Catalog Policies

Satisfactory Academic Progress and Financial Aid Eligibility

To receive federal and state funds administered by the Financial Aid Office at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), students must be making measurable academic progress toward completion of an eligible degree program. Accordingly, the following Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy for students who receive financial aid is in place. These standards require that a student make academic progress during all periods of enrollment, including periods when a student did not receive financial aid. CalArts will be consistent in applying the SAP policies to full-time and part-time, independent and dependent students of all academic levels.

Students enrolling at CalArts for the first time (including transfers) are initially considered to be meeting SAP. The measurement of academic progress will be made at the conclusion of the first enrollment period and will include all acceptable transfer credits/units that the CalArts academic record contains.

When is Academic Progress Evaluated? A student’s satisfactory academic progress will be evaluated at the end of each semester (Fall and Spring). Students will not be eligible for federal funding during this time if in an ineligible SAP status.

Financial Aid Impacted by SAP

To receive financial aid, a student must be enrolled in an eligible program of study that leads to a degree/credential. Federal and state regulations and policies require all financial aid recipients meet minimum Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements to remain eligible for financial aid.

For the purpose of the SAP policy, financial aid is defined as:

  • Federal Pell Grants
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
  • Cal Grants
  • Federal Work-Study (FWS)
  • Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans
  • Federal Graduate PLUS Loans
  • Parent PLUS Loans

Financial Aid Eligibility Statuses

  • Eligible – Student is meeting the minimum academic standards or has no academic history. Fully eligible for financial aid.
  • Warning – Student did not meet minimum standards for cumulative GPA and/or 67% completion rate in the previous evaluation period. Student is still eligible for financial aid, but must reach all minimum standards by the end of the next evaluation period to maintain eligibility. 
  • Ineligible – Student has failed to meet minimum standards for cumulative GPA and/or 67% completion rate SAP at the end of the evaluation period. Student is ineligible for financial aid.
  • Timeframe – Student has attempted more than 150% of the published program length toward a Bachelor's Degree. For example, majors requiring 120 units will be allowed up to 180 attempted units (120 x 1.5 = 180). Graduate and Doctoral students must earn their degree within 150% of the timelines set by the Graduate or Doctoral School per their program. If a student exceeds these unit limits, they are not making progress toward a degree within 150% federal requirement. Student is ineligible for financial aid.

Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress Standards

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is comprised of three measurements (qualitative, quantitative, maximum timeframe). At the time of evaluation, all three requirements must be met to remain eligible for financial aid. For complete details on these measurements please see below.

Maintain required cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) based on matrix below, or higher (qualitative measure)

Undergraduate Students 2.0 GPA for all coursework completed at CalArts based on equivalency.
Graduate Students 3.0 GPA for all coursework completed at CalArts based on equivalency.
Doctoral Students 3.0 GPA for all coursework completed at CalArts based on equivalency.


Successfully complete at least 67% of the cumulative attempted units (a quantitative measure)

Complete the educational program of study (units needed to earn a degree) within 150% of the published program length.

How is the 67% completion rate calculated? The calculation is made as follows: earned units divided by attempted units = completion rate.

Successful completion of a class: Although CalArts does not follow a standard letter grading system, grades of High Pass, Pass, and Low Pass are assigned to reflect the quality of a students' work in each course. The equivalencies are calculated as follows:

HP = 4.0
P = 3.0
LP = 2.0

Please see below for how the following non-passing grades will be considered in the Satisfactory Academic Progress evaluations.

Incomplete Grades: An (I) grade is given if the student has been given approval to extend the amount of time needed to complete the course. This grade will be factored into the completion rate and maximum timeframe.

Non-Passing Grades: NC and NG=0.0. A No Credit grade is assigned to students who do not meet the minimum course requirements, and a No Grade is given if the instructor does not submit a grade for the students and will be used in determining completion rate and timeframe. If the grade is submitted later by the instructor, the student will need to contact the Financial Aid Office and we will recalculate the SAP status for the student.

Withdrawals: All institutional withdrawals are factored into the completion rate and the maximum timeframe.

Transfer Students and Transfer units: Students transferring to CalArts are required to have all prior college transcripts evaluated for transfer units. All units accepted by CalArts will be used to determine 67% completion rate and maximum timeframe of 150%.

Repeat Courses: Students repeating courses, for the first time only, can receive aid for that repeated course.  All repeat courses will be used in determining completion rate and timeframe. Actual equivalent grades are included in the cumulative GPA.

Audited Courses: Courses taken on an audit basis are not counted when determining the completion percentage or for purposes of determining your cumulative GPA.

Second Degree/Interschool Programs: Undergraduate students seeking second undergraduate degrees and graduate students seeking second graduate degrees as well as students with interschool programs (double majors) are monitored like any other student under this policy.  If the Financial Aid Office determines that the student will exceed maximum timeframe or when the students exceed the maximum timeframe allowed for their respective programs, the student will not be eligible for additional aid. Students can appeal for additional time, please see the appeal section. If the appeal is approved, the hours from the initial degree will be removed from the maximum timeframe calculation. 

Recommended Rate of Progression:

Although students ultimately determine their academic schedules with the assistance of their mentor and academic advisor and can select the number of units they enroll in each semester, the Office of Financial Aid recommends that students complete the following amount of units per year to ultimately meet the total number of units required to graduate within the standard program length.

Student Type Prescribed Program Length (in years) Recommended units completed per year
All BFA Programs 4 years 30 units
2 Year MFA Programs 2 years 30 units
3 Year MFA Programs 3 years 20 units
DMA Program 3 years 20 units
MA Program 2 years 1st year 24 units;
2nd year 12 units


How Maximum Timeframe Rate of Progression Is Determined: 

Below is a chart which demonstrates the maximum number of attempted units a student cannot exceed prior to their completion of their degree.

Academic Level Units Required to Graduate Maximum Attempted Credits
BFA 120 units 180 units
MFA or DMA 60 units 90 units
MA 36 units 54 units


How to Reestablish Eligibility: 

A student must bring their GPA completion rate up to the minimum standards of the required cumulative GPA and 67% completion rate. A student is ineligible for financial aid and cannot be reimbursed during this time.

Financial Aid Suspension Appeal Process: 

  • Mitigating Circumstances: If a student has experienced mitigating circumstances (illness, family illness, change of major) during the most recent evaluation period which lead them to not meet minimum standards for GPA and completion rate, they may submit an appeal to reinstate financial aid eligibility. A deadline for the submission of an appeal will be communicated with the suspension status email notification for the corresponding semester. Appeals received after the deadline will not be reviewed. Students who missed the deadline will have an opportunity to appeal in future semesters.

  • Timeframe Mitigating Circumstances: If a student has not completed their program of study within the 150% timeframe and there are mitigating circumstances (illness, job related, family illness, change of major), they may submit an appeal to reinstate financial aid eligibility. 

Requirements for Appeal Evaluation

  • Completion of appropriate appeal form (GPA/Completion Rate; Timeframe)
  • Personal Statement: Student must provide a concise statement explaining why they were unable to maintain SAP, what has changed, and the action to be taken to ensure they will be successful going forward; and
  • Provide acceptable documentation of extenuating circumstance(s) that prohibited them from meeting SAP 
  • Students are required to meet with their institute academic advisor and submit a copy of their academic plan to the Office of Financial Aid after the advising meeting

The following are examples of acceptable documentation to support a student’s reason for appeal:

  • Personal injury or illness - Detailed letter, on letterhead, from physician explaining dates and types of illness, recommended treatment, dates of non-attendance, prognosis, etc.
  • Death/illness or injury of a close family member - Death certificate, obituary notice; documentation of illness or injury of close family member.
  • Legal Issue - Divorce decree, separation agreement, police report detailing incident, date and those involved
  • Job Conflict - Letter from supervisor, on letterhead, stating scheduling problems, etc.
  • Disability - Letter from Disability Services Office addressing problems that arose during the semester in question and the resolution for future terms or medical documentation from other outside sources, letter from a doctor, etc.
  • Other - Any other documentation that will support the appeal (letter from faculty, or third-party source)

Appeals that are incomplete and/or lack supporting documentation are not reviewed and the student is notified. 

If the appeal is approved the student will be placed on one of two Financial Aid Eligibility Statuses: 

  • Probation – Students with approved appeals will be placed on a probation status for a prescribed number of semesters. The student will be required to follow their academic plan to allow the student to meet minimum standards within a fixed number of semesters. The student is fully eligible for financial aid as long as they are strictly following the academic plan. If at any time the student stops following the plan they will become ineligible for financial aid. If a student meets minimum standards at any time while on an academic plan their Financial Aid Eligibility Status will be updated to eligible.
  • Timeframe Probation - The student and CalArts have agreed to an academic plan. The student is fully eligible for financial aid, as long as they are strictly following the success plan. If at any time the student stops following the academic plan, they will become permanently ineligible for financial aid. Students will be permitted to extend their program when they are on Timeframe Probation.

Progress will be monitored at the end of each semester after grades are posted. If a student fails to meet any of the conditions of their Academic Plan, eligibility for future financial aid will be suspended.

All appeals are reviewed by the Financial Aid SAP Appeals Review Group. All SAP appeal decisions are final. 

If the appeal is denied the student will remain ineligible for financial aid until they meet all minimum standards. The student is responsible for determining other methods to cover their institutional charges for any terms in which they are deemed ineligible for federal or state financial aid.

​Availability of SAP Policy: The SAP policy is available to students on the CalArts Financial Aid website. Office staff may also print copies of the policy in the office if a request is made. The policy is updated as needed or whenever changes in federal regulations occur.


This policy was created pursuant to the federal regulations relating to Satisfactory Academic Progress (Sections 668.16(e).668.32(f) and 668.34).

Policy Category:
Adopted Date:
Jan 2019
Revised Date:
Dec 2023
Responsible Office:
Financial Aid