid Suspension.

Appeal Process and Procedure

A student who fails one or more of the three measures (qualitative, quantitative, and maximum time frame) will be placed on Financial Aid Suspension, the student is not eligible for federal, state, and institutional financial aid, which include grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans. However, students failing SAP standards who have had mitigating circumstances may request reinstatement of their financial aid eligibility by completing the SAP Appeal for Financial Aid Reinstatement form and submitting it to the Office of Student Financial Assistance - SAP Appeals Committee. The SAP Appeal for Financial Aid Reinstatement Form is available at http://financialaid.cua.edu/forms.cfm.

The appeal must include the following:

  1. A detailed explanation for the reason why the student failed to meet the SAP standards;
  2. A detailed explanation of what has changed that will now allow the student to meet SAP standards;
  3. Supporting documentation for item number 1 above.

SAP Appeals Committee and Decision:

Students will be sent official notification of the appeals committee decision. The decision of the SAP Appeals Committee is final.

If the mitigating circumstance, documentation, and Academic Plan are acceptable to the Appeals Committee, the appeal will be approved. The student will be placed on Financial Aid Probation and the student’s financial aid eligibility will be reinstated for one subsequent semester.

At the conclusion of the subsequent payment period after the approved appeal, if the student meets the standards of SAP, the Financial Aid Probation status will be removed. If not, the student’s academic performance for the term will be evaluated against the student’s SAP Academic Plan.  All Academic Plans must be more stringent than the standard SAP minimums. If the student meets the requirements of the Academic Plan, the student will be assigned Financial Aid Probation for at the subsequent payment period.

If the student fails to meet SAP standards or the requirements outlined in the SAP Academic Plan, the student will be deemed ineligible for financial aid. Once deficiencies have been remedied, the student may notify the Office of Student Financial Assistance and request reinstatement of eligibility. This request should be made after all grades and credit hours are officially recorded by the appropriate academic office and with the Office of Enrollment Services at Catholic University.

SAP Appeal Deadlines:

For students wishing to be considered for SAP Probation, a SAP Appeal form should be submitted four weeks prior to the first day of classes (as stated in the University Calendar) to ensure a response before the beginning of the upcoming term. SAP appeals will also be considered on a rolling basis but should be submitted prior to the last day to withdraw from a course with a “W” grade (as stated in the University Calendar) to allow enough time for the SAP Appeal Committee to review and make a final decision.