As a Financial Aid professional, you’ve got a lot on your plate— and SAP appeals are just one of your many responsibilities. But for at-risk students trying to make their case in a Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) appeal, that process is your No. 1 job. For them, it can mean the difference between pursuing the college dream or leaving it all behind. Our Director of Customer Success Managers offers these insights to consider with the coming school year on the horizon.
SAP Appeals: The Compassionate Side of the FinAid Process
“There are times when life just gets in the way—to the point of impacting academic progress,” says Kristi Punches, Director of Customer Success Managers at CampusLogic. When grades drop below the cumulative grade average required for graduation over a period of time at a particular institution, students may lose eligibility for financial aid.
But the federal regulations surrounding Satisfactory Academic Progress allow for compassion when students can’t immediately dig themselves out of that academic hole. When those special or unusual circumstances arise, students can explain the situation and appeal their case in hopes of staying in good standing, based on a decision from your school.
Each institution puts its own spin on this somewhat standardized process—but there’s nothing standard about the reasons for appeals. Undue hardship caused by a death in the family or an injury or persistent illness are among the primary reasons for failing grades. But psychological and social problems, and even learning disabilities, could trigger a SAP appeal. Every situation is unique and needs to be heavily documented—usually resulting in considerable back-and-forth between school and student to collect the required documentation.
StudentForms Enables Swifter Decision-Making
“The SAP appeal process can be time-consuming and tedious—especially for students and their families,” Punches notes. At most schools, it’s paper-driven and susceptible to confusing messaging and workflows, she says, adding, “This is where StudentForms can be a real advantage for both students and the Financial Aid Office.”
StudentForms,SM part of the CampusLogic student financial services platform, enables schools to manage SAP appeals in one place—reducing associated operating costs and processing times while improving student communications. For the SAP appeal process, it manages all notifications that prompt students to complete web-based forms and upload supporting documents via mobile device or computer. On the staff side, notifications are triggered when materials are submitted—facilitating a quick turnaround and eliminating piles of paper.
Don’t Let Legacy Processes Slow You Down
“Change is hard,” Punches acknowledges. And some schools’ SAP processes are not so cut-and-dried as to simply approve or deny an appeal, she adds. With the FinAid Office working closely with Academics—and often an even broader appeals committee—some customers say they don’t want to change legacy processes. “But that means you’re missing out on these value-added functions,” Punches says.
With this option turned on, she points out, the FinAid Office can easily bulk-load a list of students who have been identified as needing to complete a SAP appeal. Through this ‘Bulk Action’ feature, your school can send a list containing, for example, IDs for each student selected and assign the SAP appeal transaction type. If you prefer to make it the student’s responsibility to request a SAP appeal, you need only to turn on the ‘Student Requests’ feature.
Two things to keep in mind in this process:
- The student must have an ISIR loaded into StudentForms
- Only one member of the team can approve, deny, or rescind the appeal
“When customers see these two requirements,” Punches says, “they sometimes get turned off about turning on SAP.” But, she notes, there are ways to make the StudentForms process work for your process.
Try These Workarounds
“The good news is that your school can load any ISIR from any award year to accommodate the need for one in StudentForms,” Punches notes.
“Also, a workaround for schools that use committees would be to add the committee members to StudentForms and give them the ‘SAP User’ role,” she adds. “They can then review the appeal and supporting documents—and the person who is designated as the approver can indicate, in the comments, the members who made the decision.”
“Let’s go digital with tracking SAP appeals,” Punches enthuses. “Your Customer Success Manager will be right there with you to help set it up. Our goal is to continue to make life in the FinAid Office better—for everyone.”