Senator Booker Introduces Legislation Aimed at Preserving and Expanding Access to Federal Student Aid  

Senator Booker Introduces Legislation Aimed at Preserving and Expanding Access to Federal Student Aid  

Approximately 40 percent of first-year Pell Grant recipients are at risk of losing aid due to overly restrictive eligibility requirements  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced legislation that will preserve and expand access to federal student aid for college students. Specifically, the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Reset and Reform Act of 2020 will restore federal aid eligibility for students who had previously failed to meet existing requirements needed to receive financial assistance.

Congress found that existing “Satisfactory Academic Progress” or SAP requirements for federal student aid programs, such as completing a certain number of credits or courses and meeting a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0, have become increasingly strict and inflexible for students over the last 40 years. A recent study focused on three Minnesota community colleges by Higher Learning Advocates found that 29 percent of students in 2019 did not maintain SAP requirements. Similarly, approximately 40 percent of first-year Pell Grant recipients are at risk of losing aid due to their inability to meet SAP criteria’s course credit component.

Current SAP policies disproportionately harm communities of color, specifically students of Black, Latino, and Native American descent. For the 2015-2016 school year, 57 percent of black students, 47 percent of Latino students, and 51 percent of Native American students relied on Pell Grants compared to 39 percent of all undergraduate students. Allowing students’ SAP requirements to be reset serves as a second chance for students to earn a degree and helps move higher education institutions towards more equitable education policies and practices.

“For so many, pursuing a college degree is a path to economic opportunity, but as the costs of higher education continue to rise drastically year after year, we should be working to ensure that more students, not less, are eligible and have access to federal student aid,” said Senator Booker. “Creating more flexibility in student federal aid eligibility requirements will enable more hardworking students to continue to pursue their path towards a degree regardless of circumstance or ability to pay.”

The Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Reset and Reform Act amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 in the following ways:

o   Apply to students in all categories (full-time, part-time, undergrad, graduate, etc.) and has the same strictness level as the policy applied to students not receiving financial assistance

o   Credit hours from another institution that are accepted towards a student’s educational program count as both attempted and completed hours

o   Students with previous ineligibility or failure to meet SAP requirements who have not been enrolled in school for two years are eligible for a SAP reset.

  • The legislation also outlines changes to the frequency of SAP evaluations and communications:

o   Each institution of higher education that enrolls students receiving grants, loans, or work assistance will review SAP progress at the end of each payment period — those institutions that run on payment periods shorter than the semester system will review student progress on a semester-like period of 12-18 weeks.

o   Higher education institutions are required to send a financial aid warning at the end of each semester-based payment period to students failing to meet the SAP’s GPA requirements to inform students of their risk of losing grant or loan eligibility.

o   Students unable to meet SAP requirements that receive this warning can still receive financial aid for one payment period after the notice is issued

The full text of the legislation can be viewed here.

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