Federal regulations require the Office of Student Financial Aid to monitor the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) of graduate students. The Iowa State Graduate College monitors GPA of graduate students, and the SAP policy monitors length to degree.

The allowed length to degree is determined by the ISU Graduate College and enforced by the SAP Policy. The allowed length to degree is outlined in the Graduate College Handbook, Chapter 4.

DegreeSemesters Enrolled
Ph.D. (began Ph.D. at ISU with Master’s earned)10
Ph.D. (began Ph.D. at ISU without Master’s earned)14

Approaching the Maximum Time Frame

Graduate students approaching the maximum time frame of their degree will be notified by the Office of Student Financial Aid and will remain eligible for financial aid until the limit outlined above is met.

SAP Suspension

Graduate students placed on SAP Suspension are not eligible for financial aid and must appeal for the reinstatement of their aid. Approval of the appeal is not guaranteed.

Students may be suspended for one or both of the following reasons:

  1. Meet or exceed the maximum time frame allowed to obtain a degree.
  2. Withdraw from all semester credit hours or receive all non-passing semester grades or earn all incomplete semester grades or any combination of those three in back-to back-semesters.


Students will be notified via a targeted message in AccessPlus that their aid is suspended, and the deadline to appeal for the reinstatement of aid will be included in the targeted message. An email will be sent to the student when the targeted message is viewable in AccessPlus.

Additionally, graduate students may meet their aggregate Federal Direct Loan borrowing limit while obtaining their degree. Approval of a SAP appeal does not reinstate Federal Direct Loans for students who have met the aggregate borrowing limit.