Letter from 39 Organizations Asks ED to Reset Satisfactory Academic Progress

SAP Reform for Today’s Students

Higher Learning Advocates and 38 organizations submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education in support of reforming SAP (satisfactory academic progress) for today’s students, especially returning adult students from the population of 40 million Americans with some college and no credential.

Under current SAP regulations, an individual’s academic performance indefinitely follows them even upon attempted reentry years later, which can result in prospective students being ineligible for critical student financial aid. However, current statute and regulations also enable institutions of higher education to lift this barrier. HLA and partner organizations asked ED to assist by issuing a “Dear Colleague” letter to financial aid administrators, providing guidance on SAP regulations including:


  • Clarify that schools have the authority to create a one-time automatic reset for students who fail to maintain SAP after a short wait-out period.
  • Remove ambiguity by clarifying what constitutes a “special circumstance,” including publishing examples of what may meet this criteria and emphasizing to IHEs that any published list of circumstances is not exhaustive, as there may be other valid reasons for an appeal.
  • Encourage IHEs to establish a clear, well-communicated, and expedited student appeals process.
  • Promote better communication from IHEs to students about SAP, its implications on their eligibility for Title IV funds, and provide early warnings and interventions for those at risk of falling short of SAP.
  • Encourage IHEs to collect and report data on the prevalence and disparate impact of students falling short of maintaining SAP.


Issuing this guidance will significantly enhance students’ prospects of returning to school, earning their credentials, and becoming strong contributing members of the American workforce.



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