Satisfactory Academic Progress

1.    Overview

All students who receive US Title IV funding (W D Ford Federal Direct Loans) whilst studying at the University of Leeds are required to make satisfactory academic progress (SAP) against the University’s defined and enforced standards in order to continue to be eligible to receive the funding. Although the University has an institutional policy for standard academic achievement, this policy relates specifically to US students in receipt of Title IV funding. It should be noted that the University standards for all enrolled students on the same course apply to all regardless of the individual student’s source of funding.

The US Department of Education requires that the University of Leeds, in line with CFR 34 688.34, checks a student’s progression at the end of each payment period, to ensure they are meeting the criteria outlined in section 2. This is measured both qualitatively and quantitatively (definitions for these can be found at the end of this document) as described in Section 2. 

2. General SAP criteria

Quantitative measurement – Taught Students

•    US Title IV regulations state that a student must complete their programme of study in a maximum of 150% of the normal time taken to complete the programme (for example a three year programme must be able to be completed in no more than 4.5 years). This time scale is known as the ‘maximum timeframe’ (CFR 34 668.34(a)(5)(ii)). This includes any previous period of study at other institutions for the same programme.
•    Periods of interruption will not count towards this calculation for federal loan purposes but will count towards the University’s maximum period of registration as outlined in the Academic Regulatory Framework.
•    If a student has attended part of the programme below full time intensity, then this calculation is based on full time equivalent of their studies (for example 2 years at 50% study is the equivalent of 1 year full time study).

Quantitative measurement – Research Students (nonterm programmes)

•    There is no requirement to set a maximum timeframe for research postgraduate programmes as they are considered ‘nonterm’.The maximum timeframe, therefore, for research postgraduate study will be in line with the standard timescales set out in the ‘Suspensions/Extensions of Study’ policy.

Qualitative measurement

CFR 34 668.34(a)(4)(ii) states, ‘the student must have a GPA of at least a “C” or equivalent, or have academic standing consistent with the institution's requirements for graduation’, maintaining good academic standing throughout. 

Undergraduates and taught postgraduates

Undergraduate students are expected to maintain an average grade of at least 40 (Third Class) to enable them to graduate from their degree course. 

Taught postgraduate students are expected to maintain an average grade of 50 (Pass) to enable them to graduate from their degree course. 

The US Loans Administration team will check the student record to determine if a taught student is meeting this criterion. The student record is maintained by the students’ departments and a centralised Operations team to ensure their status and standing is correct and up to date. 
Grades are ratified at the end of each academic year to determine eligibility to progress into the next academic session, or graduate from a degree programme. If the expected grade average is not achieved on a specific module then the student will be offered the opportunity to resit the assessment for that module at the end of the year to ensure they maintain good academic standing. 

3. Frequency of SAP checks

SAP will be checked as follows in accordance with CFR 34 668.34:

•    Undergraduates (and multi-year taught postgraduate programmes) – Annually and prior to the start of the new academic year once grades are conferred as part of the progression exercise.
•    Taught postgraduate (single-year programmes) – prior to each payment period.

•    Research (one year programme) – prior to each payment period.
•    Research (multi-year programme) - annually in advance of the second payment period.
Note: SAP for research students is confirmed directly with supervisors. 

SAP checks for taught students

Disbursement period Semester Level checked SAP period
01 October – 31 January Autumn

All taught students

Previous academic year
01 February – 30 June Spring Taught postgraduates (single-year programmes) Autumn semester
01 July – 30 September Summer Taught postgraduates (single-year programmes) Spring

SAP checks for research

Disbursement period Level checked SAP period checked
01 October – 31 March All research students Previous academic year
01 April – 30 September All research students 01 October – 31 March

4. If a student does not make SAP

Students who are not able to maintain good academic standing are deemed for Title IV purposes unable to progress. 

If it is determined, either through checks on the academic record or by correspondence with a tutor, that a student is not meeting SAP then the US Loan Administration team will contact the student directly. This will serve to notify the student of the impact this will have on their eligibility to receive Title IV funding and to inform them they are not meeting SAP. Instructions will also be provided on what action the student can take next (see Section 4b)

(a) Financial Aid Warning
If a student is no longer maintaining SAP they will be advised in writing by US Loans Administration team and issued with a ‘Financial Aid Warning’. This warning will last for one payment period (that is until the next disbursement) during which time student can still receive Financial Aid.
Instructions will be provided to the student by email regarding how to submit an appeal and the timescales within which the appeal must be submitted (see section 4(b)). 

(b) Appeals
The University does not have the right to waive the SAP requirement for any student. Students failing to regain SAP by the payment period following a financial aid warning being issued will no longer be eligible for Financial Aid unless they are successful in an appeal. The appeal should be submitted to the Student Funding manager.  Students who receive a ‘Financial Aid Warning’ may appeal within 14 calendar days of the notification date, and will be given the opportunity to demonstrate exceptional circumstances.

Exceptional circumstances may include:

•    The death of a relative (parent, spouse, sibling, child).
•    The extended illness of an immediate family member (parent, spouse, sibling, child).
•    The extended illness of or injury to the student.
•    Other special circumstances as determined by the Student Funding manager.

Students will be required to indicate why they believe financial aid should not be terminated and state what has changed in their situation that will allow them to meet satisfactory academic progress at the next evaluation date. Students will also be required to supply documentary evidence in support of their appeal. This may include:

•    A copy of death certificate
•    A medical certificate from a registered doctor or psychiatrist
•    A statement from tutor or other senior School official
•    Bank statements or financial accounts
•    Other relevant evidence specific to the appeal

The student will also be required to submit information to evidence what has changed that will enable them to once again meet the SAP requirements at the next evaluation point (CFR 34 668.34 (a)(9)(iii)). This may include:

•    an agreed academic plan, drawn up by a supervisor or tutor, that shows a clear set of steps that are required to meet revised outcomes
•    evidence of grades obtained as part of resits showing modules previously fail have been passed

All appeals should be submitted in writing along with supporting documentation to:

Alison Jackson - Student Funding Manager
Student Funding
Level 9, Marjorie and Arnold Ziff Building
Leeds University

Disbursement of Title IV funding will not be made while an appeal is being processed.

(c) Communication of the Appeal Outcome
The outcome of the appeal will be communicated to the student in writing within 21 days of submission providing all necessary supporting evidence is complete. The outcome of the appeal is final.

(d) Financial Aid Probation
Once a student has successfully appealed a decision they will be placed on Financial Aid Probation, and continue to be eligible to receive Title IV funding for one further payment period (CFR 34 668.34 (a)(8)(i)).

A student who has their Financial Aid suspended but continues to self-fund their studies, can regain probationary status should they reach Satisfactory Academic Progress in the future. They are entitled to apply for and to receive Financial Aid.

5. How to re-establish Title IV eligibility

Following a period of FA warning/probation, or a period of failing SAP, a student will need to demonstrate that they have fulfilled the original academic requirements that had not been met, leading them to failing SAP. This will generally be through resubmission of assessment but can also be via formal confirmation from a Supervisor in the case of research students. 
For all undergraduate and taught postgraduate students (non-research) a check will also be carried out to ensure they can complete the remainder of the course within 150% maximum timeframe prior to any Title IV funding being reinstated. 
Students exceeding the 150% time limit cannot receive Federal Aid and cannot be reinstated at any point.

US Loan Administration Team
University of Leeds
April 2024  

Definitions – CFR 34 668.34 (b)

Appeal - Appeal means a process by which a student who is not meeting the institution's satisfactory academic progress standards petitions the institution for reconsideration of the student's eligibility for title IV, HEA program assistance.

Financial aid probation - Financial aid probation means a status assigned by an institution to a student who fails to make satisfactory academic progress and who has appealed and has had eligibility for aid reinstated.

Financial aid warning - Financial aid warning means a status assigned to a student who fails to make satisfactory academic progress at an institution that evaluates academic progress at the end of each payment period.

Maximum timeframe
1.    For an undergraduate program measured in credit hours, the Maximum Timeframe is a period that is no longer than 150 percent of the published length of the educational program, as measured in credit hours, or expressed in calendar time; 
2.    For an undergraduate program measured in clock hours, the Maximum Timeframe is a period that is no longer than 150 percent of the published length of the educational program, as measured by the cumulative number of clock hours the student is required to complete and expressed in calendar time; and 
3.    For a graduate program, the Maximum Timeframe is a period defined by the institution based on the length of the educational program.