Cuesta College has recently revised its Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy to promote the academic planning and success of its students with financial need. In order to receive federal financial aid, students must make satisfactory academic progress as defined in this policy. The Financial Aid Office checks your progress using the standards detailed below at the end of each term.  It is your responsibility to meet these standards.

Note: All periods of enrollment will be evaluated regardless of whether or not financial aid was received.  Additionally, federal regulations require that any courses excluded from GPA by an academic renewal process must be included in the SAP review. 

Recent Updates:

The following changes are being made to the Cuesta SAP policy effective August 1st, 2022. All students submitting successful SAP appeals will now be placed on a probation plan for a specific number of terms, based on the Comprehensive Student Education Plan (CSEP) created with our academic counselors and submitted with the appeal.

Previously, students submitting an appeal could either be placed on a probation plan that would expire at the end of the award year, or have a set number of units removed from the calculation of the maximum timeframe for their program through a unit “reset”.


A student must maintain ALL of the following standards or they will be ineligible for federal student aid.


Minimum Requirement for all coursework attempted

Qualitative (GPA)

Cumulative GPA is at least 2.0

Quantitative (completion rate)

Student must pass 67% of units attempted 

Maximum Time Frame

Attempted units may not exceed 150% of the number of units required to complete a student's educational objective


At Cuesta we calculate an average number of units that it takes a student to complete their degree. Our most recent data shows that students need 88 units to complete an Associate’s degree or certain high unit certificate programs (like nursing or the Psychiatric Technician program), and 24 units for a normal certificate program. We are using that number to calculate our 150% limit. This information will be updated with new unit averages in July, prior to the new academic year, if there any substantial changes. 



For the purposes of SAP calculations, attempted units include all units in which a student has enrolled regardless of whether or not they finished the class or received a grade for their work.  Courses that are dropped prior to the census date will not be included, but any course that receives a grade of W, or F, I, or similar incomplete grades will be included in the calculation. 

In order to retain eligibility for financial aid, a student must complete 67% of the units they attempt cumulatively. 

Below are some examples of how completion rate is calculated:

Student A:

Attended Fall semester. Attempted 12 units, completed 7 units.

Completion rate is calculated as 7/12 = 58%, student did not meet the 67% requirement.



Student B:

Attended Fall semester. Attempted 12 units, completed 9 units.

Completion rate is calculated as 9/12 = 75%, student met the 67% requirement.



Student C:

Attended Fall and Spring semesters for two years. Attempted 48 units, completed 34 units.

Completion rate is calculated as 34/48 = 71%, student met the 67% requirement.



Student D:

Attended Fall and Spring semesters for two years. Attempted 48 units, completed 31 units.

Completion rate is calculated as 31/48 = 65%, student did not meet the 67% requirement.



Grade symbols of A, B, C, D, or F received at Cuesta College will be used to calculate grade point average (GPA). Courses completed with CR, P, I, NC, NP, W, or WF will NOT be used in calculating a student’s GPA, but they will be used in the determination of the other SAP standards.   



If a student attempts more than 150% of the units required to complete the educational goal (degree or certificate) that they have declared to the Admissions and Records office, they are ineligible for federal student aid.

Educational Goal

Units required to complete goal

Maximum units allowed

Associate Degree



Transfer requirements



Certificate program*



*Certain certificate programs (e.g. nursing) require more than 24 units to complete and this higher amount will be used to calculate eligibility in the SAP review process. In some cases, however, an appeal may still be requested in order to document eligibility.


The Financial Aid office evaluates SAP at the end of each term to determine students’ eligibility for financial aid. Based on their academic performance, a student is placed in one of the following statuses:



Eligible for federal student aid?

Description / Notes

Satisfactory (SAT)


Student is meeting all SAP standards. 



Student failed to meet one or more of the SAP standards.

Students only receive one warning term.  If students fail to meet all SAP standards by the end of their warning term, they will be placed on suspension.

Suspension (UNSAT)


Student has failed to meet SAP standards for two consecutive terms.

Students on financial aid suspension may regain eligibility for financial aid by:

  1. Filing a successful SAP appeal if there are extenuating circumstances; OR
  2. Attending classes without financial aid until they meet all SAP standards. This method is known as “reinstatement.”

Probation (PLAN)


Student has submitted a SAP appeal which was subsequently approved.

Student must adhere strictly to the following rules or they will be disqualified:

  1. Pass at least 67% of the classes for the term.
  2. Earn a 2.0 GPA for the term.
  3. Take only those courses that count towards your certificate or degree.

Approved appeals will place students on probation for a specific number of terms, based on the Comprehensive Student Education Plan (CSEP) on file with our academic counselors when the appeal is approved.

If a student does not return to good standing or finish their studies after the specified number of enrolled terms, they will be disqualified from further Federal aid

Disqualified (DISQ)


Student was on probation but failed to meet the terms of the plan.

Student is no longer able to submit a SAP appeal unless catastrophic events have occurred.  




If students have experienced extenuating circumstances that affected their academic performance, they may submit a SAP appeal. To do so, visit our document submission site and use the [+ - Request] button in the upper-right to request an appeal.      

You will also be required to submit a SAP workshop completion certificate. SAP workshop found here: 

Appeal decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and may require the student to provide additional documentation for further review. There is no guarantee that an appeal will result in financial aid being revised and/or reinstated; the decision of the Financial Aid office is final.

Appeals are typically filed in the following situations: 

  • Serious illness or accident;
  • Death in the family or other family emergency; or
  • Withdrawal for military service


All appeals must contain:

1.    A complete SAP appeal form for the correct award year;
Note: Financial aid award years begin in August and end in July. For example, the 2022-2023 year consists of the Fall 2022, Spring 2023, and Summer 2023 terms.

2.    A personal statement that explains the reasons for the student’s inability to meet SAP standards and how that situation has been resolved; and

3.    A Comprehensive Student Education Plan (CSEP), created by one of our academic counselors. The CSEP must show all the courses required to complete the student’s studies at Cuesta, and when those courses will be taken.

Note: If you are receiving aid under the terms of a SAP probation plan, and you deviate from your CSEP, it is vitally important that you contact us.

Appeals that arrive after a term has been completed will be considered for the upcoming term only. We cannot review retroactive appeals. The last day to Submit a SAP appeal for a given term is the last day of classes for that term. 


For financial aid purposes, courses may be repeated consistent with district academic standards, as identified in the college catalog.  However, all repeated units will count toward Maximum Time Frame. Students may receive financial aid for repeat course work which they have previously passed with a D or better only once.

There is an exception for courses which require repeats. Students taking a required repeat course should work with the Financial Aid Office to ensure those credits are counted appropriately for financial aid eligibility. Students may need to provide documentation regarding the requirement to repeat.


Students are allowed to receive financial aid for remedial units if the remedial classes are a prerequisite for entrance into a regular college program.  Financial aid cannot be received for more than 30 attempted units of remedial classes.  Remedial units must be taken in recommended sequence.

ESL coursework must be part of an eligible program of study to receive financial aid. ESL coursework is not an approved program in itself. A student enrolled in ESL classes, who is not in an eligible program of study, is not eligible for federal student aid.



ESL coursework that will be included in the SAP review


(2.0 GPA, cumulative)

ESL courses that are given letter grades (A,B,C,D,F) will be included in the determination of whether students meet this standard. 

ESL courses that are routinely given P/NP grades (level 1 and 2 courses) will not be included in the determination of whether students meet this standard.


(67% completion rate, cumulative)

All ESL courses are included in the determination of whether students meet this standard.

Maximum Time Frame

No ESL courses are counted towards the maximum time frame standard.


All transfer credits that Cuesta evaluators have determined will count toward the student’s current program will also be included in the SAP determinations above.  Both the calculation of overall completion rate and overall GPA will use data from other schools attended and recorded in our system by evaluators in the Cuesta Admissions & Records office.

ROUNDING: At Cuesta we do round up in our SAP calculations, if your completion rate is .6665, it will round to 67%.


Appeals must be complete and submitted by the last day of classes of the term for which you are appealing. If you are in the Psych Tech program, please call the office for the deadline.