Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)


This policy has been revised and is effective for the 2014-15 academic year.  The pace of progression standard prior to the academic year 2014-15 is and will remain 75%.

The SAP Policy at Christopher Newport University (CNU) applies to financial aid recipients only. The policy is based on federal guidelines that require each college and university to ensure that student aid recipients are progressing through their academic programs at an acceptable pace while maintaining an acceptable cumulative grade point average. This policy is separate and apart from other academic policies at the university.

The SAP Policy includes three standards that must be met in order for a student to receive aid from the financial aid programs listed below. SAP is calculated at the end of every academic year. Students who fail to meet one or more of the standards below will be placed on Financial Aid Suspension.


SAP Standards 

Grade Point Average Standard:

 Undergraduate students are expected to maintain a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of:

  • 1.61 or higher with up to 48 credits attempted;
  • 2.0 or higher with 49 or more credits attempted.

 Graduate students are expected to maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0.

 Pace of Progression Standard:

Undergraduate and graduate students are expected to successfully complete at least 67% of all credits attempted. Grades of A, B, C, or any derivative of these letters are “satisfactory” for financial aid purposes. This percentage can be negatively affected by incompletes, withdrawals, and repetition of credits. *

Transfer credits accepted toward a CNU degree will count as both attempted and earned credits in calculating this completion rate.

The completion rate is calculated by dividing the cumulative number of credit hours the student has successfully completed by the cumulative number of credit hours the student has attempted.  This calculation is performed after final grades are posted by the Registrar at the end of the spring semester.

Maximum Time Frame Standard:

While a four-year timeframe for degree completion should be the goal, undergraduate students are required to have completed a bachelor’s degree from CNU within six years or once they have attempted 180 credits (includes transfer credits and represents 150% of bachelor’s degree 120 credit hour requirement). 

Graduate students are required to have completed a master’s degree from CNU within three (3) years or once they have attempted 150% of the credits (includes transfer credits) required for their academic program. **

*Repeated Courses:

All repeated course work affects the SAP Pace of Progression and Maximum Time Frame Standards. A repeated course and the original attempt must be counted as attempted credit hours and will count toward the student’s maximum time frame. However, only the higher grade of a repeated course will be used in calculating the CGPA.

**Maximum Time Frame:

A student may receive financial aid for attempted credits that do not exceed 150 percent of the published credit hours of the student’s academic program at the University (i.e. if a bachelor’s degree requires 120 credits for completion, the student must complete the program with no more than 180 attempted credit hours). This 150 percent rule applies consistently to students who have transferred, changed majors, repeated courses or seek a dual major. While it also applies to students who come to CNU to seek a second degree, in such cases, the student’s transfer credits applied to the degree and required course credits at CNU will guide the determination of Maximum Time Frame.

Financial Aid Programs Affected by SAP Standards

  • Federal Pell Grant*
  • Federal SEOG
  • Federal Direct Loan (subsidized and unsubsidized)
  • Federal Direct PLUS Loan
  • Federal TEACH Grant
  • Federal Work Study
  • Alternative/Private Loan Programs
  • Virginia Guaranteed Access Program (VGAP)
  • Virginia Commonwealth Grant
  • Merit and Need Based Scholarships

* Pell Grant recipients are limited to 12 semesters of scheduled awards. Awards received will be tracked by the US Department of Education and students are required to meet the financial aid SAP standards to receive other awards regardless of whether they have received the maximum number of scheduled Pell Grant awards.

SAP Review Process

After each academic year, after spring grades are posted, the Financial Aid Office reviews the academic records of financial aid recipients before awarding aid to returning students for the upcoming academic year.

SAP Appeal

If extenuating circumstances exist which contributed to the student’s failure to meet one of the above SAP Standards, a written appeal may be submitted. Examples of extenuating circumstances which might be grounds for an appeal include, but are not limited to, a divorce in the family, unexpected death or major hospitalization of an immediate family member, or extended hospitalization or medical condition of the student.

Issues with instructors/courses, job conflicts, misuse of time management, transportation problems, or child care conflicts DO NOT constitute as unusual mitigating circumstances and will not be considered.

The appeal must address, and document where appropriate, these extenuating circumstances, describing:

  • why the student failed to achieve SAP and;
  • what has changed that will allow the student to achieve SAP during the next academic term.

The appeal form is available on the Financial Aid Website and should be submitted to the Financial Aid Office within two weeks of receiving a notification of failure to achieve SAP standards. Appeals that don’t address the stipulations above will be denied.

Questions regarding the SAP Policy requirements and/or process should be directed the Financial Aid Office via email at and/or by calling (757) 594-7170. Members of the financial aid staff are available to assist Monday - Friday from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm.

When the Higher Education Act was preauthorized in 1998, Congress provided for a new provision commonly referred to as the Return of Title IV Funds. Under this provision, students who completely withdraw from the University for any reason, including medical withdrawals, may be required to return all or some of their Title IV funding to the Department of Education. Funds which fall into this category are:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Direct Loan (Subsidized or Unsubsidized)
  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
  • Federal Direct Parent Loans (PLUS)

The return of funds mandate is based upon the concept that students earn their financial aid in proportion to the amount of time in which they are enrolled. Under this reasoning, a student who withdraws in the second week of classes has earned less of his or her financial aid than a student who withdraws in the seventh week. Once 60% of the semester is completed, a student is considered to have earned all of his or her financial aid and will not be required to return any of the funds.

Please note that this policy does not apply to students who withdraw from the University prior to the first day of classes. In such a situation, the refund policy of the school is used.

What Will be Returned?

When a student has withdrawn from the University, we go through a series of calculations to determine what responsibilities the school and the student have for returning financial aid. 

1. We determine the percentage of the enrollment period the student completed. This is calculated by dividing the number of days attended by the number of days in the semester. To find this, we are required to determine when you stopped attending-- not when your classes were dropped.

2. Multiply the amount of financial aid disbursed by the percentage of the semester completed. This is the amount of financial aid earned.

3. The amounts earned and disbursed are compared. If more aid was disbursed than was earned, the difference will be returned to the Title IV programs. 

The responsibility for returning unearned aid is allocated to the school and to the student. To determine the portion each may be required to return, CNU must determine what portion of disbursed aid could have been used to cover University charges and what portion would have been returned to the student. 

If the school is required to return funds to a Title IV program, the school will do so as specified by law. Once this happens, the student may owe CNU. 

Once a student withdraws, we determine, using the steps above, what responsibilities CNU and the student have. We will mail the student a letter indicating what CNU returned, what the student owes to CNU, and what the student owes to a Title IV program.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a Federal law that provides students with access to inspect and review their educational records and protects students' right to privacy by limiting access to that educational record. 

The Financial Aid Office will not release student information to parents unless there is a signed copy of the release of information form on file with Financial Aid.

Please note that each office has a different responsibility under FERPA, and each office has a different release form.

We work closely with students to ensure that they receive the best financial aid advice available. If you, the student, have an understanding of your rights and responsibilities in the financial aid process, we can give you our assistance much more effectively.

Student Rights
Students have the right to know that financial aid programs are available at Christopher Newport University, the deadlines for submitting applications, and the manner in which student aid is distributed.  Students also have the right to request additional information on the programs available or included in a financial aid award and the requirements for any program. However, students need to be aware that it is the University's responsibility for maintaining confidentiality in providing information to students or family members.

Student Responsibilities
Student are responsible for reading, understanding or questioning, and maintaining a copy of all forms or agreements they sign. They also should complete these forms as accurately as possible. Reporting incorrect information is a violation of law and may be considered a criminal offense if incorrect information is knowingly reported.

Students should return all information requests as quickly and completely as possible. 

Students must perform the work that is agreed upon when accepting a Federal Work Study award. Students must also notify the Office of Financial Aid if there is any change to their enrollment hours, name, or contact information, marital status, financial status, or withdrawal from the University. Students must also inform the Office of Financial Aid if they receive outside resources, such as Veterans Benefits, or if these resources change. Reporting this information in a timely manner helps this office to accurately process financial aid.

Students should familiarize themselves with the refund policies contained in the University Catalog. This information is available from the Office of Student Accounts.

Students who receive a loan need to complete the Master Promissory Note, which will be mailed to you by your guaranty agency. This note is necessary in order for the University to receive any loan funds.  Also, student must complete entrance and exit counseling before entering and leaving the University.

Above all, students must affirm that the financial aid funds they receive are used to expenses related to attendance at CNU.