Satisfactory Academic Progress


Standards for Satisfactory Academic Progress


To ensure that all students complete their degree in a timely manner while meeting the minimum academic standards, Columbia University School of the Arts (“School of the Arts”) has implemented the following requirements for maintaining satisfactory academic progress (SAP).  Students will be evaluated on both qualitative and quantitative academic progress. The SAP standards are the same for all categories of graduate students, including full-time and part-time students, and students registered with the Office of Disability Services (ODS). Therefore, students registered with ODS should request suggested accommodations in order to meet required SAP standards. Failure to register with ODS will not be considered an extenuating circumstance if requested SAP standards are not met.


The fall, spring and summer terms of enrollment will be included in measuring satisfactory academic progress. The School of the Arts does not require summer enrollment for its degree-seeking students, thus financial aid is not offered during the summer. Recipients of federal and/or institutional aid (hereinafter “financial aid”) who do not meet SAP requirements risk losing aid.  



Guidelines for Academic Progress



Frequency of Evaluation


The School of the Arts’ academic year for Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Arts (MA) students consists of the fall and spring semesters and, if applicable, the summer term. Academic progress will be measured at the end of each semester and will take effect the following term.


The initial SAP evaluation will be made at the conclusion of the first semester, and will include accepted transfer credits. The School of the Arts’ policy regarding transfer credits can be found on the Admissions Policies and Processes page.


Students who have been suspended from the program for disciplinary reasons will not be eligible for financial aid upon their return unless SAP was met during the last period of enrollment. Students who are readmitted who did not meet SAP after the last semester or term of enrollment should follow the SAP appeals process if they would like to be considered for financial aid.


If a student changes his/her concentration, all previous grades will be considered when evaluating the student’s academic progress.



Qualitative Standards


Students must meet a cumulative GPA standard of academic progress, or its equivalent, which is determined at the end of each semester or term.


In order to meet SAP at the end of each semester or term, both MFA and MA candidates must have a cumulative GPA equivalent of 3.0. 


MFA Grading System


As of Fall 2015, the School of the Arts will no longer use the grade of "H" (honors). Recognizing that the "P" (pass) is the highest grade possible, point values for the purpose of determining GPA equivalent are as follows:


P (pass) = 4.0

LP (low pass) = 1.5

F (fail) = 0.0


The grading system for Spring 2015 and prior is:


H (honors) = 4.0

P (pass) = 3.5

LP (low pass) = 1.5

F (fail) = 0.0


Note that the School of the Arts does not have an official GPA, nor is a GPA for courses taken for the MFA included on the transcript. The above point values are used to determine meeting Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements only.


Students who cross register into other University programs or enroll in undergraduate (3000 level) courses will receive traditional letter grades (A through F) unless they designate Pass/Fail during registration if this is allowed by the department offering the course.


The traditional letter grading system (A through F) is valuated as follows:


A = 4.0

B = 3.0

C = 2.0

D = 1.0

F = 0.0



MA Grading System


The MA in Film and Media Studies program grading system is as follows, with GPA equivalents. The traditional letter grading system (A through F) is valuated as follows:


A = 4.0

B = 3.0

C = 2.0

D = 1.0

F = 0.0


Plus and minus letter grades are also used. Unless program regulations specifically state otherwise, all courses to be credited toward the degree must be taken for a letter grade.


A letter grade is given to a student who has completed the required work in a course, including the final exam or paper, and it is expressed on a student's transcript by the letter grades A, B, C, D, or F.


Students should seek advice from the Director of Graduate Studies or Program Director if they wish to take a course Pass/Fail or for R credit.


With permission of the instructor, MA students may elect to take courses in other School of the Arts programs (e.g. Writing Program) for a letter grade.



Additional Marks


The following additional marks can also be used:


AB (Absent from the Final Examination): granted by an instructor no later than the day of the final examination to a student whose attendance and progress have been satisfactory but who cannot be present for the final examination because of illness or another extreme emergency.  If the AB is not removed within one year, it is automatically changed to an F.


CP (Credit Pending):  given only in graduate research courses in which student research projects regularly extend beyond the end of the semester. Upon completion of the project, a final qualitative grade is assigned and credit allowed.   


IN (Incomplete):  given to a student who has satisfactorily met all the requirements of a course except for the completion of certain assigned papers or reports that the student has been compelled to postpone for reasons beyond his or her control which are satisfactory to the instructor.  If the IN is not removed by the completion of the required work within one year, it is automatically changed to an F. 


R (Registered for the Course; No Letter Grade Assigned):  Students registered for R credit are not required to take the final examination, prepare class assignments, or write papers.  Under no circumstances will an R be accepted for degree credit in the School of the Arts.


Research Arts: Because students do not receive a grade for Research Arts, the qualitative standard required to meet SAP will be deemed to have been met unless otherwise determined by an evaluation by the student’s Program, (see below “PROGRAM EVALUATION” section).


UW (Unofficial Withdrawal): assigned to students whose names appear on the grade sheet but who have never attended or have discontinued attendance prior to the due date of substantive work.


YC (Year Course):  given at the end of the first semester of a course in which the full year of work must be completed before a qualitative grade is assigned. The grade given at the end of the second semester is the grade for the entire course.



Program Evaluation


Degree candidates in the School of the Arts should note, however, that work is treated as a whole and individual grades are subordinate to the overall evaluation of a student’s development.  At the recommendation of the Chair and the Concentration Head or faculty advisor, an overall evaluation of a student’s development may be conducted by the Program to determine whether he or she will be allowed to continue in the Program. In such cases, the student will be notified in writing that an evaluation will be conducted. The student will be informed of the outcome no later than 30 business days after the evaluation is conducted.


While the faculty of each program conducts these evaluations according to its own guidelines, factors considered include (but are not limited to) attendance and participation on workshops and classes, grades of Low Pass ("LP"), Fail ("F") or Incomplete "(IN"), the completion of assigned work and the progress demonstrated in this work. The faculty will either permit the student to continue to the following semester, place the student on academic probation, or request the student leave. If, after this evaluation, the student is asked to leave the program, s/he will be deemed to have not met SAP as well.


Students on probation will be reevaluated during the following semester to determine if problems identified in the evaluation process have been rectified. If not, the faculty may request that the student leave. Students on probation may not be considered for scholarship aid. The student may appeal the decision based upon the standard SAP appeal process. In no case can a program evaluation override a failure to meet SAP qualitative and/or quantitative standards.



Quantitative Standards



Course Completion Rate


Students must meet a quantitative standard of academic progress to remain in good standing and meet the SAP requirement, which is measured by a percentage of the courses successfully completed. This rate is calculated by dividing earned points by attempted points (the result will be rounded to the closest whole number).


MFA candidates must successfully complete at least 83 percent of all attempted points during course-taking years, which are the first two years of matriculation for full-time students. While this allows MFA candidates to complete their coursework within 120 percent of the required points, it does NOT extend the five year maximum allowed for MFA candidates to complete their degree. MFA candidates who meet this requirement but must take courses during the first year of Research Arts will be required to register and pay for both Research Arts and their remaining required courses(with course points to be charged on a per-point basis). Written approval from the Program Chair, Concentration Director, and Dean of Student and Alumni Affairs must be obtained in order to register for points during the first semester of Research Arts.


MA in Film Studies candidates must successfully complete 80 percent of all attempted points during their course taking year(s), which are the first three semesters if full-time, or the first five semesters if part-time (see Residency Requirements below). Note that full-time students typically take 12 credits during their first two semesters and then register for Extended Residency during their third semester, during which they also register for their final six credits.  This allows MA in Film Studies candidates to graduate within 125 percent of normal time frame.



The Effect/Treatment of Atypical Marks and Situations


UW and Repeat Coursework: will be included in both attempted and earned points.


AB, CP, IN, and YC: will not be included in either attempted or earned points, but the courses will be included once these marks are converted to grades.


R: will not be included in either attempted or earned points at any time.


Transfer Coursework: will count as both credits attempted and completed, but will have no effect on cumulative GPA.  For information regarding the School’s Transfer of Credit policy, visit the Admissions Policies and Processes page.


Summer Coursework: will count as both attempted points and earned points.


Cancellations of Registration: on or before the 1st day of classes will not count as credits attempted.


Dual Degrees:  A student pursuing a dual degree shall  be under the SAP rules of the School in which the student currently resides.


Advanced Standing: N/A


Academic Amnesty: N/A



Credit/Point Requirement


MFA candidates may attempt up to 18 credits per semester, with a maximum of 72 credits during their first two years, to complete the required 60 points for the MFA degree. MFA candidates must complete the required 60 points within the first two years of their respective program. In rare circumstances, students are given special dispensation to be admitted as part-time. Such approval must be approved in advance of registration/matriculation by the program Chair, Concentration Director, and Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid.


MA candidates in the Film program may attempt up to 38 points to earn the required 30 points for the MA degree within either 3 semesters if full-time or 5 semesters if part-time. Of the 30 earned points, not more than 6 points can be earned through courses outside the Film program, and any outside course must first be approved by the MA Program Advisor. See “Credit/Point Requirement” section above for breakdown of how MA candidates’ points are earned per semester.



Research Arts/Extended Residence


All MFA candidates who have completed two years of course work but have not completed the degree requirements must maintain continuous and consecutive matriculation by registering for Research Arts until receipt of the MFA degree.  Students do not register for Research Arts during summer, as the School of the Arts currently does not have a required summer session for its degree-seeking students. Under no circumstances can a student take more than five years to meet the requirements for the degree and graduate.


All Masters of Film Studies candidates must complete all course and degree requirements in no more than 3 semesters (full-time) or 5 semesters (part-time).  In rare circumstances, students who have completed 30 credits of coursework, including registering for Extended Residence during their final semester, but have not completed the degree requirements may register for one additional semester of MA Extended Residence. Any extensions to these deadlines must be approved, in advance, by the department head and (b) may carry additional fees.



Maximum Time Frame for Degree Completion


MFA candidates must graduate within 100% of the maximum time frame for their program, which is no more than 5 years of matriculation for the Film, Theatre, and Writing programs and 2 years for the Visual Arts and Sound Arts programs.


MA in Film Studies candidates must graduate within 125% of the normal time frame for their program.





A student who fails to meet SAP (excluding maximum time frame) at the end of an enrollment period will receive a written warning.  Students receiving financial aid will also receive a “financial aid warning” from the financial aid office and automatically be placed on “financial aid warning” not to exceed one enrollment period. During the “warning” enrollment period, the student may receive financial aid despite the determination that the student is not meeting SAP standards. The student must meet SAP standards at the end of the warning period or s/he will be suspended from further aid until such time as the student meets SAP standards (student must pay for any additional course enrollment after the financial aid warning period through personal or private funds) or the student must appeal and have the appeal granted.



Appeal Process


There may be extenuating circumstances impacting the student’s ability to meet SAP requirements during the enrollment period. These circumstances include personal injury or illness that occurs during an enrollment period; death of an immediate family member during an enrollment period; or other documented circumstances that were unexpected in nature and beyond the control of the student. In these cases, cumulative grade point average or its equivalent, or the completion rate, may decline, resulting in the student not meeting the minimum GPA and quantitative standards as previously described to meet SAP.


If this occurs and the student wishes to appeal the suspension from financial aid eligibility, the student may submit a written appeal to the Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid. Written appeals should include a full explanation of why the student failed to meet SAP, documentation verifying the circumstances that led to the student’s inability to meet SAP, a copy of the student’s transcript (an unofficial copy is acceptable), and what has changed in the student’s situation that will allow them to meet SAP in the future, including an Academic Plan as approved by the student’s Academic Advisor (in most cases, this will be the faculty Director of the student’s program concentration). 


Appeals to decisions resulting from Program Evaluations should be made to the Dean of the School. 



Academic Plan


In some cases, a student’s SAP appeal may be approved with an Academic Plan developed in consultation with the student’s faculty advisor and approved by the Concentration Head and/or Chair of the Program. The purpose of the plan is to help the student meet the School of the Arts’ SAP standards by a specific point in time. The Academic Plan may require the student to fulfill specific terms and conditions, such as taking a reduced course load or enrolling in specific courses, or developing a plan to complete thesis-required work in a timely manner.



Appeal Deadline


If a student wishes to appeal the suspension from financial aid eligibility or the Program Evaluation decision, the written appeal must be submitted to the Financial Aid Office no later than four (4) weeks after receiving the financial aid notice of suspension letter (not including holidays and breaks). However, the earlier the appeal is submitted, the earlier the School can make a determination.





Students who have their appeal approved will be placed on probation and their academic progress will be monitored each term to ensure that they meet the conditions of their Academic Plan. A Student on probation may receive financial aid provided the student meets the requirements of the Academic Plan.





A student who has had his/her eligibility suspended for failing to maintain the required Satisfactory Academic Progress standards or who was denied their Satisfactory Academic Progress appeal may regain financial aid eligibility through the School of the Arts’ Financial Aid Office by bringing themselves into compliance with the GPA and quantitative requirements of the Academic Progress Standards.


Eligibility may not be restored by paying for courses without financial aid or sitting out for a term. Students who have exceeded the maximum time frame for degree completion cannot regain eligibility through the Reinstatement process.



Emergency Declarations and University-wide Changes


In the event of a national or state-wide emergency, and/or where a pass/fail grading system is implemented University-wide:


All courses graded as pass/fail will be counted in the total number of attempted hours.


When a course is successfully completed and given a grade of “P”, the credits are added to the total number of attempted and earned credits hours; but, the Pass grade is not included in the GPA calculation.


When a course is not successfully completed and the student is given a grade of “F”, it will be treated as a standard grade of “F” and this will negatively impact the progression and GPA of the student.


Any student who fails a SAP assessment as a result of a qualifying emergency will be allowed to submit an appeal. 


Any and all treatment of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) updates and changes will abide by existing statutory regulation on SAP, any temporary statutory relief provided by Congress, and any temporary guidance provided by the Department of Education (ED).




The School reserves the right to make exceptions to the policy under extraordinary circumstances.


Policy subject to change at any time without advance notice.