Decoding your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Letter

Did you receive a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) letter over the winter break? Did you understand it?  Here is a quick guide to decoding your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) letter and what it means.

First and foremost, the Financial Aid Office send Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) notices only to students who are not meeting the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards (discussed below).  The Financial Aid Office sends a physical letter to your mailing address and an e-mail copy to your Washburn University e-mail address.  If you wish to view your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) status, it is available by clicking ‘Progress’ located on the left-hand side of your Financial Services tab on your MyWashburn account.

What are the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards?

The Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards are applied to any student who received Federal Financial Aid such as the Federal Pell Grant or Federal Stafford Loans. There are three Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards which are measured: cumulative GPA, your pace to completion, and your maximum timeframe.

  • GPA: Cumulative grade point average of 2.00 for undergraduates, a cumulative GPA of 3.00 for graduate students, and a cumulative GPA of 2.00 for law students.  The cumulative GPA standards for Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) are the same standards for your academic standing at Washburn University.
  • Pace to Completion: Students must maintain pace to completion of greater than 67%. This means you must complete and successfully pass 67% of all courses.  This percentage is calculated using all courses attempted so if you have withdrawn, dropped, or failed to pass a course, this will drop your pace to completion rate.
  • Maximum Timeframe: This standard states the maximum number of hours attempted may not exceed 150% of the published length of your program.  The Financial Aid Office starts to notify you at 125% of the published length of your program so it is not a sudden surprise.

What if…this is your first bad semester? Do you lose your financial aid immediately?

No, the Financial Aid Office at Washburn University allows for a warning semester so you do not lose your financial aid immediately. You may only receive one warning semester so once you have received it, you do not get a second warning. The Financial Aid Office sends you a letter stating that you did not meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards (see above) and you do not need to submit a formal request for financial reinstatement.  As long as your next semester is good, you will come off the warning semester.

Washburn University has over 100 different Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) statuses so it is impossible to discuss all of them but here are some pointers on the most prevalent:

  • Max Hours:  On your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Letter it would have stated that “…you have exceeded 125% of the hours required for your degree.  Your financial aid is on hold until:  1) you submit a degree completion plan prepared and signed by your academic advisor…”
    • What it means:  This type of status means that you are approaching your maximum timeframe for using Federal Financial aid and you and your academic advisor have to put together a degree plan which guides you to getting your degree in a timely manner. 
  • Pace: On your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Letter it would have stated that”…your pace is less than 67%. Your financial aid is on hold until you submit:  an academic plan prepared and signed by your academic advisor…”
    • What it means: This type of status means that your overall pace to completion is less than 67% and you need to meet with your academic advisor to discuss how you can improve your academic performance and what courses you should be taking to be successful over the next 2 semesters. Receiving F’s, incompletes, withdrawing, and repeating classes can hinder your pace.
  • Denied:  On your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Letter it would have stated “According to our Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy, you have not met our minimum standards of SAP.  Either your cumulative GPA is too low or you completed a total withdrawal of classes from a previous term…”
    • What it means:  This type of status means that you have not met the Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards (outlined above), you have used your warning semester and have been denied financial aid for the following semester. You can appeal this decision if there were any extenuating circumstances which hindered your academic performance during the semester.

After reading your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Letter, you have determined that you want to appeal your denied status due to extenuating circumstance but what does it mean to appeal your financial aid decision?

When you appeal your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) status you will need to discuss two items. 1) Explain what extenuating circumstance affected your ability to meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards. 2) Describe your action plan on how you plan to address the extenuating circumstances and how you plan to improve your academic performance.  Reinstatement Forms are available in our office and on our web page at under online forms.  If you need to provide any additional documentation, please state on your appeal that you are submitting supporting documentation and provide it to the Financial Aid Office. 

Please note, submitting a reinstatement request or academic plan does not guarantee that you will be reinstated. The committee that reviews the appeals and plans bases their decision on a variety of factors such as your current reinstatement requests, if you have appealed previously, and your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) history (just to name a few). The Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy can be found at under Policies and Consumer Information.

Law Students – Money for summer classes: Will you have enough?

As the Fall semester is officially underway, it is never too early to start thinking about the summer courses you might take and how you are going to pay for them.  Below is some information regarding how the Tuition & Fees component for the Fall & Spring semesters can affect your Summer budget.

Financial Aid is packaged automatically for two semesters (Fall & Spring).  The budgeting process for Tuition & Fees starts six months (Feb 2013) prior to the start of the academic year (2013-2014) which is often before the actual tuition rate is determined by the Washburn University Board of Regents. The Financial Aid Office uses an estimated per credit hour amount times 31 credit hours. Historically, this estimated amount puts your budgeted Tuition & Fees amount relatively close to your actual Tuition & Fees as long as you are taking approximately 15 credit hours both semesters.

When the Tuition & Fees component of your budget is constructed for the summer semester, it is coupled with the Fall & Spring semester and your actual cost is calculated.  Your total Tuition & Fees for the Fall/Spring/Summer semester must exceed what was budgeted for Fall & Spring in order for you to receive Tuition & Fees aid in the summer.

An analysis of Fall & Spring semesters from the previous four academic years shows the vast majority of law students take 14 or more credit hours during these two semesters or will take a light semester coupled with a heavy semester. These students see little or no impact on their summer aid.  An issue can occur, however when a student enrolls in significantly less than the budgeted amount (e.g. 12 or fewer hours).

Here is how this practice impacts you by year:

1Ls – This does not usually impact a 1L student as your schedule is set up for you. Typically, 1Ls take 15 hours in the Fall and 15 Hours in the Spring.  When the summer Tuition & Fees component is added to Fall & Spring, there is little to no difference. One exception does exist: if you have received special permission from the Associate Dean to take less than the standard 1L course load, this practice will impact you greatly. Few students fall into this exception. If you are one of them, please see the sections titled Ramifications and Actions below.

2Ls – The biggest impact of this practice falls on 2Ls who take a reduced course load. For example, if  law student ‘A’ takes 12 hours during the Fall semester and 12 hours during the Spring semester, the cost of 24 credit hours is significantly less than the budgeted amount and law student ‘A’ will have a greater refund amount than law student ‘B’ who took 15 hours during the Fall semester and 15 hours during the Spring semester. Law student ‘B’ will have additional funding available for the summer semester as law student ‘B’ earned enough hours during the Fall & Spring semester to receive those additional funds.  Law student ‘A’ will only receive funds for credit hours attempted over the budgeted amount. The difference in these two students refund amounts can be greater than $2,000 per semester. Details for handling this situation are given in the Ramifications and Actions sections below.

3Ls – The impact of this practice for 3Ls is minimal as 3Ls will be graduating at May commencement. One exception does exist: if a 3L does not graduate during the May commencement and needs to finish the degree during the summer.  There are not a substantial number of students who fall into this exception.  Details for handling this situation are given in the Ramifications and Actions sections below.


The ramifications of this practice will occur during the Summer semester for law students who have received excessively large refunds due to taking few credit hours during the Fall or Spring.  These law students will receive a minimal financial aid package for the summer that will not cover the full cost of their summer expenses.  The greatest impact will be for 2Ls who take light course loads during the Fall & Spring Semesters.


It is recommended that you take a look at your Fall and Spring course loads to identify if there could be a problem (see scenarios above). If you identify that you would fall into one of these scenarios, you will need to determine what amount you need to save back for the summer semester. You have two options:

1) Save some of your Fall and Spring refund to help pay for your Summer semester in a personal savings account; or

2) Return those funds to your lender through the Financial Aid Office. You can re-request those funds later or during the Summer semester if you meet eligibility requirements.

If you do not plan on taking summer classes, this does not affect you. If you have any further questions or concerns about your financial aid, please contact me.