Federal Satisfactory Academic Progress

Policy for MBA Students

At Johnson, this policy on Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is applied to all Johnson students, regardless of whether financial aid was awarded in the term. In addition to meeting the standard for receiving financial aid, students must also meet the academic standards for their specific MBA program. Failure to meet the below standards will have academic as well as financial aid implications. Federal regulations require that Johnson review the academic progress of students who apply for and/or receive financial assistance. SAP is comprised of three areas as required by federal regulations. A student must:

  1. Complete their degree within a specified maximum timeframe;
  2. Demonstrate they are making progress towards the completion of their degree within the maximum timeframe; and,
  3. Achieve a cumulative grade point average (GPA) that is consistent with meeting graduation requirements.

This regulation applies to each financial aid applicant, whether a previous recipient or not.


Academic progress is evaluated at the end of each term. This evaluation is completed through a review of grades received, courses attempted, progress toward completing the program/graduate degree and GPA.

Audited and PE Coursework is excluded from SAP evaluations and not eligible for Federal Aid. English as a Second Language (ESL) courses that are required as part of the student’s degree program will be considered in the SAP evaluation. Remedial Coursework does not occur at the graduate or professional level at Cornell and as a result, has no impact on SAP.

There is no allowance for academic amnesty and all courses applicable to a student’s program (whenever taken) must be included in evaluating a student’s satisfactory academic progress. This applies to the number of credits attempted and completed as well as the GPA. When a student returns from a period of non-attendance from Cornell, all prior academic activity will be included in future SAP evaluations.

1. Maximum Time Frame for Degree Completion

Students are required to complete their program of study within 150% of the length of the academic program. Failure of a student to complete their program within 150% of the published program length will result in failure to make SAP. For a 60-credit MBA program, a student would reach the maximum timeframe when reaching an attempted 90 credits. Note that this regulation measures credits attempted, even if they are not earned. All grades of No Grade Reported (NGR), Incomplete (I), withdrawal (W), failing grades (F) and unsatisfactory (U/UX) are counted in the measure of attempted credits. A repeated course is counted two times in a student’s attempted credits.

2. Required Completion Rate

Federal regulations require that a student must progress through their program at a pace that will ensure graduation within the maximum timeframe. Progress is measured for students cumulatively and is calculated using standard rounding rules. In order to graduate within the maximum timeframe, a student must complete at least 67% of credits attempted. For example, a full-time student who attempts 18 credits in a term must successfully complete 12 credits in that term to meet this requirement. Earned credits include Passed (A+ through D-), Satisfactory (S), and Multi-Term Course (R). All grades of No Grade Reported (NGR), Incomplete (I), withdrawal (W), failing grades (F) and U/UX are counted in the measure of attempted credits, even though they are not earned credits.

3. Required Grade Point Averages

Federal regulations require that a student meet minimum cumulative GPA standards to retain eligibility for aid. To meet SAP standards, a student must maintain a cumulative GPA and a Core GPA as defined in the table below. For the purposes of this regulation, the overall Johnson GPA will be used. The overall Johnson GPA is comprised of all courses designated as NCC, NBA (including NBAB, NBAE, NBAT, and NBAY), NMI, HADM, AEM, and any Cornell University elective courses at the 5000 level or higher and any course the student petitions to be counted towards their MBA. All grades of Incomplete (I), failing grades (F) and Unsatisfactory (U/UX) are considered an F in the calculation of GPA each term.

Term Core GPA Cumulative GPA
Summer 1* 2.50 2.50
Fall 1 2.50 2.50
Spring 1 2.50 2.70
Fall 2 2.50 2.70
Spring 2 2.50 2.70
*Not all programs have a summer term

Failing to Meet Satisfactory Academic Progress

The first time a student fails to meet one or more of the areas of progress above by the end of the term, the student will receive a warning letter. The letter will outline the area or areas that need improvement. A student who receives a warning letter will have one additional term to meet SAP. If a student again fails to meet SAP, the student will lose their financial aid eligibility. They will be notified in writing of their status by the Johnson Financial Aid Office. Students terminated from receiving financial aid can reestablish eligibility by successfully earning the cumulative credits and GPA required for SAP. Neither paying for one’s classes nor sitting out a term is sufficient to reestablish the financial aid eligibility of a student who has failed to meet SAP. If a special or unusual circumstance contributed to a student’s inability to meet SAP, the student may appeal the denial of financial aid.

Appeal Process

The letter of denial from the Johnson Financial Aid Office will describe the appeal process and a link to the appeal form will be provided.  This form provides the opportunity to appeal for reinstatement of your student aid eligibility. This form should only be completed if you have encountered extenuating circumstances that prohibited you from meeting financial aid satisfactory academic progress.

Valid reasons for a SAP appeal include death of a relative, an injury or illness or other extenuating circumstances. Circumstances related to an outbreak of COVID-19, including, but not limited to, the illness of a student or family member, compliance with a quarantine period, or the general disruption resulting from such an outbreak will also be considered under extenuating circumstances. Lack of awareness of withdrawal policies or requirements for financial aid satisfactory academic progress are not acceptable reasons to appeal.  

The appeal must explain why the student failed to make SAP and what has changed in the situation that will allow the student to make SAP at the next evaluation. The Johnson Financial Aid Office may request additional documentation at any point while evaluating an appeal. Documentation examples include, but are not limited to a letter from a doctor, medical care provider, or objective third party (e.g. a minister, social worker, counselor, facilitator, or other professional) that supports the student’s situation.

The appeal form will be reviewed by a Committee of staff members from Johnson Student Services, the Johnson Registrar’s Office, and the Johnson Financial Aid Office. The college will respond to the appeal in writing within two weeks of receiving the complete appeal and provide a copy to the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment.

If the appeal is approved and the College determines that the student should be able to meet cumulative SAP standards by the end of the next term, the student’s financial aid will be reinstated for one term and the student will be given an academic plan to follow. By the end of that term, the student must have successfully completed the required number of credits and/or attained the overall required GPA. Students who fail to make SAP by the end of that term will have their future financial aid eligibility terminated.

If the appeal is denied, the student will be notified by email of the decision. This notification will also make the student aware of their opportunity to respond and provide more information and documentation regarding their extenuating circumstances, if applicable. While there is no official appeal deadline, all information should be submitted during the term the student is seeking aid, and not after.

Federal regulations prevent a student from submitting the same appeal two semesters in a row. However, there is no limit to the number of appeals a student can submit if they can document there are new circumstances preventing the student from meeting SAP standards. Similarly, there is no limit to the number of semesters a student can be on financial aid probation as long as an approved appeal or academic plan is in place and the student continues to make progress toward their degree.