Satisfactory Academic Progress-Undergraduate Students

All students (including international students) enrolled at Messiah College are subject to the academic standards of the College, which are printed in the Graduation Information section of the College catalog. In addition, students receiving financial aid, in order to continue to receive financial aid, must meet other requirements as described in detail in this Statement of Satisfactory Academic Progress. The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended, mandates institutions of higher education to establish minimum standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for students receiving financial aid. Program Integrity Regulations, modifying these requirements, were issued October 29, 2010, with an effective date of July 1, 2011.  In order to comply with these requirements, Messiah College has established the following definition or standard of Satisfactory Academic Progress for undergraduate students.

Full-Time and Less Than Full-Time Undergraduate Students

This policy applies to both full-time and less than full-time students:

  • To be considered full-time, an undergraduate student must be enrolled for at least 12 credits per semester.
  • To be considered less than full-time, an undergraduate student must be enrolled for less than 12 credit hours per semester.

To be considered to be maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress, both full-time and less than full-time students must meet the following standards:


Have successfully completed an average of 67% of credit hours attempted during each semester of attendance (summer academic work can be included under some circumstances for demonstrating Satisfactory Academic Progress, but not for renewal of Messiah College Academic/Merit Scholarships).

Explanation of the use of average credit hours:

Use of average credit hours over the student's entire academic career allows the student to complete fewer credits in later semesters while still maintaining Satisfactory Academic Progress standing, provided the student completed enough credits during earlier semesters in order to maintain an average completion rate of 67% over the student's entire academic history. 

Example of the use of average credit hours completed:

Meredith attempts and completes 16 credits in each of her first two semesters of attendance (32 total/100% of attempted credits).  Then, in each of her third and fourth semesters, she attempts 16 credits, but only completes 10 credits.  Meredith has now attempted 64 credits and completed 52 credits after four semesters of attendance.  Even though she did not complete 12 credits in each of her four semesters, she is considered to have Satisfactory Academic Progress standing because she has completed 81% of the credits that she has attempted ((52 total credits completed divided by 64 credits attempted equals 81% completed).

Qualitative Measure

Maintain a cumulative grade point average of:

  • 1.8 after 24 credit hours have been completed but before 57 credit hours have been completed;
  • 2.0 between the time that 57 credit hours have been completed and the student graduates.

Grade Level Progression

In order to advance to the next academic grade level for financial aid purposes, the following credit hours must be completed:
To advance to              You must complete:
    Level 2 -                       24 credit hours
    Level 3 -                       57 credit hours
    Level 4 -                       90 credit hours

Special Note for Undergraduate Students:
For most majors, it takes 123 credit hours to obtain a Bachelor's Degree. To graduate in four years, a student must enroll for an average of 16 credit hours per semester. Enrolling for 12 credit hours per semester (minimum for full-time) would extend graduation by one full calendar year. There are some financial aid programs available for a maximum of eight semesters, possibly making financing of a fifth year quite difficult.

All Messiah College institutional aid programs are limited to eight semesters. Receipt of any form of institutional aid in a given semester counts as one semester for all forms of institutional aid.

Remedies for Non-Satisfactory Academic Progress Standing:
A student who does not meet this standard will need to complete the following steps in order to regain Satisfactory Academic Progress standing.

Warning Status

Following the first semester in which the student does not meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress standard, the student will automatically be placed in a financial aid warning status for the next semester.  The student will receive a financial aid warning letter from the Financial Aid Office.  This letter is simply to inform the student of the steps necessary to regain Satisfactory Academic Progress standing.  The student continues to be eligible for financial aid during the warning semester.      During the warning semester, the student must regain Satisfactory Academic Progress standing by 1.) completing enough credit hours so that the total credits completed over the student's academic career is at least 67% of the total credits attempted over the student's academic career, and/or 2.) achieving the GPA necessary to meet the standard defined above.  For example, if the student attempted 16 credits during each of the first and second semesters, but completed only 9 credits during the first semester, she would need to complete 13 credits during the second semester in order to average 67% of credits completed over the two semesters (22 credits completed divided by 32 credits attempted equals 68.8% completed.  Completing only 21 credits over the two semesters would give the student only 65.6% completed.)

Probation Status

If, by the end of the warning semester, the student is not able to achieve Satisfactory Academic Progress status, the student will not be able to receive financial aid for the next period of enrollment unless the student successfully appeals.

The requirements of this Satisfactory Academic Progress policy can be appealed based on the following circumstances:

  • Death of a relative
  • Student injury or illness
  • Other special circumstance.

The student's appeal must include:

  • An explanation of why the student failed to make Satisfactory Academic Progress.  In other words, explain how the circumstance prevented the student from performing up to his or her normal academic potential.
  • A description of what has changed that will allow the student to achieve Satisfactory Academic Progress status after the probationary semester.

To appeal the loss of Satisfactory Academic Progress status, the student should complete the Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form and submit it to the Messiah College Financial Aid Office, along with any documentation supporting the appeal.  In order to obtain a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form, the student must contact the Financial Aid Office and discuss the grounds for appeal with a Financial Aid Administrator.  The Financial Aid Administrator will then send the Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form to the student if the situation warrants.

Academic Plan

A part of the appeal process can be the establishment of an academic plan designed to help the student regain Satisfactory Academic Progress standing.  The Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal form includes space for such a plan.   The academic plan is worked out between the student, his or her academic advisor, and/or the Registrars' Office.   The academic plan is not required at the start of the probationary semester.  But, if the student fails to regain Satisfactory Academic Progress status at the end of the probationary semester, the student must be successfully following the academic plan in order to continue to receive financial aid. The academic plan must define how the student can regain Satisfactory Academic Progress status by a specific point in time.

Frequency of Progress Checks

The Financial Aid Office will conduct the official check of Satisfactory Academic Progress each semester of attendance.  As noted above, the student will receive a warning letter if the semester performance is below the standard, but the student's financial aid eligibility will not be affected until the student has failed the Satisfactory Academic Progress standard after the warning semester.   If a student fails to achieve Satisfactory Academic Progress, the student will be informed of this via letter or electronic mail from the Financial Aid Office.  Included in this communication will be information on the student's status, the effect of this status on the student's financial aid eligibility, and any actions the student must take.  The notice will be sent to the student's most current address on file. It is the responsibility of the student to inform the College of a correct mailing address at all times.  If sent by electronic mail, the student's Messiah College electronic mail address will be used for all such communications   Since the student's probationary semester could be any semester of an academic year, and since the break between semesters is not always long enough to allow the Satisfactory Academic Progress review to be completed before the start of the next semester, it is expected that students will be familiar with this policy and aware of their own situation as related to Satisfactory Academic Progress.  Even if the next semester starts before a Satisfactory Academic Progress notice has been sent to the student, it will still be necessary to adjust the student's financial aid in accordance with the policy once the Satisfactory Academic Progress review is completed.

Maximum Time Frame

Under Federal regulation, the maximum time frame that a student may have to complete an undergraduate program is 150% of the published length of the educational program for a full-time student. Messiah College has chosen to make this measurement on a credit hour basis.  In most majors, a student must have 123 credit hours to complete an undergraduate degree at Messiah College. Therefore, it is expected that all undergraduate students will complete all degree requirements by the time the student has completed 185 credit hours. Students who do not complete their program within this time frame can continue to attend, but they will not be able to continue to receive financial aid.

Repeated Courses

The student's enrollment status may include repeating any coursework previously taken in the program but may not include more than one repetition of a previously passed course, or any repetition of a previously passed course due to the student's failing other coursework.  In other words, an institution may not pay a student for retaking previously passed courses if the student is required to retake those courses because the student failed a different course in a prior term.  For example, if a student enrolls in four classes in the fall semester and passes three of them, the student might retake the failed class in the next semester, and the institution might require the student to retake one of the other classes which is co-requisite with the failed class.  In the semester during which the student retakes these classes, the failed class would be included in the student's enrollment, but the co-requisite class passed in the fall would not be included in determining the student's enrollment status for the spring semester, for financial aid purposes.


Generally, all periods of the student's enrollment count when judging Satisfactory Academic Progress, even periods in which the student did not receive financial aid funds. However, for students who change majors, credits attempted and grades earned that do not count toward the new major will not be included in the SAP determination.

A change of major does not negate the Messiah College institutional aid programs limit of eight semesters.  All semesters in which institutional aid were received count toward this limit.

Students seeking to earn additional degrees will be placed into the grade level progression based on the number of credits accepted toward the additional degree and financial aid eligibility will be based on the grade level determined in this way. Transfer hours counted toward completion of the student's program will be counted as both hours attempted and hours completed, but will not be counted in the calculation of GPA. Incomplete courses, course withdrawals, and, in most cases, noncredit remedial courses will not be counted toward Satisfactory Academic Progress if the course was dropped on or prior to the last day to DROP a course without being charged for the course.  Courses dropped after that date will be counted as credits attempted when determining Satisfactory Academic Progress. This policy does not supersede the requirements for the continuation of Messiah College academic scholarships published elsewhere.