Improving Your Academic Progress

Financial aid funds are awarded by Student Financial Aid with the understanding that students will make progress toward their chosen degree. To meet this goal, the U.S. Department of Education requires the University of Cincinnati to enforce Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress.

A new policy for academic progress was required by the Deparment of Education as of July 1, 2011. Therefore, returning students who re-enrolled at UC after this date may find a change from the previous policy.

Students are encouraged to complete a self-assessment against the Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy*. An accurate and honest review of your past academic performance can highlight changes you may need to make in order to maintain or regain your financial aid eligibility.

Assessment of Your Academic History

The areas measured by the academic progress policy (GPA, timeframe, and pace) work together to ensure your financial aid is helping you achieve your educational goals. Your self-assessment is a good way to look at these measurements to see where you need improvement.

Congratulations if your self-assessment shows you have passed all three measures of academic progress. Continued good efforts can ensure you maintain financial aid eligibility until you graduate within the required timeframe.

If your academic history shows problems, you cannot always fix your past. One area that does allow you to change the past is an I (incomplete) grade. It is important for you to work with your instructor(s) to complete the course requirements and receive a passing grade whenever you receive an I grade. The longer you delay completing these courses, the more you risk the I becoming an F or your grade lowering because you have been away from the course material too long.

Your self-assessment may also show you are having problems in one or more of the three components measured by the policy. Maybe you passed but were close to failing a measure. You want to work now to correct your performance in order to remain eligible for aid.

Improving GPA

For undergraduate students, a 2.0 college GPA is required after your second year of enrollment. This requirement is in part due to you needing a 2.0 to graduate from UC.

If your GPA is below a 2.0, you obviously need to get higher grades in your current classes to raise your overall grade point average. Unfortunately, one poor grade can pull down your GPA, but it can take several A's or other high grades to move your GPA up since your ongoing enrollment is adding to the total hours used to calculate your grade point average.

Keep in mind that your GPA and aid eligibility are always improved by doing very well in a fewer classes for a term rather than spreading yourself too thin academically. Consider a term or two of part-time enrollment to give your classes more attention for better results.

Improving Pace

Pace measures your completion rate. It looks at your enrolled vs. completed courses and requires a minimum 67%. Of course, it is important to aim for a higher completion rate to save both time and money. 67% is the bare minimum needed to achieve your degree without automatically running into timeframe problems.

Why would you want to spend your time or money (including financial aid) on coursework you do not finish? There are times when circumstances make it difficult to complete a course. But don't let this happen too often. W grades were developed to assist students in extreme situations. They were never meant as an easy way out of a course or a way to "course shop." If you are correctly signing up for courses you need, a W only means you will have to take the course again. You are responsible for using your financial aid wisely, and you certainly want to use your time and own money to complete your courses and move intentionally toward graduation.

The closer your pace calculation is to 100%, the more likely you will never have problems with this component. While no one expects to withdraw, a high pace rate does help you maintain aid eligibility in the event of an unforeseen or tragic circumstance.

Your pace may be above but near the 67% mark. If so, it is important to improve your pace calculation by completing all coursework from this point forward. Only register for courses you plan to fully complete. Your history of dropping courses or failing them is putting your financial aid eligibility at risk. Continued W's, I's, F's, and other non-passing grades – even in a single course or term – can result in you losing financial aid eligibility when you are next reviewed by Student Financial Aid.

If your pace is currently below 67%, consider each term you enroll and receive aid as a chance to improve your performance. You very much risk being deemed ineligible for aid following the summer 2012 review. You cannot afford to have ANY non-passing grades even one more course.

When pace is an issue, your best chance at having aid eligibility in the future is to change your academic performance immediately.

  • Avoid receiving any non-passing grade in courses.
  • Drop any courses you do not anticipate finishing before the 14th day of the term thereby avoiding the course being on your transcript and part of the academic progress calculation.
  • Complete all work with your instructors and seek them out at the first signs of difficulty to do the best you can in all courses.
  • Use campus resources such as the Learning Assistance Center (2441 French Hall, 513-556-3244) to get better prepared, arrange for tutoring, or receive supplemental instruction.
  • Only register for coursework required to complete your degree.
    • You do not have time to take classes for another degree or add to your electives.
  • If issues have prevented you from being academically successful or issues continue to be a concern, stop your enrollment until such time that you can successfully complete all coursework.
    • Continued enrollment and failure to complete your courses shows you are not addressing any underlying problem or concern.
    • No one ever gets closer to graduation by withdrawing from classes so don't continue to do so term-after-term.
    • If you are not completing or doing well in your classes, it is important to question what you are actively going to do differently to ensure success.
    • Sometimes it is a matter of focusing on family or personal issues away from classes so that you can be a better student when you return to the classroom.

Limits of Timeframe

You want to work efficiently to achieve your degree. At the same time, the timeframe component allows you 1.5 times the length of your program to receive aid for your degree in order to account for students who change their major or explore options — but within reason.

Keep in mind the hours needed to achieve your degree and the timeframe limits particulally when in associate or bachelor's degree programs. And know that credit hours taken for an associate degree are also counted when you continue on for your bachelor's degree program. Timeframe does not start over. Every credit hour taken while seeking your associate degree is also counting against the timeframe you have to receive a bachelor's degree. Students only begin a new timeframe for their new academic degree at the point they graduate with a bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree.

Overall the key question is "Based on the credit hours you have taken and the hours you still have to complete, can you achieve your program requirements within the timeframe allotted for financial aid eligibility?" If not, you may have to complete your program without the use of financial aid.

It is important to work with your academic advisor to seek the most direct means toward completing your degree if your current or projected enrollment is near or exceeds the timeframe component. You face losing financial aid eligibility in the future. You most certainly should not be enrolling in coursework unless it is a required part of your program.

If you have lost your eligibility due to timeframe, you may not be able to receive financial aid no matter how close you may be to finishing, even if your GPA and completion rate are excellent.

NOTE: Even in cases where timeframe is extended following a successful appeal, students may not be eligible for aid due to federal loan aggregate limits and the Federal Pell Grant limit of 6 full-time equivalent years.

* You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free download, to view and print this link.

ingot
Tangeman with MainStreet signage

It is the goal of the Student Financial Aid Office to make you financial aid eligible. But you also have a responsibility to use your aid wisely, meet the requirements outlined for maintaining eligibility, and work to complete your degree requirements in an efficient manner.

While faculty, staff and others may advise you to drop a course to protect your GPA, only you are ultimately responsible for your academic record and your on-going federal financial aid eligibility.

Staff in the Learning Assistance Center (2441 French Hall West, 513-556-3244) or staff at your branch campus can assist you in developing a gameplan to improve your course completion and success rate. Don't wait until it is too late to seek out assistance.

As well, your academic advisor along with your program degree audit can keep you on track as you take only those classes needed for your current degree program.