Higher Learning Advocates’ Policy Brief Addresses Impacts of Satisfactory Academic Progress on Today’s Students

SAPWASHINGTON – A satisfactory academic progress, or SAP, reset can make college more affordable for low-income Americans, especially the 39 million with some college and no credential (SCNC) population, according to a new higher education policy brief by nonprofit Higher Learning Advocates (HLA).

The brief, “Satisfactory Academic Progress: Making Financial Aid Work for Today’s Students,” highlights how a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid relies on SAP, defined as maintaining a minimum 2.0 GPA and passing enough classes to graduate within 150% of the expected timeframe. While the SAP requirement served a purpose when it was established 47 years ago, the brief also explains how SAP records have become a hidden barrier for returning adult students, especially the SCNC population, as well as recommended policy changes and clarifications to help “SAP-ed out” students return to school.

Re-enrollment of the SCNC population, a diverse group of Americans of which nearly 45% are Black, Hispanic, and Native American, has become a growing priority for institutions of higher education (IHEs). Other key points in the brief include:

  • Among those students who failed to meet SAP standards, roughly 77% were students from low-income backgrounds who lost their Pell Grant award.
  • Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous American students failed to meet SAP more than twice the rate of their white peers.
  • Expunging SAP records can particularly impact returning adult students who face challenges that may affect their academic performance, such as trouble securing stable and affordable child care, job loss, financial duress, or other circumstances outside their control.
  • Innovative responses by IHEs with proven solutions to current SAP challenges.

“When it comes to creating gateways to college re-enrollment and ladders to upward mobility for the 39 million Americans who started college but faced challenges or unforeseen circumstances years or even decades ago, they deserve another chance,” said Julie Peller, founder and executive director of HLA. “We must consider who they are – working adults, parents, financially independent – and how these competing priorities will impact their educational journeys. This brief gives explicit examples and SAP federal policy solutions that can create significant positive change for today’s students and profoundly improve lives for millions of Americans.”

The brief is also released as part of HLA’s Widen the Path campaign, working to break down barriers between higher education and the workforce.

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About Higher Learning Advocates

Higher Learning Advocates (HLA) is the leading bipartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for today’s students and their postsecondary success through policy and systems change. Established in 2017, HLA advocates for policies and support programs that ensure opportunity and promote inclusive pathways for all learners to succeed through an equitable system of higher learning, employment, and economic mobility.

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