University of Southern California

Undergraduate Education

Financial Aid for Undergraduate Students

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy

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 (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 undergraduate 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.

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.

Table 1
Programs Subject to Financial Aid SAP Policy

Federal Pell GrantUniversity Grant

Federal and State Programs USC Programs
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) University Loan Programs
Federal Work-Study
Federal Perkins Loans
Federal Direct Stafford Loans
Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loans
California State Cal Grant

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 regarding 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 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 or in a financial aid SAP Warning Period as described below. The following explains each of the three SAP evaluation criteria; SAP Ineligibility, Warning and Probation Periods; and the SAP Appeals Process in detail.

Grade Point Average Requirement

To maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress, undergraduate students must meet a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.0 at each monitored interval and at the end of two academic years for programs lasting more than two years. Refer to Tables 3 and 4 below to understand how specific grades and course types affect students’ cumulative grade point averages.

Table 3
Impact of Grades on Cumulative GPA Calculation

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 4
Impact of Course Type on Cumulative GPA Calculation

Course Type Counted in Grade Point Average
Remedial course work (course numbers below 100) 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, please visit the USC Department of Grades on the Registrar’s Website at usc.edu/grades.

Pace of Progression Requirement

To maintain satisfactory progress, undergraduate students must complete a minimum number of units each semester (Pace) to ensure completion of the degree within the maximum time frame. Full-time undergraduate students are encouraged to attempt at least 16 units per semester to ensure that degree objectives can be reached within the maximum time frame allowed. A lower number of units per semester is permitted if required by academic advisement.

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 federal, state and institutional financial assistance detailed above, 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 5 and 6 below to understand how grades and course types will affect students’ Pace of Progression calculation:

Table 5
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 6
Impact of Course Types on Pace of Progression and Maximum Time-Frame Allowance

Course Type Pace of Progression Counted Toward Maximum Time Frame
Units Completed Units Attempted
All Undergraduate and Graduate Course Work Taken for a Letter Grade
Undergraduate and graduate course work (course numbers 100 and above) Yes Yes Yes
Remedial course work (course numbers below 100) No No Yes
Repeated course work (previous passing grade) Yes Yes Yes
Not Counted in the GPA
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. Tables 5 and 6 above show how different grades and course types will be counted against the Maximum Time-Frame Allowance.

Maximum Units and Semesters

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. The allowances will be increased as necessary for single-degree programs requiring more than 128 units. For example, students pursuing a five-year, single-degree program, such as the Bachelor of Architecture, will be eligible to receive financial aid for a maximum of 176 attempted units or 11 SAP semesters.

SAP Semesters

Each semester in which a student attempts 6 to 11 units is counted as a one-half (0.5) SAP semester. Each semester in which a student attempts 12 or more units is counted as a full (1.0) SAP semester. Semesters in which a student attempts fewer than 6 units are not counted as SAP semesters.

Special Financial Aid Considerations for Students Completing Double Majors or Dual Degrees

Please refer to the section on Undergraduate Financial Aid for Double Majors or Dual Degrees here. Students pursuing a double major or dual degree should keep in mind that once a student has completed the requirements for one major or degree, financial aid eligibility is limited.

Maximum Time-Frame Allowance for Students Pursuing a Second Bachelor’s Degree

Students pursuing a second bachelor’s degree are eligible for a limited number of financial aid programs. Refer to the section on Financial Aid for a Second Bachelor’s Degree in this catalogue. Students seeking financial aid for a second bachelor’s degree are monitored for maximum time frame based on the following:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 adviser, must complete a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form and submit it to the USC Financial Aid Office.
  • All second bachelor’s degree candidates must also meet previously stated GPA and Pace of Progression requirements.

How Satisfactory Academic Progress is Monitored

The Office of Academic Review and Retention monitors the minimum grade point average requirement. The Financial Aid Office monitors Pace of Progression and the Maximum Time-Frame Allowance.

When Satisfactory Academic Progress is Monitored

Satisfactory Academic Progress is monitored for all undergraduate financial aid applicants at the end of 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 who is in a SAP Warning or SAP Probation Period 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.

Failure to Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress

Exceeding the Maximum Time-Frame Allowance and Academic Disqualification

Students who have reached the Maximum Time-Frame Allowance are ineligible for further financial aid without an approved, written SAP Appeal. Students who are academically disqualified from the university are ineligible for further financial aid. There is no financial aid SAP Warning Period in either of these instances.

Failing GPA and Pace of Progression Requirements

Students who do not meet the Pace of Progression or GPA requirements are placed on a one-time, one-semester financial aid SAP Warning Period.

Financial Aid SAP Warning Period

Students who do not meet the Pace of Progression requirement or who are on academic probation for GPA will be placed on a one-time, one-semester financial aid SAP Warning Period. Students may continue to receive financial aid while in this one-semester warning period without a written appeal. Students who are placed on a financial aid SAP 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.

Financial Aid SAP Ineligibility

As stated above, students who have exceeded the Maximum Time-Frame Allowance and those who are academically disqualified are ineligible to receive financial aid.

Students who do not meet the minimum requirements by the end of the one-semester warning period for GPA and Pace of Progression violations will no longer be considered to be making Satisfactory Academic Progress and will become ineligible for financial aid without an approved, written SAP Appeal.

Students in their one-semester SAP Warning Period who receive grades of D, W, UW, IN, F, IX, MG, NC, NP and V will no longer be considered to be making Satisfactory Academic Progress and will become ineligible for financial aid without an approved, written SAP Appeal.

The one-semester financial aid SAP Warning is only available to students one time throughout their degree program. Students who regain eligibility by meeting SAP standards at the end of the warning period and subsequently fall below the standard will be considered ineligible for financial aid without another SAP Warning Period.

Regaining Financial Aid Eligibility

Regaining Financial Aid Eligibility with a Grade Change or Academic Improvement

Students who have been placed on a Financial Aid SAP Warning due to insufficient GPA or Pace of Progression can be reinstated by a grade change or by successfully completing sufficient units or bringing up their GPA to meet the accepted standards by the end of their warning period. The student must notify the Financial Aid Office in writing once the requirements have been met.

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

Students who need additional time to complete their degrees must meet with their academic adviser to complete a SAP Appeal Form. Students must also update their expected graduation date with the Degree Progress Office. The Financial Aid Office may increase the maximum time frame for students who have changed majors, are adding a major, or have experienced a one-time extenuating circumstance such as illness or injury that has since been resolved. The Financial Aid Office will make no adjustments for declared minors.

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

Students may also appeal the determination that they are not meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress GPA and Pace of Progression requirements. The following can be considered: 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 the academic adviser must submit an Undergraduate 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 toward the degree if the appeal is granted?

When to Submit a SAP Appeal

Students should not submit SAP Appeals for GPA or Pace of Progression deficiencies when they are in a Financial Aid SAP Warning period. These pre-emptive appeals are unnecessary and will be withdrawn. Rather, students should wait until they have been notified by the Financial Aid Office that they are ineligible for financial aid because of a SAP deficiency. SAP Appeals for Maximum Time-Frame Allowance may be submitted at any time, but students should first ensure that the Degree Progress Office 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 undergraduate degree.

The Financial Aid Office will make no adjustments for students who declare minors. Minors must be completed within the same time frame as the student’s major program(s) of study.

Students who are on SAP Probation (see below) as a result of an approved appeal will not receive funding for more than one undergraduate degree program. For these students, no exceptions will be made to maximum semesters or units to support the addition of a second major or a minor program of study.

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 email at the student’s USC email address.

Financial Aid SAP Probation Period

Appeals for insufficient Pace of Progression and/or 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 students are on SAP Probation, the Financial Aid Office will review their academic progress each semester to ensure they have met the specific terms of their contracts.

The SAP Contract

The SAP Contract is a written 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 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 results 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 Contracts 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

A student appealing his or her Satisfactory Academic Progress status must meet all financial aid application deadlines and other eligibility requirements. A 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.