Where Can Schools Find Guidance On SAP Flexibility Due To COVID-19?

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This AskRegs Knowledgebase Q&A was updated on August 24, 2020 to reflect extended deadlines in the August 21, 2020 Electronic Announcement. Per the announcement, the following COVID-19 flexibilities apply through the end of the payment period that includes December 31, 2020 or the end of the payment period that includes the end date for the federally declared qualifying emergency related to COVID-19, whichever occurs later.

COVID-19 related flexibilities for satisfactory academic progress (SAP) can be found in the March 5, 2020 Electronic Announcement which states:

"Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)
An institution’s SAP appeal policy (34 CFR § 668.34(a)(9)) must, among other things, describe the basis on which a student may file an appeal: the death of a relative, an injury or illness of the student, or other special 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 may form the basis of a student’s SAP appeal even if not specifically articulated in the institution’s SAP policy."

The April 3, 2020 Electronic Announcement notes additional flexibilities provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), stating:

"Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) (§ 668.34)
The CARES Act provides additional flexibilities to institutions regarding the calculation of SAP. An institution of higher education may, as a result of a qualifying emergency, exclude from the quantitative component of the calculation any attempted credits that were not completed by such student without requiring an appeal by such student. The Department intends to provide additional guidance regarding how to implement these additional flexibilities."

The May 15, 2020 Electronic Announcement provides further details on the exclusion of attempted credits from SAP, stating the following:

"Section 3509 of the CARES Act allows institutions to exclude from the quantitative component (pace measurement) of satisfactory academic progress (SAP) attempted credits a student was unable to complete as a result of the COVID-19 national emergency. It is not necessary for a student to have filed a SAP appeal for an institution to exercise this flexibility. However, to exclude attempted credits from SAP, an institution must have reasonably determined that the student’s failure to complete those credits was the result of a COVID-19 related circumstance. Allowable circumstances include, but are not limited to, illness of the student or family member, need to become a caregiver or first responder, economic hardship, added work hours, loss of childcare, inability to continue with classes via distance education, inability to access wi-fi due to closed facilities. If an institution temporarily ceases operations during a period of enrollment, attempted credits for all affected students (specific to that enrollment period) may be excluded.

Regarding the effect of excluding attempted credits on maximum timeframe, SAP regulations require that the pace at which students progresses through the program ensures completion of that program within the maximum timeframe. A four-year program consisting of 120 credit hours with a maximum timeframe of 180 credit hours (150 percent of program length) must have a pace of 66.666 percent (rounded to 67 percent), cumulatively measured at each interval, to ensure students complete within maximum timeframe. For example, the pace of a student who has completed 78 of 120 attempted hours is 65 percent (78/120), below what is necessary to be making SAP. However, if 12 credits the student attempted but was unable to complete in spring of 2020 are excluded due to a COVID-19 related circumstance, the pace becomes 72 percent (79/108) and he or she is making SAP. The 12 credits are effectively excluded from the maximum timeframe as well as the measurement of pace."

See also the following AskRegs Q&As:

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