Last spring, the Financial Aid Office received an update regarding changes to the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy and sent out an email regarding the changes on May 9, 2018. The email was then forwarded to the forum and received 26 replies from students worried about what this new policy would mean for their financial aid.
“We got new guidance from the, we call them the Feds, the folks who are in charge of making sure that we know what to do in terms of federal aid, that students are to stay in the same SAP status for an entire semester,” Sonia Wu, associate dean of admissions and financial aid, said. Wu, who graduated from New College in 1985, has worked at New College for almost 30 years.
SAP looks at a student’s cumulative record and a student’s ability to graduate within a maximum time frame with a certain standard of academic performance, according to Wu. It does not allow a student to be in back-to-back semesters of not meeting the requirements and, most importantly, it affects a student’s ability to receive federal and New College financial aid. SAP has three requirements: academic standing consistent with NCF’s requirements for graduation, ability to graduate without exceeding 46.5 cumulative unit attempts and not needing to exceed 4 units per semester contract and satisfactory completion of at least two-thirds or 67 percent of all cumulative units attempted toward graduation requirements. If a students fails to meet any SAP requirement, financial aid is at risk of being terminated or, in some cases, restricted through Financial Aid Warning or Financial Aid Probation Status.
This new policy that the office received, stating students must stay in the same SAP status for an entire semester, is a significant shift from policy in past years and impacts the way New College usually handles incompletes. Receiving an incomplete in a class from a semester, and having extended time to finish one’s work, is relatively common at New College. In past years, when students had incomplete work from the semester, they have been allowed to finish the work after the semester ends but before the financial review period ends. After completing the work and notifying their professor and advisor and receiving evaluations, they have been able to notify the Financial Aid Office and the office has gone in and redesignated the contract as satisfactory, depending on the evaluations.
This new policy changes that. Students can no longer go from unsatisfactory or incomplete SAP status to satisfactory SAP status. This essentially does away with having incompletes from the past semester and allowing the Financial Aid Office to do re-checks. According to Wu, “anything that is not satisfactory, whether its unsat or incomplete or left and didn’t finish it […] those are all things where essentially the financial aid SAP policy treats those as unsatisfactory attempts, not satisfactory attempts.”
“Somebody would say, ‘Hey, my contract just went sat, will you go and recheck,’ and as long as we’re still on the same time period it was like, gladly, you know, if i can help somebody,” Wu said. “But we’re not allowed to do that anymore.”
“It’s very important to comply with federal regulations,” Wu said. “Because we cannot endanger our ability to give students federal aid.”
Although Wu calls this change in policy “disappointing,” she hopes there is a silver lining: that students will have less incomplete work carrying over to the next semester. She hopes it will turn into a sort of “training for the world beyond New College.”
“It’s a big change but we hope that it will support students in getting their work done on time,” Wu said.