SAP: Don’t Let It Become an Equity Issue

May 2, 2016
By Carrie Warick, Director of Partnerships and Policy

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is an often overlooked element of federal financial aid programs that can have big consequences for students. Increasingly in the policy space, policymakers suggest using SAP as an avenue to help improve college completion rates. While improving college completion rates is vital to our mission, NCAN does not believe that SAP is the right avenue to achieve this goal. In a memo released this week, I outline how making additional changes to SAP, that would require low-income students to meet higher standards than high-income students, is a serious equity issue. Download the report here or bookmark for future updates. 

The Higher Education Act is currently up for reauthorization, and NCAN anticipates that Satisfactory Academic Progress policy will be open for discussion and changes, even if it does not receive the same headlines as other programs. However, changes to this policy could have large impacts on NCAN members’ students, who are more likely to be attending school while balancing other responsibilities or working. Students who are working and/or taking loans to complete school already have a great deal of “skin in the game” invested in their education. And research shows that many students already struggle with the current requirements. This memo demonstrates why many proposals to “strengthen” SAP will actually have negative consequences for students. 

NCAN will be distributing this memo to key staff members on Capitol Hill and will continue to make it part of our HEA reauthorization discussions. NCAN members should use this memo widely with their own elected officials, at both the federal and state level, when needing to demonstrate that merit-based aid programs or “strengthening SAP” will not have the intended effect of increasing college completion. 

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