Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy

Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy

The University is required to establish a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy in accordance with U.S. Department of Education regulations. Student eligibility for U.S. Federal Loans is dependent on meeting SAP standards. Student records are reviewed at the end of each payment period to ensure students are making adequate progress towards completing their degree programmes.

SAP Definition

A student is making SAP when they are:

  • enrolled at least part-time;
  • progressing on all modules;
  • and expected to pass exams and coursework submitted.

Students must also be studying outside the USA and completing within 150% of the published length of their programme.


Academic Progress

US Federal requirements state that borrowers must average ‘C’ grade or above – in programmes of more than two academic years, the student must have a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least a C or its equivalent – or have academic standing consistent with the University’s requirements for graduation. 

In the UK system, this equates to a minimum of at least 45%, which is slightly above the pass mark for undergraduate students.

The pass mark for taught Masters students to progress to their Master's dissertations is 50%.

Pace of Progression

A students pace of progression will be measured prior to loan disbursement to ensure that each student completes within the maximum time frame.

The maximum time frame is 150% of the published length of the programme, e.g: 4.5 years for a 3 year BA or 1.5 years for a 1 year MA. 

  • A students pace of progression can be affected by; incompletes, withdrawals, and repetitions.
  • A postgraduate programme extension must be agreed by the academic school but must still be completed within 150% of the published length of the programme. 
  • Students will not be eligible for loans to support study outside these maximum periods.

To support enrolment reporting to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), intermittent reports are drawn down from Queen’s Student Information System (QSIS) to identify any changes to enrolment or programme.   

When and how is SAP confirmed?

Students who receive U.S. Federal Loans will be evaluated at the end of each payment period/semester. This evaluation of an academic progress assessment. Exam results will also be reviewed when results are available.

Payment periods for 2018/19 academic year

Undergraduate students will have an autumn and spring payment period and postgraduate students will also have a summer payment period. Disbursements are made at the beginning of each payment period. At Queen’s University the payment period is term-based and so the dates correspond with academic term dates.  The payment periods for the 2018-19 academic year are as follows:

Autumn semester 2018

Payment period (UG & PG): 24/09/2018 – 06/01/2019 (15 weeks)

Spring semester 2019

Payment period (UG & PG): 07/01/2019 – 31/05/2019 (21 weeks)

Summer Semester 2019

Payment period (if eligible for a third payment): 01/06/2019 – 23/09/2019 (16 weeks)

Academic Progress Assessment

Schools/Institutes will provide an academic progress report to ISS at the end of each payment period/semester. The progress report will confirm that students are meeting the SAP Definitions listed above.


What happens if I don’t make satisfactory academic progress?

At the time of determination that the SAP requirement has not been met, the student will be put on Financial Aid Warning status for the next payment period. The student will continue to be eligible to receive funding during that period.

Students who fail to make SAP after the warning period will lose their federal loan eligibility unless they successfully appeal with an academic plan and are then placed on Financial Aid Proba­tionAfter an appeal has been approved, the student will continue to be eligible to receive funding during Financial Aid Proba­tion (one payment period).


Appeals can only be based on exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances are defined as unforeseen factors or factors outside the student’s control which may adversely affect performance. Please see the General Guidelines for School Exceptional Circumstances within The University's General Regulations for further detail.

All appeals must be received within ten days of receipt of the SAP failure notice and include supporting documentation (e.g. doctors’ certificate, academic plan). All appeals must explain why you failed to make SAP and what has changed that will allow you to make SAP at the next evaluation. Your appeal must also include an academic plan.

The result of the appeal will be confirmed within ten days of receipt of the appeal. Subsequent loan disbursements will be suspended while an appeal is being processed. Each student is only permitted to appeal once during an academic year.

Academic Plan

Students must develop a plan with their school supervisor/tutor/manager. The plan must ensure that the stu­dent is able to meet the SAP by a specific time, or take the student to successful programme completion.

SAP will be reviewed at the end of the payment period to determine if the student is meeting the requirements of the academic plan. Once SAP is re-established, the Probation status will be lifted and the student will once again be eligible to receive assistance under the Title IV programme. If SAP has not been achieved at the end of the Probation period, the student's loans will be terminated.

Students will be kept informed of all issues impacting on their eligibility status.

SAP Appeal Form

Thinking of withdrawing from your programme?

Any Federal Loans student is strongly advised to contact the US Federal Loans Administrator for advice before considering withdrawal as some of the funds paid to the student may have to be immediately repaid to the US Department of Education – the Return of Title IV Funds section of the University’s US Federal Loans website provides details of the student/University liability. Failure to immediately repay this money is a Federal Offence.

  • Please see the University's Student Finance Framework for details on tuition fee liability for withdrawals. 
  • Refunds will not be applied for modules where a student has received a grade. This is set out within the University’s General Regulations and information on how to withdraw/apply for Leave of Absence is set out here.

Please Note: The University does not have the right to waive the SAP requirement for any student and it is separate from the academic requirements to remain on the course. 

Exit Counselling

Exit counselling is completed at the end of a programme or before a leave of absence and this counselling provides important information including the length of a grace period and repayment options.

Exit counselling may be repeated at any stage to review the details of a loan. Stafford loans carry a grace period of 6 months whereas a PLUS loan does not have a grace period. The loan promissory note will confirm the details of the grace period associated with that loan.

If you are considering a leave of absence please contact your School to request the appropriate form. Periods of LOA do not count towards the length of a programme.


Responsibility lies with the student to inform both their University School and the US Federal Loans Administrator immediately there is any change to their circumstances (e.g. temporary or permanent withdrawalleave of absence or extension). This is important in order to assess the impact on SAP and any impact re Return of Title IV Funds.