Financial Aid for Graduate Students

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy


To be eligible for federal financial aid, graduate and professional students must maintain satisfactory academic progress (SAP), which includes maintaining the academic standards and degree progress required for their programs of study, as well as completing the degree within a maximum number of attempted units and a maximum number of semesters enrolled.

The requirements will change in fall 2012.

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Reasonable Degree Progress

To be eligible for financial aid, graduate and professional students must be making reasonable degree progress. Reasonable degree progress for graduate and professional students is defined by their respective programs in accordance with university policy as stated in the Catalogue.

Reasonable Degree Progress

To be eligible for financial aid, graduate and professional students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0. In some cases, the University Committee on Curriculum has approved different GPA requirements for professional schools. Students receiving only grades of IP or CR will also be considered to reasonable degree progress. The university will not deviate from policies governing the calculation of the grade point average through inclusion or exclusion of course work.

Maximum Unit Allowance

Students pursuing graduate and professional degrees can apply for financial aid for up to the maximum number of units of course work required for the particular program of study. Course work transferred to the university in partial fulfillment of the degree requirements will be subtracted from the unit allowance.

Maximum Semester Allowance

Students pursuing graduate and professional degrees can apply for financial aid for the equivalent of up to eight full-time semesters for a master’s degree and 10 full-time semesters for a doctoral degree.

Students in authorized dual-degree programs of generally longer duration than single- degree programs may be granted an increase in the semester allowances commensurate with the additional program requirements.

Failure to Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress

Students whose academic standing or degree progress falls below the standard will be placed on financial aid warning during the next semester of registration. If their academic standing or degree progress is not raised to the standard by the end of the financial aid warning semester, the student will be considered ineligible and all financial aid will be terminated for this student until the requirements have been met. In addition, students on warning who receive grades of D, W, UW, IN, F, IX, MG, NC, NR, NP and V will no longer be considered to be making satisfactory academic progress and will become immediately ineligible for financial aid. Students who exceed the maximum unit or semester allowance are ineligible for financial aid. Only one, one-semester financial aid warning is available to students throughout their degree programs. Students who subsequently fall below the standard will be considered ineligible for financial aid.

Regaining Financial Aid Eligibility

Students who are notified that they are on financial aid warning should consult their academic advisers.

Students who are no longer eligible for financial aid may have their eligibility reinstated if they successfully complete sufficient units and/or improve their academic averages to meet stated requirements.

Students with extenuating circumstances may appeal the determination that they are not meeting satisfactory academic progress requirements. The following can be considered: extended illness; one-time extenuating circumstances that have since been resolved; and enrollment limitations due to academic advisement. The student and adviser must submit a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form with complete supporting documentation to the Financial Aid Office. The student must also provide a written appeal that includes the following information/explanation: (a) What caused the work at USC to fall below acceptable standards? Students should be specific. (b) How have those conflicts been resolved? (c) How does the student intend to maintain good academic standards and progress toward his or her degree if the appeal is granted? The appeal will be evaluated and the student will be notified of the decision. Some appeals are approved semester-by-semester by SAP Contract. Students placed on a SAP Contract are eligible for financial aid strictly according to the terms of the contract. The contract is an agreement between the student, the academic adviser and the Financial Aid Office in which the student commits to following a specific academic plan. Any deviation by the student from the terms of the contract will result in the forfeiture of future financial aid eligibility.