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    University of Southern California
   
 
  Sep 25, 2017
 
 
    
USC Catalogue 2016-2017 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Financial Aid for Graduate Students


Return to: Graduate and Professional Education  


Graduate students at USC benefit from federal financial aid programs administered by the Financial Aid Office and from scholarships, fellowships and assistantships administered by the Graduate School, the Office of the Provost, and various academic departments. Several federal agencies and private foundations offer support for students engaged in research in specific fields of study. In addition, many corporations provide fellowships or tuition reimbursements for their employees. USC also offers an interest-free monthly payment plan and participates in long-term loan programs. Students may apply for one or more kinds of aid, depending on eligibility.

Although international students are not eligible for federal financial aid, they may be eligible for scholarships, fellowships and graduate assistantships offered by their schools or departments. International students should contact their departments directly for information about existing opportunities. International students may also be eligible for private educational loans.

The Financial Aid Office may change these policies at any time to ensure continued compliance with changes in federal and state regulations governing student financial aid. As a result, students must refer to the current catalogue regulations. Unlike degree requirements, changes in regulations, policies and procedures are immediate and supersede those in any prior catalogue.

Financial Support Through Graduate Fellowships and Assistantships

Prospective and continuing students seeking financial support will find opportunities to fund their graduate study through individual schools and departments and through the Graduate School. In general, fellowships and graduate assistantships are offered only to students pursuing the PhD degree.

Acceptance of Offers of Financial Assistance

USC subscribes to the following resolution of the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States regarding deadlines and acceptance of offers for graduate scholars, fellows, trainees and assistants:

Acceptance of an offer of financial assistance (such as graduate scholarship, fellowship, traineeship or assistantship) for the next academic year by an actual or prospective graduate student completes an agreement that both the student and the university are expected to honor. In those instances in which the student accepts the offer before April 15, and subsequently desires to withdraw, the student may submit in writing a resignation of the appointment at any time through April 15. An acceptance given or left in force after April 15, however, commits the student to not accept another offer without first obtaining written release from the institution to which a commitment has been made. Similarly, an offer by an institution after April 15 is conditional on presentation by the student of the written release from any previously accepted offer.

Teaching and Research Assistantships, and Graduate Assistant Lectureships

Teaching and research assistantships and graduate assistant lectureships are awarded each year by departments and programs of the university to PhD students on the basis of scholastic accomplishment, academic promise and competence. They fall under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Procedures and practices can be found in The Handbook for Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Graduate Assistant Lecturers on the Graduate School Website. Only students in good academic standing with GPAs of 3.0, acceptable TOEFL or IELTS scores, and who are regularly enrolled in USC graduate degree programs are eligible for appointment as teaching and research assistants and graduate assistant lecturers and may be offered a semester-by-semester appointment up to a maximum of one year at a time. All teaching and research assistants and graduate assistant lecturers are under direct and assigned supervision of regular faculty members and report regularly on the conduct and performance of their responsibilities to the supervising faculty. Assistant lecturers may be appointed only with the approval of the dean of the school in which the student is earning the degree. The Handbook for Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Graduate Assistant Lecturers can be found at usc.edu/schools/GraduateSchool/current_guidelines_forms.html.

Application Procedures and Eligibility Requirements for Federal Financial Aid

Detailed information, application procedures and deadlines for federal financial aid are available online at usc.edu/financialaid. To be eligible for federal financial aid programs, students must be U.S. citizens, permanent residents or other eligible non-citizens; have a valid Social Security number; meet Selective Service registration requirements; enroll at least half-time; meet Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements; and meet all other eligibility requirements. Enrollment status will be calculated based only on those courses that are required for, or that can be applied as an eligible elective credit toward, a student's degree or certificate program. Students must also complete all application requirements by the relevant deadline(s). With certain exceptions, as noted below, students must be enrolled in a degree-seeking program or eligible certificate program at USC to be eligible for federal financial aid.

Federal Work-Study

The Federal Work-Study program enables eligible students to earn funds through employment either on campus or with an approved off-campus employer. Only full-time (enrolled in 8 or more units) on-campus students with high financial need who meet all application deadlines are considered for this program.

Federal Loans

Federal Direct Unsubsidized (Stafford) Loans are available to eligible students. Interest accrues from the date of disbursement. Repayment begins six months after students graduate, withdraw or drop below half-time status.

Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans are available to students who meet the credit criteria established by the U.S. Department of Education. Students who do not meet the credit criteria may apply with an endorser (coborrower) who does. There is no grace period on the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan. Repayment begins the day after the loan is fully disbursed; however, students can defer repayment while enrolled in school at least half time, and for an additional six months after they graduate or drop below half-time status.*

The Health Professions Student Loan program provides funds to students in pharmacy and dentistry. The federal government pays the interest while students are in school. Repayment begins 12 months after they graduate or drop below half-time status.*

For details about federal loan programs and application requirements, visit usc.edu/financialaid/loans.

*Enrollment status will be calculated based only on those courses that are required for, or that can be applied as an eligible elective credit toward, a student's degree or certificate program.

Private Financing Programs

Private financing programs are available to help students meet the costs of education by providing long-term financing options. Students should exhaust all federal Title IV assistance available, including the Federal Direct Stafford Loan and the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan, before considering a private student loan program. The repayment terms of federal programs may be more favorable than the terms of private loan programs. Federal student loans are required by law to provide a range of flexible repayment options, including but not limited to, income-based repayment and income-contingent repayment plans, and loan forgiveness benefits, which other student loans are not required to provide. Federal Direct Loans are available to students regardless of income.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant

USC no longer participates in the TEACH program.

Financial Aid for Enrollment in a Progressive Degree Program

Progressive degree students are classified as undergraduate students until their undergraduate degree is conferred or they complete 144 units, whichever comes first. If a transfer student's course work is not accepted for credit toward the degree, he or she may appeal to request that those units not count toward the 144 units.

Undergraduate Classification

While classified as undergraduates, students are assessed the undergraduate tuition rate, and their enrollment status and financial aid eligibility are determined by undergraduate standards. Undergraduate-level progressive degree students maintain their eligibility for Federal Pell Grants, Federal SEOG Grants, Cal Grants, Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loans, Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loans and any applicable eligibility for USC Merit Scholarships or USC University Grants, as long as they are enrolled in courses that are required for, or that can be applied as an eligible elective credit toward, their undergraduate degree. The Registrar's Office determines when a student has completed his or her undergraduate degree and manages the process of posting degrees to a student's record. The Financial Aid Office relies on the Registrar's determination of the applicability of a course to a degree program and the completion of the undergraduate degree.

Graduate Classification

Once the undergraduate degree is conferred or the student has completed 144 units, a progressive degree student can no longer be considered an undergraduate for financial aid purposes. At that time, progressive degree students will be reclassified as graduate students. While classified as graduate students, they are assessed the graduate tuition rate, and their enrollment status and financial aid eligibility are determined by graduate standards. Graduate students are not eligible for federal, state or university need-based grants. Graduate-level progressive degree students are eligible to borrow Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loans, up to the maximum yearly amounts established for graduate students.

Students who receive a research assistant or teaching assistant award before completing 144 units or their undergraduate degree are classified as graduate students and are not eligible to receive undergraduate financial aid.

Financial Aid for Enrollment in a Certificate Program

Students enrolled at least half time in a graduate certificate program may be eligible for the Federal Direct Stafford Loan and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan if the program has been determined to be eligible for federal financial aid. Contact your academic department or program or the Financial Aid Office for information about whether your program qualifies for financial aid.

Financial Aid for Limited Status Enrollment

Students not admitted to a degree-seeking program or eligible certificate program at USC but enroll as limited-status students are not eligible for federal financial aid, unless they meet the exception noted in the Preparatory Course Work section. Students who have completed their degree or certificate programs, but continue to enroll, will be considered limited-status students and are thereby ineligible for financial aid.

Financial Aid Consortium Agreements

Students admitted to degree-seeking or eligible certificate programs at USC who enroll at another eligible institution in courses applicable to their USC degrees or certificates may have those courses considered in USC's determination of their eligibility for limited federal financial aid. The student's total USC and/or non-USC enrollment must be at least half-time and a Financial Aid Consortium Agreement must be completed. Financial Aid Consortium Agreements are contingent upon the host school agreeing to participate. For more information, visit the Special Programs section of the financial aid Website.

Financial Aid for Students Enrolled in Preparatory Course Work

Students enrolled at least half-time in undergraduate courses required for admission to a degree program may be eligible for limited Federal Direct (Stafford) Loan funds. For more information, visit the Special Programs section of the financial aid Website.

Withdrawal Implications for Recipients of Financial Aid

During the Drop/Add Period

During the university's published drop/add period, students who drop or reduce their enrollment may be eligible for a 100 percent refund of tuition for classes dropped.

Financial aid recipients must immediately notify the Financial Aid Office in writing when a drop from one or more classes during the drop/add period results in an enrollment status different from the enrollment status on which their current financial aid eligibility was based. The same applies if one or more classes are canceled.

The Financial Aid Office will review the student's new enrollment and, if appropriate, revise the student's eligibility based on the new enrollment status.

If a financial aid recipient drops from all classes or drops to less than half-time status during the drop/add period, all financial aid awards must be returned to their respective programs. Students who drop from all classes or drop to less than half-time status during the drop/add period are considered never to have established eligibility for financial aid. If the student was given financial aid funds for other expenses, he or she will be expected to return those funds to the university.

After the Drop/Add Period

Students who are recipients of Title IV federal student aid are also covered by federal Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) regulations. Title IV federal student aid is awarded to a student under the assumption that the student will attend for the entire period for which the assistance is provided and thereby "earn" the award. When a student ceases academic attendance prior to the end of that period, the student may no longer be eligible for the full amount of federal funds that the student was originally scheduled to receive.

If a Title IV aid recipient withdraws from all classes on or before the session is 60 percent complete, based on their last date of attendance, federal policy requires that any "unearned" Title IV federal financial aid be returned to the U.S. Treasury, even if the student is not entitled to a refund of tuition.

A student is required to immediately notify the Registrar when he or she stops attending classes. If the student fails to notify the Registrar's Office, it is possible that the 50 percent point in the term will be used to determine the student's last date of attendance, in accordance with federal regulations. If a student withdraws from all classes*, the Financial Aid Office will determine if that student's period of attendance resulted in the earning of all federal financial aid awarded for that term. If it is determined that not all the scheduled federal aid has in fact been earned, then the Financial Aid Office will calculate the amount to be returned to the federal financial aid programs. The Financial Aid Office will bill the student via his or her university account for the amount to be returned. It is the student's responsibility to contact the Cashier's Office to settle the bill.

*Note to students in modular programs: In a modular program, one or more of the student's enrolled courses do not span the length of the entire semester. Students in modular courses who withdraw from one or more courses, but are still registered for future courses within the term, will be required to confirm their future enrollment plans. For students who fail to confirm or fail to re-enroll, the Financial Aid Office will determine what portion of your financial aid has been earned based on your latest date of attendance. Refunds to the U.S. Treasury may be required. Students who have earned grades in early modular courses, but withdraw or fail to re-enroll for later courses, are still subject to these rules.

Additional Responsibilities of Students Who Withdraw

Any time a student withdraws from one or more courses, the student should consider the potential effect on his or her Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) status. Please review the SAP section for more information about SAP requirements.

Whenever a student's enrollment drops to less than half time or the student withdraws completely, or if a student takes a leave of absence, he or she must notify the lender, holder or servicer of any loans. Student borrowers of federal or university loans must also satisfy exit loan counseling requirements at studentloans.gov.

It is also the student's responsibility upon withdrawal from all classes to notify the Student Financial Services Office, the Housing Services Office, the Transportation Services Office and/or the USCard Office, if the student has charges from these offices on his or her student account. Students who have withdrawn from studies may be entitled to a prorated cancellation of charges from these offices.

Leave of Absence

Financial aid recipients considering a leave of absence should be aware of the financial aid implications. Although obtaining an approved leave of absence from their programs does allow students to re-enroll in the university without formal re-admission, it does not allow them to defer their loan repayment. The university reports student enrollment to the National Student Clearinghouse throughout the academic year. Lenders and federal loan service agencies subsequently query this database to determine if a student has maintained continuous half-time or greater enrollment.

Student Loan Repayment

If students are on a leave of absence from the university, their lender or federal loan service agency will move their loan from an "in-school" status to a grace or repayment status as required. While on a leave of absence, students may be able to postpone repayment by obtaining a deferment or forbearance from their loan servicer(s) as a result of unemployment or economic hardship. Students should contact their loan servicer(s) for more information about loan repayment. Students may review their federal loan history and determine their loan service agencies by visiting the Federal Student Aid Website at studentaid.gov. Once they re-enroll at a half-time or greater basis, they may be able to request deferment for "in-school" status.

Tuition Refund Insurance Plan

To complement its own refund policy, the university makes available to students Tuition Refund Insurance, an insurance policy designed to protect the investment students and their families make in education. The Financial Aid Office strongly encourages all financial aid recipients to take advantage of this plan. If a student formally withdraws from all classes after the end of the drop/add period and he or she is covered by Tuition Refund Insurance, the student may receive:

  • A credit to his or her student account equal to 100 percent of charges for tuition and mandatory fees for the term, if the withdrawal is the result of documented personal illness or accident; or
  • A credit to his or her student account equal to 60 percent of the charges for tuition and mandatory fees for the term, if the withdrawal is the result of a documented mental/nervous disorder.

The Tuition Refund Insurance credit will be applied first to any outstanding charges on the student's university account, including any charges resulting from the required Return of Title IV Funds (R2T4) to the federal student aid programs for the term. Recipients of university and/or federal financial aid will then receive a cash refund equal to the amount of cash payments made to the account for the term, plus any loan disbursements for the term still on the account (after all returns of Title IV aid have been made in accordance with federal policies, if applicable). The remainder of the insurance credit will be used to repay university financial aid grant or scholarship programs. At the student's written request, the financial aid office may use the student's cash refund to make a payment directly to the federal student loans programs to reduce the student's outstanding loan balance for that term. Please note, when the university makes the payment on your behalf, all accrued interest and fees will be canceled.

Brochures about Tuition Refund Insurance requirements and claim forms are available in the Cashier's Office and the Registrar's Office. All questions about the insurance plan should be directed to these offices.

Notes on Federal Policy

Title IV Federal Student Aid

Students are considered recipients of Title IV federal student aid if they have received funds from one or more of the following programs to meet educational expenses for the semester in question: Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Direct Stafford Loans (Subsidized or Unsubsidized), or Federal Direct Graduate or Parent PLUS Loans.

Period of Enrollment

At USC, the periods of enrollment are generally measured using the session(s) in which the student enrolled on a semester basis, starting on the first day of classes and ending on the final day of examinations for a given term. For purposes of Title IV federal student aid, any scheduled break of five or more days will not be included in the measurement of the enrollment period. For programs offered in modules (sessions that do not span the entire length of the semester), breaks of more than five days between modules will not be included in the measurement of the enrollment period.

Measurement of Earned Title IV Federal Student Aid

When a student withdraws from all classes, or withdraws from one or more classes while attending a modular program, the Financial Aid Office will calculate the percentage of earned Title IV federal student aid using the date of withdrawal. The earnings calculation is based on the number of days of enrollment, up to and including the day of withdrawal, divided by the total number of days in the enrollment period. In most cases, when a total withdrawal is determined to occur on or before the 60 percent point in a semester, some federal aid will need to be returned.

Return of Title IV Federal Student Aid

To satisfy federal regulation, returns to Title IV financial aid programs must be made in the following order:

  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized (Stafford) Loans
  • Federal Direct Subsidized (Stafford) Loans
  • Federal Direct PLUS Loans
  • Other Title IV Federal Programs

Financial Aid Policy Regarding Falsification of Financial Aid Information

The types of information covered by this policy include all documents and information submitted to apply for and/or receive need-based financial aid, scholarships, federal student and parent loans, and private financing funds. These documents and information include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Student Aid Report (SAR)
  • Enrollment and Housing Form
  • Student and parent federal income tax forms and other income documentation
  • Documentation of U.S. citizenship or eligible non-citizen status
  • Documentation of housing/living arrangements
  • Academic documents relating to high school diploma or college course work
  • Loan applications, promissory notes and related documentation
  • Specific program applications
  • Federal Work-Study time sheets
  • Any university financial aid forms and related documentation
  • Any written, electronic or verbal statements sent to or made to a university employee regarding the student's financial aid application or other financially related documents

The integrity of the documents and the honesty of the information presented through them are critical to the financial aid process. Students should be aware that they will be held responsible for the integrity of any financial aid information submitted either by them or on their behalf.

If the university determines that a student or parent has provided falsified information, or has submitted forged documents or signatures, the following steps may be taken without prior notification to the student or parent:

  1. An incident report will be filed with USC's Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards following procedures outlined in the University Student Conduct Code. Pending resolution of the complaint, the Financial Aid Office may restrict the distribution of any further aid to the accused student.
  2. If the Financial Aid Office or the student conduct review process finds that a violation has occurred, the consequences may include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • The student will be required to make full restitution of any and all federal, state, private and/or university scholarship, grant, loan or work funds to which he or she was not entitled.
  • Until full restitution is made, all federal, state and university funds will be withheld from the student, including all funds disbursed in past or in current terms.
  • No arrangements will be made with the Cashier's Office or Collections Office on the student's behalf to settle their account. The student will be responsible for all charges incurred on the student's account because of the loss of federal, state or institutional financial aid funds.
  • If the student is determined to be ineligible for financial aid because of a basic eligibility criterion, no further federal, state or university funds will be provided to the student in any future terms of enrollment at the university.
  • The student may be ineligible for future participation in some or all financial aid programs for a minimum of one year or longer. In some cases, the student will not be eligible to receive funds from that program in any future terms of enrollment at the university.
  • The student will not receive funds to replace those lost because he or she is considered ineligible due to dishonesty.
  1. In addition to any consequences directly related to the student's financial aid, the student may be assigned disciplinary sanctions as described in the Student Conduct Code (11.80). See here.
  2. As required by federal and state law, the USC Financial Aid Office will report any infraction to the appropriate office or agency. These include, but are not limited to, the U.S. Department of Education Office of the Inspector General, state agencies or other entities that may take whatever action is required by federal and state law. In this report, the Financial Aid Office will describe in detail the incident, the response from the Financial Aid Office and any additional actions taken by or pending with the university.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy

Purpose of Satisfactory Academic Progress Regulations

To be eligible for federal financial aid, graduate and professional students are required by the U.S. Department of Education (34 CFR 668.34) to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress toward their degree objectives. USC has established this SAP policy to ensure student success and accountability and to promote timely advancement toward degree objectives.

The following guidelines provide academic progress criteria for all graduate and professional students receiving certain financial aid at USC. Although the requirements for students receiving such 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.

Table 1
Programs Subject to Financial Aid SAP Policy

Federal Programs
Federal Work–Study Loans for Disadvantaged Students
Federal Direct Loans (Stafford and Graduate PLUS) Health Professions Student Loans
Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students Primary Care Loans

 

Table 2
Programs Not Subject to Financial Aid SAP Policy

USC and Outside Programs*
USC Merit Scholarships USC Alumni Scholarships
USC Topping Scholarships USC Departmental Awards
USC Assistantships USC Employee Tuition Assistance Benefits
Sponsored Agency Awards (Including Department of Defense and Veterans Awards) Outside Agency Scholarships

*Recipients of these awards should contact the awarding agencies/departments for rules governing award retention.

Definition of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

At USC, to be eligible for financial aid as identified above, you must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress as defined by all of the following three criteria:

  • Meeting a minimum cumulative grade point average requirement (GPA)
  • Earning a minimum number of units for credit per semester (Pace of Progression)
  • Completing the degree objective within a maximum number of semesters enrolled and a maximum number of units attempted (Maximum Time-Frame Allowance)

Students who do not meet one or more of the above criteria will be considered to be SAP ineligible for financial aid without an approved, written SAP Appeal. The following will explain each of the three SAP evaluation criteria; SAP Ineligibility and Probation Periods; and the SAP Appeals process in detail.

Grade Point Average Requirement

To maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress, graduate and professional students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0. In some cases, the University Committee on Curriculum has approved different GPA requirements for professional schools as detailed in Table 3:

Table 3
Exceptional Grade Point Average Requirements for Graduate/Professional Programs

Degree Program Program of Study GPA Requirement
Doctor of Dental Surgery — DDS 414 2.0
Doctor of Dental Surgery — Advanced Standing Program for International Dentists — DDS 428 2.0
Doctor of Physical Therapy — DPT 979 2.75
Juris Doctor — JD 379 2.7
Master of Laws — LLM 394 2.7
Graduate Certificate in Financial Analysis and Valuation — GCRT 1340 3.6

Students with No Graduate GPA

Students enrolled in progressive degree programs whose undergraduate degrees have not yet been conferred must maintain a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 2.0.

Students who have no GPA because all their course work has been taken as Credit (C)/No Credit (NC) or Pass (P)/No Pass (NP) are considered to have a sufficient GPA as long as they have no grades of NC or NP. A grade of In Progress (IP) is also considered a passing grade.

Refer to Tables 4 and 5 to understand how specific grades and course types affect students' cumulative grade point averages:

Table 4
Impact of Grades on Graduate Cumulative SAP GPA

Grade Earned Counted in Grade Point Average
A, B, C, D, F (+/-) Yes
CR — Credit, P — Pass, IP — In Progress No
NC — No Credit, NP — No Pass No
IN — Incomplete No
IX — Expired Incomplete Yes
W — Withdrawal No
UW — Unofficial Withdrawal Yes
V — Audit No
MG — Missing Grade No

Table 5
Impact of Course Type on Graduate Cumulative GPA

Course Type Counted in Grade Point Average
Preparatory course work (including all undergraduate course work regardless of course level) Yes
Repeated course work (previous passing grade) No
Repeated course work (previous failing grade) Yes (both grades counted)
Transfer course work (pre- and post-matriculation) No

For more information about grading policy, visit the USC Department of Grades on the Registrar's Website at usc.edu/grades.

Pace of Progression Requirement

To maintain satisfactory progress, graduate students must complete a minimum number of units each semester (Pace) to ensure completion of the degree within the maximum time frame.

Pace of Progression is calculated by dividing the cumulative number of credits the student has successfully completed by the cumulative number of credits the student has attempted.

To be eligible to receive the federal, state and institutional financial assistance detailed in this section, a student is required to successfully complete a minimum of 67 percent of all attempted credits.

Pace of Progression ≥ 67% = SAP eligible for Pace

Review Tables 6 and 7 to understand how grades and course types will affect the Pace of Progression calculation:

Table 6
Impact of Grades on Pace of Progression and Maximum Time-Frame Allowance

Grade Earned Pace of Progression Counted Toward Maximum Time Frame
Units Completed Units Attempted
A, B, C, D (+/-) Yes Yes Yes
CR, P, IP Yes Yes Yes
F, UW, IX No Yes Yes
NC, NP, W, MG, IN No Yes Yes
V No No No

Table 7
Impact of Course Type on Pace of Progression and Maximum Time-Frame Allowance

  Pace of Progression Counted Toward Maximum
   
Course Type Units Completed Units Attempted Time Frame
Graduate-level course work Yes Yes Yes
Preparatory and remedial course work (including all undergraduate course work regardless of course level, taken for credit or no-credit) Yes Yes Yes
Repeated course work (previous passing grade) Yes Yes Yes
Repeated course work (previous failing grade) Yes Yes Yes
Transfer course work (pre- and post-matriculation) Yes Yes Yes

Maximum Time-Frame Allowance

To demonstrate Satisfactory Academic 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.

Maximum Units and Semesters

Each program of study has a maximum time frame established in both units and semesters attempted, based on the requirements of the degree program. Students are eligible to receive financial aid until the maximum units or maximum full-time semesters are reached, whichever comes first. All enrolled periods are considered regardless of whether the student has received financial aid.

Transfer Course Work and Advanced Standing

Course work transferred to the university in partial fulfillment of the degree requirements will be subtracted from the maximum unit and semester allowance.

If students have been admitted to a graduate program of study with advanced standing (based on undergraduate or graduate course work successfully completed at USC or another university), their maximum time frame for financial aid will be reduced to reflect the lower number of units required for graduation under advanced standing admission.

Changing Graduate Programs of Study at USC

Previous course work completed at USC as part of a successfully finished program of study will be excluded from the maximum unit and semester allowance. However, if such course work can also be accepted toward the new program of study, the course work will be subtracted from the maximum unit and semester allowance as pre-matriculation units.

Previous course work completed at USC as part of an unfinished prior program of study will be subtracted from the maximum unit and semester allowance for the new program of study.

Students in authorized dual-degree programs of generally longer duration than single-degree programs will be granted an increase in the unit and semester allowances commensurate with the additional program requirements.

Solely for the purpose of evaluating the SAP Maximum Time-Frame Allowance, the Financial Aid Office establishes the following guidelines on SAP semesters.

SAP Semesters for Doctoral Students

Each semester in which a doctoral student attempts 3 to 5 units is counted as a half (0.5) SAP semester. Each semester in which a doctoral student attempts 6 or more units is counted as a full (1.0) SAP semester. Semesters in which a doctoral student attempts fewer than 3 units that are not full-time exception courses are not counted as SAP semesters (see Table 8).

SAP Semesters for Master's Degree and Graduate Certificate Students

Each semester in which a master's degree or graduate certificate student attempts 4 to 7.5 units is counted as a half (0.5) SAP semester. Each semester in which a master's degree or a graduate certificate student attempts 8 or more units is counted as a full (1.0) SAP semester. Semesters in which a master's degree or a graduate certificate student attempts fewer than 4 units that are not full-time exception courses are not counted as SAP semesters (see Table 8).

Full-Time Exception Courses

Other than the number of units attempted, there are additional circumstances that confer full-time enrollment status. These include enrollment in 594 Master's Thesis, 794 Doctoral Dissertation, GRSC 800 Studies for the Qualifying Examination  and GRSC 810 Studies for Master's Examination , as well as other courses and programs as determined by the Dean of Academic Records and Registrar. Any semester in which a student attempts a full-time exception course will be counted as 1.0 SAP semester, regardless of the number of units enrolled or concurrent course work.

Maximum Unit Allowance

Students pursuing graduate and professional degrees can apply for financial aid for up to the maximum number of units of course work required for the particular program of study, plus the equivalent units for one full-time semester course load (see Table 8).

Table 8
Full-Time Course Load for Determining Maximum SAP Units and Semesters

Program Full-Time Course Load
Doctoral programs 6 units or exception course
Master's degree programs and graduate certificates 8 units or exception course

For certain programs, the full-time course load may vary from 14 to 22 units, based on the average enrollment levels for the program. These programs generally enroll students at the flat rate for tuition.

Maximum Semester Allowance

To determine the maximum number of full-time semesters of aid available for a graduate or professional program of study, divide the number of units required for the particular program by the full-time semester course load for that program according to Table 8.

After rounding up to the nearest whole number, add one additional full-time semester to determine the maximum allowed for the program.

Review the examples to understand how the maximum SAP units and semesters are calculated.

Example 1
Maximum SAP Semester and Unit Calculation for a Doctoral Degree

A doctoral program that requires 60 units for graduation:
Maximum SAP Semesters = 60 units/6 units+ 1 full-time semester
Maximum SAP Semesters = 10 + 1 full-time semester
Maximum SAP Semesters = 11 full-time semesters

Example 2
Maximum SAP Semester and Unit Calculation for a Master's Degree or Graduate Certificate

A master's or graduate certificate program that requires 28 units for graduation:
Maximum SAP Semesters = 28 units/8 units + 1 full-time semester
Maximum SAP Semesters = 4* + 1 full-time semester
Maximum SAP Semesters = 5 full-time semesters

*rounded up from 3.5

How Satisfactory Academic Progress is Monitored

The Financial Aid Office monitors the Grade Point Average (GPA) requirement, Pace of Progression and the Maximum Time-Frame Allowance.

When Satisfactory Academic Progress is Monitored

The Financial Aid Office will monitor Satisfactory Academic Progress for graduate and professional financial aid applicants annually. The evaluation will occur after the end of the summer semester when the summer has been considered part of the prior academic year for financial aid purposes. Students who do not enroll in summer courses or whose summer is considered part of the upcoming academic year will be monitored at the end of the spring semester.

When a full-time graduate student can be expected to complete a program of study within one academic year (two semesters or fewer), the Financial Aid Office will evaluate SAP at the end of every enrolled semester. These programs generally include, but are not limited to, graduate certificate programs that can be completed in 16 units. Certain master's degree programs that require more than 16 units, but are designed to be completed within one academic year (two semesters), will also be evaluated after each enrolled semester.

Potential Delay of Disbursements Due to Monitoring of Satisfactory Academic Progress

Financial aid may not be disbursed to a student's account until SAP has been evaluated. The Financial Aid Office cannot complete the SAP evaluation until prior semester grades have been officially posted by the Office of Academic Records and Registrar. An otherwise eligible student may experience a delayed financial aid disbursement if grades are not made official before the beginning of the subsequent semester. No exceptions can be made to this process.

Notification of Satisfactory Academic Progress Status

Students who have met Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements will not receive a SAP notification. The Financial Aid Office will notify any student who does not meet SAP requirements via email at the student's USC email address. Students who are notified that they are SAP ineligible for financial aid should consult their academic advisers.

Failure to Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress

There are no Financial Aid SAP Warning Periods for graduate/professional students who are evaluated annually.

Students who fail to meet GPA or Pace of Progression standards will be ineligible for financial aid without an approved, written SAP Appeal.

Students who exceed the maximum unit or semester allowance are ineligible for financial aid without an approved, written SAP Appeal.

Students who are academically disqualified from the university are ineligible for further financial aid without readmission to the university and an approved, written SAP Appeal. Students on financial aid SAP Probation who fail to meet the terms of their SAP Contracts are ineligible for financial aid without a second written and approved SAP Appeal.

Regaining Financial Aid Eligibility

Regaining Financial Aid Eligibility with a Grade Change

Students who have lost financial aid eligibility as a result of insufficient GPA or Pace of Progression can be reinstated by a grade change if the grade change allows them to complete sufficient units and/or improve their GPA to meet stated requirements. The student must notify the Financial Aid Office in writing that the grade has been changed and requirements have been met.

Regaining Financial Aid Eligibility with an SAP Appeal for Maximum Time Frame

Students who need additional time to complete their degrees must meet with their academic adviser to complete an SAP Appeal form. Students must also update their expected graduation date with the Office of Degree Progress. The Financial Aid Office may increase the maximum time frame for students who have changed programs, are adding a program or have experienced a one-time extenuating circumstance such as illness or injury that has since been resolved. Students requesting an extension of the maximum time frame as a result of a changed or added program of study, must submit the following with their appeal:

  1. A clear statement of education purpose that explains their educational and professional goals, and acknowledges that federal student loans borrowed in pursuit of those goals must be repaid.
  2. A statement from their academic adviser that supports the change or addition of the program of study.

Regaining Financial Aid Eligibility with an SAP Appeal for GPA or Pace of Progression

Students who are not meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress GPA or Pace of Progression requirements may appeal to have their financial aid eligibility reinstated on a probationary basis. The following conditions can be considered in your appeal: extended illness, one-time extenuating circumstances that have since been resolved, and enrollment limitations due to academic advisement.

SAP Appeal Form and Letter

The student and adviser must submit a graduate and professional Satisfactory Academic Progress appeal form with complete supporting documentation to the Financial Aid Office. The SAP Appeal form must contain the specific academic plan for the student that the adviser has approved. For the appeal to be approved, the academic plan must lead to graduation within 150 percent of the published degree time. 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 provide a specific explanation. (b) How have those conflicts been resolved? (c) How will the student maintain good academic standards and progress towards the degree if the appeal is granted?

When to Submit an SAP Appeal

Students may wait until they have been notified by the Financial Aid Office that they are ineligible for financial aid because of an SAP deficiency. SAP Appeals for Maximum Time-Frame Allowance may be submitted at any time, but students should first ensure that the Office of Degree Progress has updated their expected graduation term.

SAP Appeals must be submitted before the end of the semester for which the aid is sought. Financial aid cannot be reinstated retroactively for a past semester.

Limitations on Approvals for SAP Appeals

The Financial Aid Office will never increase the Maximum Time-Frame Allowance past 150 percent of the published degree requirements for one graduate/professional degree.

Academic Disqualification and Activity Restrictions that Prevent Registration

Students who are academically disqualified or otherwise prevented from registering for future semesters may submit SAP Appeals. However, those appeals will not be evaluated until the activity restrictions have been resolved.

Notification of SAP Appeal Decisions

SAP Appeals will be evaluated and the Financial Aid Office will notify the student of the decision via the student's USC email address.

Financial Aid SAP Probation

Appeals for insufficient Pace of Progression and GPA are approved through the use of a semester-by-semester SAP Contract. Students placed on a SAP Contract are eligible for financial aid on a probationary basis, strictly according to the terms of the contract. While on SAP Probation, the Financial Aid Office will review a student's academic progress each semester to ensure they have met the specific terms of their contract.

The SAP Contract

The SAP contract is an agreement between the student, the academic adviser and the Financial Aid Office in which the student commits to following a specific academic plan that leads to graduation. Reinstated eligibility through a contract may alter the type and amount of the financial aid for which a student is eligible. Terms of the SAP Contract may be stricter than the standard SAP regulations cited in this section.

Acceptance of the approved SAP Contract supersedes all other SAP regulations. Any deviation by the student from the terms of the contract will result in the forfeiture of future financial aid eligibility.

Submitting SAP Appeals After Failing SAP Probation

Students on SAP Probation as a result of an approved appeal who fail to meet the terms of their accepted SAP Contract are ineligible for future financial aid. These students may submit a subsequent SAP Appeal. However, these appeals are granted on an exception basis. Students will be required to document specifically the exceptional circumstances that caused them to fail their SAP Contract and how those problems have been resolved.

Financial Aid Application and SAP Appeal Deadlines

Any student who is appealing his or her Satisfactory Academic Progress status must meet all financial aid application deadlines and other eligibility requirements. An SAP Appeal must be submitted 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.