Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

Federal and state regulations require students to demonstrate Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) toward their degree in order to maintain eligibility for financial aid. Cal Poly performs an annual Satisfactory Academic Progress review to apply reasonable standards for measuring whether a student, who is otherwise eligible for financial aid, is maintaining satisfactory progress toward the completion of his/her educational objective even if a student is not currently receiving financial aid.

Quarterly informational emails are sent to students who are at risk of losing future financial aid because they are not meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress standards. These informational emails are sent to give students the opportunity for academic improvement to meet SAP progress standards by the end of spring quarter. 


The Satisfactory Academic Progress annual review is conducted in June after the spring quarter grades are available. The review includes:

  1. Minimum Cumulative GPA:  2.0 Undergraduate, 3.0 Graduate
  2. Completion of Units: 75 percent of the number of units attempted for the quarters attended (as of census each quarter)
  3. Maximum Terms of Eligibility: 150% of the Published Length of Program (including units attempted at Cal Poly and all other transferred units)

Failure to make satisfactory progress in any of these areas will result in financial aid disqualification

Additionally, students who fail academic standards and are dismissed from their college are also disqualified from financial aid at Cal Poly.


Cal Poly higher education cumulative grade point average (GPA) should be a minimum 2.0 for undergraduate program and 3.0 for the graduate program.  Non-Cal Poly courses are included in GPA calculation.  Continuing Education courses that are degree applicable are included in grade point average. CEU’s are not included in GPA.

The following grades are not considered as successfully completed units:

  • Grades of I, RP, F, WU, NC, AU, RD, W
  • Challenged course grades
  • Continuing Education courses, CEU
  • Non-Cal Poly courses

Students are allowed to use financial aid for up to 36 units of remedial coursework.  Remedial courses are subject to the same completion rate requirements as other courses and subject to the maximum timeframe requirements. 


Undergraduate students cannot repeat courses in which they have earned a C or better grade. If a course that was originally taken for a letter grade is re-taken with credit/no credit grading, the original grade is NOT excluded from the GPA. Undergraduate students may repeat a maximum of 16 units at Cal Poly for purposes of improving their GPA. If the second grade is equal to or higher than the first, then it replaces the first grade. The original grade is "forgiven" from the GPA computation, but both grades appear on the student's transcript. Students who repeat coursework will only earn units for the repeat course work ONCE.

Courses repeated for the third time (with satisfactory completion grades) are not eligible for financial aid and the GPA is averaged.  Exception: Courses that are repeated as part of program requirements (such as art or music studio classes) may be funded more than twice.  GPA calculation follows the University academic policy as noted in the Cal Poly catalog.

Maximum Terms of Eligibility/PACE

Upon the annual evaluation of SAP, students are required to complete a minimum of 75% of units attempted for the preceding academic year. This is required regardless of the number of units attempted (there is no pro-ration of this requirement during terms of less than full-time enrollment).  The units attempted and completed will be reviewed as a whole and not individually by term.  For example, if a student is enrolled in 36 units during the fall, winter and spring terms combined, then 27 units must be satisfactorily completed during those terms combined; the annual evaluation of SAP will not look at each of those terms individually.
In addition, undergraduate students are to complete degree requirements in 18 terms or less; graduate students are to complete degree requirements in 6 terms or less. All students must complete their program within 150% of the published timeframe allowed for the degree. Students who fail to complete the requirements are placed on SAP disqualification and are not eligible for future financial aid for the subsequent term.

The following chart outlines the maximum terms allowed to complete a program and still be eligible for financial aid consideration.



Published Length of Program

Maximum Terms Allowed for
Financial Aid Eligibility - 150%


ALL 4-year programs 180 to 184 units required for degree:



4-year programs, 185 to 194 units required for degree:










Undergraduate 4-year programs, 195 to 204 units required for degree:
Undergraduate 5 Year Programs, 215 to 224 Units Required For Degree:
Undergraduate 5 Year Programs, 225 to 234 Units Required For Degree:
Undergraduate Incoming or Returning Transfer  
  Transfer Freshman: Incoming or Returning with 1 to 44 units Subtract 0 from  Max Terms Allowed
  Transfer Sophomore: Incoming or Returning with 45 to 89 units Subtract 3 from  Max Terms Allowed
  Transfer Junior: Incoming or Returning with 90 to 134 units Subtract 6 from  Max Terms Allowed
  Transfer Senior: Incoming or Returning with 135 or more units Subtract 9 from  Max Terms Allowed
PB2ND Second Bachelor’s Degree 0*


Published Length of Program

Maximum Terms Allowed for
Financial Aid Eligibility - 150%

Credential All Credential Programs  46 to 49 Units Required For Degree (12 units/qtr):
Graduate All Graduate Programs  45 Units Required For Degree (8 units/qtr):
Graduate Graduate Programs  48 to 50 Units Required For Degree:


Graduate Graduate Programs  60 Units Required For Degree:
Graduate Graduate Programs  72 to 74 Units Required For Degree:
Graduate  Graduate Programs  90 Units Required For Degree:

Students who change majors are subject to the time limit for the career/program as noted in the chart above.  All terms of enrollment for all majors will be used in the maximum time calculation for the appropriate career.  A change in major program will not cause the number of terms to change UNLESS the student changes major into a five-year program.

There is no pro-ration of terms based on units of enrollment; each term of enrollment (greater than zero units) will be counted regardless of the number of units attempted during that term; including summer. Terms reflected with all “W”’s (withdraw) are included in the total terms attended.

Students who transfer credit hours to Cal Poly from another college or colleges will have the maximum number of terms of eligibility calculated based on their class standing at Cal Poly.  For example, a transfer student who is considered a junior based on the credits transferred to Cal Poly (90-134) will be deemed as having used 6 terms (i.e. two years) at the previous college(s) and will have 12 terms to complete the program at Cal Poly. 

Students who begin their academic program at Cal Poly, and subsequently are disqualified or leave but then return with units transferred from another college or colleges will be calculated utilizing the same formula. For example, a student who used three terms at Cal Poly but gets disqualified and is a returning transfer student with (90-134) units will have used a total of 9 terms; the student will have 9 terms to complete their program at Cal Poly.

A student’s progress to a degree in relation to the above Maximum Terms of Eligibility will be monitored on an annual basis along with unit completion and grade point average.  Students will be notified when they are not within the 150% Maximum Terms based on their total unit completion and anticipated future remaining terms calculated on a Full-Time enrollment basis per term.  If it appears students are not meeting degree completion within the 150% required Maximum Terms, students will have their financial aid placed on hold with a negative Service Indicator.  Students will be given the option to submit an appeal indicating how the student plans to meet graduation requirements within the 150% required Maximum Terms in order to have the negative Service Indicator hold removed. 


Students who are seeking a second bachelor degree are not eligible for financial aid since the student has already completed said degree. Students who choose to pursue a 2nd master degree will be offered unsubsidized Stafford loan only and are not eligible for State University Grant (SUG). In addition, students will be allotted a maximum of six terms (100%) to complete a 2nd master degree.


For academic purposes only, a student may petition to have all grades retroactively changed to the administrative grade of "W" if he/she can demonstrate and document that there were serious and compelling reasons or circumstances that resulted in the unofficial withdrawal for the quarter in question. A student may not retroactively withdraw from selected courses during a particular quarter but must petition to withdraw from the entire quarter. The petition must be submitted within one year following the end of the term. A ‘W’ is not a passing grade and the students’ entire term will reflect 12 units attempted and 0 passed. The student likely will not meet SAP under these circumstances. There is no financial aid forgiveness of previous coursework.


Download the SAP Appeal Form
Once grades for spring term have been posted, the SAP annual evaluation is run. If a student fails to meet SAP, they will be informed by email. In addition, students can view their SAP status on their CP Portal, Student Center under, “Holds and Warnings”.  Students may appeal SAP disqualification by filing an appeal, click here for the appeal form.  The Hold and Warning Disqualification message also contains a direct link to the SAP Appeal Form. The form is available after spring grades are posted. Below are the requirements for an appeal based on each SAP disqualification status.  The deadline to appeal for a term is by the end of the 3rd week of the term.


Students may appeal SAP disqualification and must illustrate mitigating circumstances that prohibited successful higher education cumulative GPA or unit completion. A written appeal may be submitted with supporting documentation which must include:

  • An explanation of why the student has failed to meet the minimum GPA/unit completion
  • An explanation of how the student resolved or plans to avoid the mitigating circumstance
  • A concise plan for successful GPA and/or unit completion in the future
  • A letter from the student’s academic advisor verifying he/she has met with the advisor and developed a plan for SAP for future terms.
    • Any supporting documentation that may be relevant to the student case (e.g. medical/doctor notes, etc.)

Mitigating circumstances may include but are not limited to: a death in the student’s immediate family adversely impacting the student’s academic performance; illness of the student or a member of the student’s immediate family that impacted academic performance.

Note: Students working on their senior project/thesis will reflect as RP and may be SAP disqualified; RP does not count as satisfactory completion of units for financial aid purposes; once SAP is run the student will likely be disqualified. Students will need to appeal by requesting their senior project/thesis advisor email the financial aid counselor providing confirmation the student progress is satisfactory and anticipates completion by the end of the period specified by the academic plan provided within the email.


A student who has or will exceed the terms of enrollment may submit a written appeal for continued aid consideration. Appeals must include all of the following:

  • An explanation of why the student has exceeded the limit. Note: Reasons for changing majors should be included if the change in major contributed to exceeding the maximum terms allowable.
  • A concrete/definite plan detailing remaining courses needed to graduate, when they will be taken, and date degree will be completed.  Graduation plan must be reflected on your Poly Profile Planned Courses.  If approved future aid will be contingent on successful completion of plan submitted.
  • A letter from the student's academic advisor verifying the proposed graduation plan will satisfy all degree requirements.  Any changes to graduation plan must be approved by your academic advisor and submitted to the Financial Aid Office.  Deviation from the approved plan may result in loss of financial aid.



Students participating in exchanges (Study Abroad, IP, DE, NSE, USAC, GlobaLinks, etc.) for the entire academic year generally will not have grades posted at the time we run SAP in spring, thus the system cannot accurately calculate SAP. Students in this scenario will have a grace period through the end of the fall term to have grades posted in the system. If a student does not have grades reflected by the end of the grace period, they may appeal SAP disqualification and must provide information of study abroad unit completion and transcript status to indicate how SAP standards are being met.  A written appeal may be submitted with supporting documentation which must include:

  • An explanation of study abroad unit completion, GPA and transcript status
  • A letter from the student’s academic advisor verifying he/she has met with the advisor and can verify successful completion of study abroad terms.

Note: Students who choose not to appeal and maintain satisfactory academic progress for the year will automatically be reconsidered for financial aid eligibility the following year.


Download the SAP Appeal Form
Appeals are reviewed by Financial Aid counseling staff, and students will be notified of the outcome by email. If an appeal is approved, the student will be awarded for the year but reviewed for eligibility term by term.  If in a rare scenario, a new mitigating circumstance occurs during the first term of review, subsequent appeals must show the student continues to meet the plan of action and targeted completion date. There are no retroactive appeals. The final day to appeal for a term is by the end of the 3rd week of the term. Students who do not meet satisfactory academic progress at the end of the term will have their future aid canceled.





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