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Satisfactory Academic Progress

This SAP policy relates to Cornell Law School (Law School) students who apply for and/or receive federal financial aid. In addition to meeting the standards for receiving financial aid, students must also meet the academic standards of the Law School. Academic standards can be found in the Law School’s Student Handbook.

Policy for Cornell Law School Financial Aid Recipients

Federal regulations (General Provision CRF 668.1) require that Cornell University 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 complete their degree within the specified maximum time frame, demonstrate they are making progress towards the completion of their degree at a pace that will ensure graduation within the maximum time frame, and achieve a GPA that is consistent with graduation requirements. This regulation applies to each financial aid applicant, whether a previous recipient or not.

Annual Evaluation

Annual financial aid SAP evaluations will be completed by the Law School’s Financial Aid Office at the end of each academic year and cannot take place until final grades have been posted. This review will determine academic eligibility for the upcoming summer, fall, and/or spring terms. Every student who applies for financial aid must maintain SAP, regardless of whether they are a first-time applicant or have received financial aid in the past. Any financial assistance offered for the next year is subject to cancellation if the minimum standards of SAP have not been met. If a student has a late grade posting or a grade change after the annual SAP evaluation, the student's SAP must be reevaluated using the new information.  The Financial Aid Office does not automatically review grade changes, but students are instructed within their SAP notification letter that it is their responsibility to inform the Financial Aid Office of a grade change.

When a student returns from a period of non-attendance from Cornell Law School, all prior academic activity will be included in future SAP evaluations.


Maximum Time Frame for Degree Completion

Cornell Law School adheres to the New York State Board of Law Examiners Instructional, Credit Hour and Course of Study Requirements. Program and course of study at the Law School must be completed no earlier than 24 months and no later than 60 months after the commencement of all law study.

Federal regulations specify that a student must complete his/her degree within 150 percent of the published length of the program to be eligible for federal aid funding. The maximum time frame at Cornell Law is measured in credit hours. For example, the J.D. program requires 84 credit hours to graduate, the maximum time frame for degree completion is 126 attempted credits (150% of 84 credit hours).

Whether or not a student receives financial aid, the credit hours considered in the maximum time frame for degree calculation are all attempted credits.  Attempted credits include:
•    Earned credits – Passed (A through D-), Satisfactory (S)
•    Repeated courses – both attempts
•    Withdrawal
•    Failures – Failed (F), Unsatisfactory (U)
•    Incomplete
•    All accepted transfer credits (including consortium agreements and study abroad courses) toward the degree program

Federal regulations do not allow for the exclusion of courses in which a student has remained past the drop period and earned a grade of ‘W” from its calculation of the maximum time frame.

Required Completion Rate

Federal regulations require that a student make steady progress toward degree completion by earning a minimum number of credit hours each semester; progress is calculated for all students by semester. In order to graduate within the maximum time frame, a student must earn at least 67% of credits hours attempted. Earned credit hours include:
•    Grades of A through D- or S (with credit)
•    Transferred credits – provided they meet degree requirements

Required Grade Point Averages

Federal regulations require the student meet a minimum 2.0 cumulative grade point average (GPA). Credits that have been transferred to the Law School are excluded from the degree GPA. For purposes of this regulation, the degree GPA will be used. Earned letter grades of A,B,C,D, and F (including repeated courses) are counted toward GPA. INC (incomplete), W (withdrawal), S/U (satisfactory/unsatisfactory), and GPA from transfer credits are not counted towards GPA.

Treatment of multiple degrees and special situations

Major Changes:  All attempted coursework is included in the SAP calculation, regardless of a student changing majors. Coursework is only excluded if a student changes academic careers.

Academic Amnesty/Expulsion: Title IV regulations do not allow for academic amnesty or expulsion of grades. All courses applicable to a student's major are included when evaluating SAP.

PE Coursework: Excluded from SAP evaluations and not eligible for federal aid.

Audited Coursework: Excluded from SAP evaluations and not eligible for federal aid.

Failing to Meet Satisfactory Academic Progress

Students failing to meet SAP standards will lose their financial aid eligibility. The Law School’s Financial Aid Office will notify them in writing.

Students terminated from receiving financial aid can reestablish eligibility by successfully completing the required number of credit hours and by attaining the overall required grade point average by the end of the next semester. Neither paying for one’s classes nor sitting out a semester is sufficient to reestablish financial aid eligibility for a student who has failed to meet SAP. If special or unusual circumstances contributed to a student’s lack of satisfactory academic progress, the student may appeal the denial of financial aid.

Appeal Process

The letter of denial from the Law School’s Financial Aid Office will describe the appeal process and a link to the appeal form will be provided. Examples of special or unusual circumstances are personal injury or illness, death of a relative, or other circumstances as determined by the Law School Registrar. The appeal must explain how the special or unusual circumstances have been resolved so that the student will be able to complete the required number of credit hours or attain the required GPA.

The appeal must be submitted to the Law School’s Financial Aid Office for evaluation. The Law School’s Financial Aid Office will respond to the appeal in writing within two weeks of receiving the complete appeal.

If the appeal is approved, the student's financial aid will be reinstated for one semester. By the end of that semester, the student must have successfully completed the required number of credit hours and attained the overall required grade point average. Students who fail to make SAP by the end of that semester will have their future financial aid eligibility terminated.

If the appeal is denied by the Financial Aid Office, 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 may submit if they can document there are additional circumstances preventing the student from making SAP. 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.