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Policies and Disclosures

Attendance Policy

You probably know that attending class is the best thing to do to ensure comprehension of the subject and a good grade. But did you know that class attendance is required if you get financial aid?

You are paying to attend NIU, so it seems obvious that going to class is important on a financial level. Staying focused on academic success seems like a no-brainer. However, you may not realize that federal financial aid can be reduced or canceled if you withdraw from or fail a class that you have never attended.

Attendance Matters is an NIU initiative to help students understand the importance of regular attendance on their college success. Sometimes students run into legitimate problems that affect attendance. If you are having problems or an illness that is affecting your ability to attend class, ask for help from your teacher or counselor. They may have options to help you!


Verification Process

Verification is a process used to confirm information submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to ensure its accuracy. Any student who completes a FAFSA may be selected for verification by the FAFSA processor for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). DOE uses data models to select students. Selected students are assigned verification groups that determine the data elements each student has to verify. The list of items to verify will be different across selected students. NIU must follow all federal verification requirements for any selected students. In addition to students selected by DOE, NIU selects a small number of students based on conflicting or inconsistent information or data that appears to have been submitted in error.

The data elements you may be asked to verify includes but is not limited to the IRS adjusted gross income and taxes paid, income earned from work (for non-tax filers), certain untaxed income items, household size, number in college, receipt of food stamps/SNAP benefit, child support paid and any other inconsistent or conflicting information. If you are selected for verification you should not assume that your data is incorrect or that you have done anything wrong. Once you are selected for verification, please do not make changes to your FAFSA data. Send the requested documents to us and we will make any necessary changes.

Read more about the Verification Process

If you are selected for verification the documents you must provide with any necessary instructions will be posted on your MyNIU “To Do List”. You will receive an email from Financial Aid and Scholarship Office anytime an item is posted to that list. Beginning in late January preceding a new academic year, NIU loads FAFSA data received from DOE into our student system and updates the To Do List. For original FAFSAs for admitted and current students this occurs most business days. FAFSA data received by NIU before a student is admitted is held in a temporary file and loaded once the student is admitted. If a student’s name, social security number or date of birth is different on the FAFSA than in the NIU student system, the data is manually reviewed prior to processing.

If a student makes changes to FAFSA data, NIU will receive a change file. That file may require additional review before it is processed and the To Do List is updated. This generally occurs within 3 business days but may take longer during peak processing periods. If you make changes to your FAFSA after you have received a financial aid award or disbursement, all future disbursements will be put on hold until verification is complete. If that verification results in a change to your aid eligibility you will receive a new financial aid award in no more than two weeks.

If information contained on a federal tax return must be verified, personal copies of a tax return cannot be used. DOE only allows schools to use information from the IRS. There are two allowable options:

  1. Update income information on your FAFSA with the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. This is the best option for timely submission. The tax return has to be processed by the IRS before you can utilize this option.
  2. Request an IRS Tax Return Transcript information.

Verification Processing Time and Deadlines

If selected for Verification, please submit all requested documentation as quickly as possible so that your aid application may be processed in a timely manner. Verification review will begin once all verification documents are received. While verification review is generally complete in one to two days, during peak processing times, particularly late summer, verification review may take up to two weeks.

  • You will not receive an official Financial Aid Award and financial aid will not be disbursed to your student account until verification is complete.
  • For all forms of federal aid, verification documents must be received in sufficient time to complete verification review, make any required changes to your FAFSA, receive the updated FAFSA output from DOE and award and originate aid by the last day of the last term within an award year that you will attend. Although we will make every effort to serve you through your last day of attendance in an award year, the verification, packaging and origination process could take up to two weeks. View a list of term dates.
  • To receive a Pell Grant, if you are a student with a Pell eligible EFC on your last day of attendance, you may submit verification documents within 120 days of your last day of attendance for an award year.
  • The State of Illinois Monetary Award Program, MAP Grant, also requires compliance with federal verification regulations. Each year the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, ISAC, establishes billing deadlines for both Fall and Spring. Students who submit verification documents after November 1 may lose any Fall MAP Grant eligibility and students who submit verification documents after April 1 may lose Spring eligibility.

We are happy to provide an estimate of your financial aid eligibility based on unverified information upon request.

Verification requirements may be waived for students who are only eligible for a PLUS loan, unsubsidized Direct Loan, private scholarships and/or forms of aid that do not require a FAFSA to establish eligibility.


What is Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)?

Federal and state regulations require that students are making Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) to be eligible to receive financial aid including student loans and federal campus work-study. There are three standards of SAP that are measured at the end of each semester to establish eligibility for aid for the next semester the student will attend. The standards reviewed are cumulative GPA, rate of completion (Pace) and maximum timeframe.

Read more about Satisfactory Academic Progress

About SAP Standards

SAP Standards

Based on changes in federal regulation or guidance, NIU academic policy or practice, changes to program criteria and length and other factors, the GPA, pace or maximum timeframe criteria may change. Any change generally coincides with the evaluation at the end of a Fall semester. As progress is evaluated at the end of a semester, the resulting status is the status effective for the next semester the student attends even if the student stops out and the criteria has changed prior to the student’s return.

Undergraduate Standards

Cumulative GPA

  • Criteria for evaluations at the conclusion of Spring 2017, Summer 2017 and Fall 2017.

All students who are candidates for academic dismissal due to a semester or cumulative GPA have failed to meet the GPA standard of SAP even if the student is reinstated. Other undergraduates:

  • 1.60 or higher for students who have attended 3 or fewer semesters and have less than 45 credit hours
  • 2.00 or higher – all other undergraduates

Pace

  • Earned hours must equal or exceed 67 percent of all attempted hours since beginning degree. 66.6 percent will be rounded up.
  • Credit hours for courses that are withdrawn, incomplete (grade of I) or have grades of F and U are counted as attempted hours but are not counted as earned hours.
  • Repeat courses will count in attempted hours each time the course is taken. If a course is passed more than once, the associated hours will only count in earned hours once.
  • Audit courses are not counted in attempted or earned hours.

Maximum Timeframe

  • 180 attempted hours including transfer hours
  • 225 attempted hours for post-baccalaureate students inclusive of the transfer or NIU hours associated with the first baccalaureate degree.
Graduate Standards

Cumulative GPA

  • 3.00 or higher

Pace

  • Earned hours must equal or exceed 67 percent of all attempted hours since beginning degree. 66.6 percent will be rounded up.
  • Credit hours for courses with a grade of C-, D, F, U, WP, WF, I, IN, NR and NG are not considered successfully completed and are counted as attempted hours but are not counted as earned hours.
  • Courses in which grades of A, B, C, P, S or IP have been successfully completed and are used to determine earned hours.
  • Repeat courses will count in attempted hours each time the course is taken. If a course is passed more than once, the associated hours will only count in earned hours once.
  • Audit courses are not counted in attempted or earned hours.

Maximum Timeframe

Degree Program Maximum Hours Attempted
Master's degree unless otherwise published in the Graduate Catalog or at www.niu.edu/financial-aid 58
Combined Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics and Internship Program 100
Master of Arts in Communicative Disorders with a specialization in Rehabilitation Counseling 80
Master of Arts in Psychology 72
Master of Arts in Teaching with a specialization in Elementary Education 70
Master of Fine Arts in Art 108
Master of Physical Therapy 80
Master of Public Administration 75
Master of Public Health 70
Master of Science in Applied Family and Child Studies 80
Master of Science in Education in Counseling 80
Master of Science in Education in Special Education 80
Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Nursing Education 72
Doctoral degree unless otherwise published in the Graduate Catalog or at www.niu.edu/financial-aid 150
Doctor of Audiology 180
Doctor of Education in Counselor Education and Supervision 158
Doctor of Philosophy and Psychology 192
Law Standards

Cumulative GPA

  • 2.00 for law students who began prior to Fall 2012
  • 2.20 for law students whose first term was Fall 2012 or later

Pace

Earned hours must equal or exceed 67 percent of all attempted hours since beginning degree. 66.6 percent will be rounded up.

  • Credit hours for courses that are withdrawn, incomplete (grade of I or IN) or have grades of F and U are counted as attempted hours but are not counted as earned hours.
  • Courses in which grades of A, B, C, D, P, S or IP have been successfully completed and are used to determine earned hours.
  • Repeat courses will count in attempted hours each time the course is taken. If a course is passed more than once, the associated hours will only count in earned hours once.
  • Audit courses are not counted in attempted or earned hours.

Maximum Timeframe

  • 135 attempted hours

About SAP Statuses

What are the SAP statuses and what do they mean?

Meet

SAP status for students meeting all standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress.

Warning

An undergraduate student who begins a semester meeting all standards but falls below the cumulative GPA and/or Pace standards at the end of the semester is placed on Financial Aid Warning. Students on Warning can continue to receive financial aid. A status of Warning is only valid for one semester. At the conclusion of the semester the status will change to Meet or Not Meet.

A student who begins a semester on Warning and achieves both the cumulative GPA and Pace standards by the end of the semester and is within maximum timeframe returns to good standing. The SAP status will change to Meet.

Not Meet.

Students who do not meet all standards of SAP at the conclusion of a semester of warning. Students with a status of Not Meet are not eligible for financial aid.

A student who attends a semester on Warning and does not meet all standards at the end of the semester is ineligible for state and federal financial aid. The SAP status will change to Not Meet. A letter and email will be sent to the student.

A student who exceeds maximum timeframe will also have a SAP status of Not Meet. NIU notifies undergraduate students when they are approaching maximum timeframe. However, federal regulations do not provide for a warning semester. Once a student exceeds maximum timeframe, the student is no longer financial aid eligible.

Plan

A student who is Not Meet(ing) SAP standards and is no longer eligible for financial aid whose academic performance was impacted by a special circumstance may appeal. Part of the appeal and approval process includes a plan to return to Meet(ing) the standards. If the appeal is approved, the student will have a SAP status of Plan. Students with a status of Plan are eligible for aid.

A student who attends a semester on Plan and meets all the SAP standards at the end of the semester will return to a status of Meet.

A student who attends a semester on Plan and does not achieve all the standards of SAP but who does meet the criteria established in the Plan will continue to have a status of Plan.

A student who enters a semester on Plan and does not meet all the SAP standards and does not meet or exceed the criteria of the Plan will lose eligibility for aid and will have a status of Not Meet.

Probation

A student who is Not Meet(ing ) SAP standards with an approved appeal who is able to achieve the SAP standards within one semester can have a status of Probation. Probation does require a written appeal based on special circumstances. It does not however require an academic plan. A status of Probation is only valid for one semester. If, at the end of a semester of Probation, a student is Not Meet(ing) all SAP standards, the student is ineligible for aid and assigned a status of Not Meet.

About SAP Evaluations

How and when is SAP evaluated?

SAP is evaluated at the end of each semester including summer for all students who enrolled for that semester regardless of whether the student applied for or received financial aid. The result of that evaluation determines a student’s SAP status and financial aid eligibility for the immediately following semester that the student attends.

For example: three students who attended Spring 2014 were evaluated after all of their grades were received. The evaluations for each resulted in a SAP status of Warning.

  • One of the students attended Summer 2014 on Warning and was evaluated again at the end of Summer resulting in a status of Meet. The student attended Fall 2013 with a status of Meet.
  • The second student did not attend Summer and entered Fall 2014 with a status of Warning. At the end of Fall, the evaluation resulted in a status of Not Meet effective beginning with the next semester, after Fall 2014, the student attends. The status will remain Not Meet until the student either
    • attends without financial aid and reestablishes eligibility by earning the required GPA and meeting the completion rate before exceeding maximum timeframe or
    • submits an appeal which is approved and an academic plan that ensures that the student is able to meet the SAP standards by a specific point in time is developed.
  • The third student did not attend again until Fall 2015 and entered that semester with a status of Warning.

About Reestablishing Eligibility

How can I reestablish eligibility for financial aid?
  • A student who loses financial aid eligibility and has a SAP status of Not Meet can attend, if otherwise allowed by NIU Academic and Student Conduct policy, without receiving financial aid. Once the student meets all SAP standards, the student will reestablish eligibility and have a status of Meet for the next the semester the student attends.
  • A student may file an appeal based on special circumstances.
    • If the student will be able to meet all SAP standards in one semester an academic plan is not required and students with an approved appeal will have a status of Probation.
    • If the student needs more than one semester to meet all SAP standards, an academic plan is required and student with an approved appeal will have a status of Plan.
Are there special circumstances?

SAP appeals must be based on extenuating circumstances that could not have been anticipated by the student and impacted the student's ability to perform academically. Special circumstances include but are not limited to: the death of a relative or close friend; an injury or illness of the student or a family member; personal or family crisis; or unanticipated changes in employment schedule. Generally, poor academic performance due to a lack of effort or difficulty of courses during the semester is not a special circumstance. However, other academic related circumstances such as time management difficulties, poor study skills, or lack of academic preparedness during the first undergraduate year of NIU attendance MAY be considered.

If a SAP appeal is approved, it is important to understand that the approval is based on the premise that the student's plan to restore their academic record to meeting the SAP standards will be successful. For this reason, any future appeals based on the same extenuating circumstances cannot be considered.

Maximum Timeframe

Students should plan coursework to complete within maximum timeframe. Students have a generous but reasonable and finite number of attempted hours to complete their degree or lose financial aid eligibility.

For example, the maximum timeframe for undergraduate students is 150% of the hours required for a bachelor’s degree. The additional 60 credit hours, equivalent to two full academic years, can accommodate limited disruption in enrollment and/ or retaking classes as well as double majors and minors. The federal intent of maximum timeframe is to prevent students from continuing to add majors or change programs to delay degree completion and prolong receipt of financial aid. As students approach maximum timeframe, they are advised to determine the courses needed to complete all requirements for one major and only take courses for an additional major or a minor if maximum timeframe allows.

Undergraduate students may appeal maximum timeframe if a second major or a minor is required for the degree. One change in major for undergraduates or program for graduates may be considered a special circumstance. Changes of major or program that occur after an undergraduate student has attempted 120 hours or a graduate student has attempted 20 hours will only be allowed if recommended by an academic advisor and it is unlikely the student will be able to complete the current major. Undergraduate students who transfer to NIU and have transfer hours that do not apply to outstanding NIU degree requirements may also appeal maximum timeframe. For both change of major and transfer hours it is the responsibility of the student to document which courses do not apply to the current program.

Post-Baccalaureate Students

Post-baccalaureate students who exceed maximum timeframe may appeal for an extension of maximum timeframe if the number of hours attempted since the student began work on the current bachelor’s degree is less than 150% of the hours required for that student when the student was admitted to the current program. It is the student’s responsibility to document the outstanding degree requirements when the student was admitted to the current bachelor’s program.

Graduate Students

Graduate students cannot appeal maximum timeframe based on taking extra courses to maintain enrollment eligibility for assistantships or fellowships or taking coursework beyond the master’s level without being admitted to a post master’s program. Federal financial aid is for courses taken to meet degree requirements not courses taken for other enrollment purposes.

The maximum timeframe established for doctoral programs includes all hours attempted at the graduate level including those while enrolled as a student-at-large (SAL) or a master’s degree student. Many students take courses as a SAL or master level student that later meet the doctoral requirements. If a doctoral student exceeds the maximum time frame and has not exceeded 135 hours based on a combination of hours completed prior to acceptance into the doctoral program that meet doctoral requirements and hours attempted since admission to the program, the student can provide this information through the appeal process. Additionally, if the combination of courses attempted after completing a master's degree, including graduate student-at-large and doctoral courses, and the courses completed as a master's student that apply to the doctoral program is less than 150, or the maximum timeframe for the program, the student may appeal. The appeal will be approved and the plan will establish the new maximum time frame for the student.

Are there appeal limits?

Generally the same special circumstance cannot be used in more than one SAP appeal. If a student has an ongoing circumstance that prevents success, the student is advised to adjust enrollment and/or seek academic, medical and other support services. For example, if a fulltime student has a chronic medical condition that results in the student withdrawing from one or more courses over multiple semesters and the student is, therefore, not meeting the completion rate/pace requirement, the student may need to register for a reduced course load for future semesters. Similarly, if work or family commitments cause a student to not successfully complete all courses for more than one semester, the student is advised to carefully evaluate the number of courses they can successfully complete based on other commitments before registering for future semesters.

Based on the circumstances of an appeal, the student’s academic record and the number of times a student has appealed, a student may be granted a terminal approval and plan. A terminal approval means that no further appeals will be considered during for the student’s current degree level. The student will be notified of this status. If, at any future term the student does not meet the criteria of the plan or achieve the cumulative GPA and pace standards prior to exceeding maximum timeframe, the student will lose aid eligibility.

About Preparing an Appeal

What is included in a SAP appeal?
  1. Personal statement
  2. Documentation
  3. Dean/Academic advisor meeting and course plan
What do I need to include in my personal statement?
What happened?
Explain the special circumstances (problem/incident) that led to your not meeting satisfactory academic progress. It is important that you outline the semesters, dates and time period involved. If you had multiple situations, explain all of them in detail.
How did it impact my academic performance?
Fully explain how your special circumstances impacted your academic performance.
What will be different?
Explain why future academic success will not be impaired by your special circumstance. Detail all corrective measures you have or will put in place to assure that you will return to and maintain satisfactory academic progress. Fully explain and document where possible, all tools and resources you will be utilizing.
What would be appropriate documentation?

Documentation may include, but is not limited to:

  • Death certificate, obituary
  • Divorce decree
  • Written statements on company letterhead from doctors, counselor, advisors etc. that reference your name, the diagnosis, dates of treatment and length that situation has or was occurring. If a family member’s health issue is part of your appeal provide similar documentation.
  • Reports of incidents such as police reports, insurance damage, bills for services related to an emergency
When and how will I be notified of the appeal decision?

The SAP Appeals Committee meets regularly to review appeals. You should plan for 2-3 weeks from the time you submit all required documents to hear the results of your appeal. It is important that you monitor your NIU student email and MyNIU as the appeal committee may request additional documentation. Appeal decision notifications are sent to your NIU student email.

When is the last date to submit a SAP appeal?
Summer 2017 Fall 2017 Spring 2018
July November April

Dates are for students enrolled in Regular Summer Session. Contact the Student Financial Aid Office for deadline dates if you are only enrolled in an Early Summer or Study Abroad program.

Do you have a sample SAP appeal letter?

  Date:     August 1, 2013

  Name:  John Doe

  Z-ID:      Z1234567

  Re:         SAP Appeal

 (What happened and how did it affect my academic performance)

 Last spring semester I wasn’t feeling well and was missing a lot of classes. I went to the campus Health  Center and it turns out I had mononucleosis. I ended up missing classes for 3 weeks (Feb 18-March 9). I went to my mid-terms but had fallen so far behind that I didn’t do well. I wasn’t able to catch up and my  grades really suffered.

 (Student success plan)

I am back to normal now, healthy and ready to begin the fall semester. I will be retaking the classes I  failed. In the future, I plan to contact my professors if I find myself sick or for any reason not able to  attend classes. I will make sure they know why I am missing class and work with them to keep up with all  assignments. I am working with a Success Specialist from the Student Academic Success Office and will continue to meet with them throughout the fall semester.

 (Documentation Attached)

    1. Doctor’s note that shows diagnosis of mononucleosis.
    2. Copy of test result that shows I was clear of mononucleosis.
    3. Letter from Success Specialist that confirms our past meetings and dates scheduled for meetings in fall.