Student Handbook

Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress

Dawson Community College is required per federal regulation, to establish minimum academic standards that students must meet to be eligible or maintain eligibility for federal, state, and institutional aid including but not limited to grants, loans, work study, institutional scholarships and waivers. These regulations require schools to determine whether students are progressing through their programs of study in BOTH a satisfactory ‘qualitative’ academic manner (Grade Point Average), and at a satisfactory ‘pace’ measure (credits completed vs. credits attempted), based on their prior academic records (whether or not they ever received financial aid). DCC students who are receiving financial aid or wish to be considered for financial aid in the future must maintain satisfactory progress in their selected course of study.

Failure to meet these standards means the student is no longer eligible to receive financial aid. It is the responsibility of all students receiving financial aid to familiarize their self with this policy and to insure that the standards are met.

This Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy is effective beginning Fall Semester 2011 and replaces previous published SAP policies. Exception or amendments to any of the specific provisions regarding SAP standards may be made at any time, without publication, due to changes in federal, state or institutional regulation or policies.

Enrollment Status

Student status is based on the following:

  • Full time (FT) – Attempting 12 or more credits
  • Three-quarter time (QT) – Attempting 9-11 credits
  • Half-Time (HT) – Attempting 6-8 credits
  • Less-than-half-time (LTHT) – Attempting 5 or fewer credits

For satisfactory academic progress purposes, enrollment status will include all credit hours attempted at any time during the term.

For financial aid awarding purposes, enrollment status is based on credit hours for which the student is enrolled as of the published date considered to be the tenth day of the term for the majority of students. Financial aid will be adjusted to reflect less-than-full-time status if the student is not registered for at least 12 credit hours on that date. Financial aid will not be adjusted to reflect credit hours added after that date. Students who are registered for a class on the first day of the term but never begin attendance in that class cannot include that class in determining enrollment status for financial aid purposes. Financial aid will be adjusted if students are reported that they never started attendance in one or more of their classes. All summer sessions jointly are considered one term.


Cumulative GPA (qualitative measure) – A student must maintain a Cumulative GPA of at least 2.0.

Percentage of Cumulative Credits Completed (pace measure) – During each semester of enrollment, the student must successfully complete the credit hours attempted to maintain a 67% pace measure by comparing the cumulative number of credits completed vs. the cumulative number of credits attempted. For financial aid purposes, satisfactory completion means a student has received a minimum grade of D or S (satisfactory in pass/fail class). Grades of I (incomplete), F (failed), W (withdraw), U (unsatisfactory), or N (audit no grade) are not considered acceptable in maintaining academic progress. The repeat of coursework will be considered in the hours attempted and may be used to determine enrollment status for financial aid purposes. Title IV funds can pay for repeat coursework previously taken in a program as long as it is not a result of: more than one repetition of a previously passed course, or any repetition of a previously passed course due to the student failing other coursework (coursework that must be taken and passed concurrently).

Transfer credit hours

The Registrar evaluates and posts transcripts from prior institutions that you submit to the college; however, DCC does not require you to submit all transcript to be admitted to a degree program. All posted transfer credit hours that are applicable to your current degree or certificate program of study are subject to being counted for SAP purposes (minimum cumulative Financial Aid GPA, Completion Ratio (Pace), and Maximum Time Frame calculations).

If a transcript is provided after financial aid is awarded, those courses will be included when SAP is reviewed at the end of the currently enrolled term.

Maximum Time Frame

Students are expected to complete their program of study within a reasonable time period. A student’s maximum time frame is based on total credit hours attempted at Dawson Community College plus any transfer credits accepted towards their program of study. These limits apply regardless of whether or not the student has received financial assistance. Students are eligible to receive aid for up to 150% of the published number of credit hours for a program of study (see program descriptions in the College catalog). Example: If a program of study requires 60 credit hours to graduate, the maximum credit limit a student could take and receive financial aid would be 90 (60 X 150 percent). All credit hours attempted are counted, including the credit hours accomplished when the student is not receiving Title IV funds.

At the end of each semester, including summer, the total number of attempted credit hours will be counted to see if you have reached the maximum number of credit hours for your program. All credit hours are counted which includes:

  • Credit hours attempted in semesters you did not receive financial aid.
  • Credit hours attempted prior to a change in your program of study if those hours are applicable to your new degree. A student will be allowed to change their program of study once prior to receiving a degree and must inform the Financial Aid Office of the change.
  • Credit hours transferred from another institution into your program of study at Dawson Community College.

Examples of credit limits are listed below:

Credits Required for Program in Catalog Credits of Financial Aid Eligibility

30 required credits (1 year Certificate) (30 X 150% = 45) 45 attempted credits

60 required credits (2 year Degree) (60 X 150% = 90) 90 attempted credits

72 required credits (2 year ASN Degree) (72 X 150% = 108) 108 attempted credits


Financial Aid Warning

A student will be placed on financial aid warning if he/she:

  • Fails to maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 and/or
  • Fails to complete 67% of cumulative attempted credit hours

During a warning semester, the student may still receive financial aid. The student’s future financial aid eligibility is dependent upon how well the student does during the warning semester. If the student completes the required number of credit hours to reach the 67% cumulative pace measure and has a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher, the student will be removed from financial aid warning status and restored to good standing. If, however, the student again fails to meet one or both of those requirements, the student will be placed on financial aid suspension.

Financial Aid Suspension

A student will be placed on financial aid suspension if he/she:

  • Fails to meet the academic progress requirements at the end of a warning semester.
  • Withdraws from all classes or receives grades of ‘F’ or ‘I’ (or any combination thereof) in all classes in which he/she was enrolled for the semester resulting in a ‘zero’ GPA. Students withdrawing from classes (before or after the last day to drop/add) or receiving total ‘F’ grades may also be required to repay a portion or all of the financial aid in accordance with Federal Return of Title IV Funds regulations.
  • Has been determined to have exceeded the maximum time frame OR has been determined unable to mathematically finish their program in the maximum time frame.

Regaining Eligibility

A student whose financial aid eligibility has been suspended has two options for regaining eligibility.

1) A student may qualify for reinstatement of financial aid eligibility by enrolling at his/ her own expense and bringing their cumulative GPA above 2.0 and by completing the appropriate percentage of credit hours attempted to meet the 67% pace measure.

2) A student may appeal their financial aid suspension if extenuating circumstances (death of a relative, injury or illness of the student, or other mitigating circumstance) exist. Appeals must be made in writing to the Director of Financial Aid and Committee, and must include supporting documentation of the extenuating circumstance. In the appeal request the student must provide information regarding: a) why the student failed to make SAP, and b) what has changed in the student’s situation that would allow them to demonstrate satisfactory academic progress at the next evaluation. All appeals must be done in a timely manner, generally within three weeks of the beginning of each semester. Appeals received beyond three weeks will be denied; appeals will also be denied if the student’s letter does not include all required elements. A student will be allowed to appeal only one time per a particular circumstance and may be granted the right to appeal twice while enrolled at Dawson Community College. If a student’s appeal is granted he/she will be placed on Financial Aid Probation allowing the student to receive aid (federal, state or institutional) for one payment period. At that point, the student must meet Dawson Community College’s standards of academic progress or the requirements of an academic plan that was established on an individual student basis as a result of the appeal process. The Committee’s decision is final and may not be appealed further.

Additional Information

Academic Bankruptcy: The Dawson Community College Fresh Start will not be granted to students receiving Title IV aid. A separate academic progress calculation must be made each semester for all Title IV recipients, which will include cumulative GPA (with the exception of transfer), attempted credits and earned credits.
Academic Plan: The DCC Financial Aid Committee at its discretion, upon a student’s successful appeal after being suspended, may place the student on an academic plan to be monitored through the Academic Support Center. The academic plan is personalized to the student’s degree goal, and IF FOLLOWED, will ensure that the student is able to meet the DCC SAP standards by a specific point in time. Should the student not follow their academic plan, they will be suspended with no further appeals being granted.
Additional Degree: Students who have obtained an Associate degree and wish to return to Dawson Community College for a subsequent degree may not be eligible for Financial Aid. Changes from AAS to AS or AA degrees will receive consideration as they are separate and distinct degree programs. The request for a subsequent degree must be submitted to the Director of Financial Aid with a degree audit from the Registrar. If you are approved for a new degree or certificate the student will be required to only take courses that relate to the new degree or certificate. It is the student’s responsibility to not take courses that do not fit the program, doing so may result in suspension.
Challenge Courses: Students will not be funded.
Changed and Late Grades: The student must notify the Financial Aid Office of grade changes, including updates for incomplete or missing grades. Grades must be officially changed in the Registrar’s Office before financial aid will be reviewed.
Evaluation Time Frame: Dawson Community College will evaluate a student’s satisfactory academic progress at the end of each payment period; fall, spring, and summer. A student placed on financial aid warning or suspension will be notified via US mail to the current mailing or permanent address on record. It is the responsibility of the student to keep their address updated.
Incomplete: An incomplete course is one for which no term credits were earned. It is construed as an ‘F’ until a positive letter grade is recorded by the Registrar. A student who is placed on warning or suspension because of incomplete credits may request that the Financial Aid Office review his/her status once the course has been completed.
Remedial Courses: Certain sub-100 remedial courses, which do not apply toward graduation requirements, may be included as part of their credit load for determining enrollment status each term. These courses can total no more than half their credit load per term and cannot exceed 30.
Return of Title IV Funds: Effective Fall Semester, 2011, Dawson Community College adopted a Return Policy that conforms to the updated version (Section 668.22) of the Higher Education Amendments of 1998. Students with Title IV funding who withdraw as determined by nonattendance or a student withdrawing from all courses via submission of a ‘Withdrawal From School” form (available in the Student Services Office) and signed by the Financial Aid Director after counseling the student as to the ramifications of withdrawing from school, is then submitted it to the Registrar’s Office. The. The student’s withdrawal is subject to both the Federal Refund Policy regarding the possible return of Title IV funds awarded to the student, as well as the Dawson Community College Return of Funds Policy. Only that amount of the semester’s aid that has been earned (as a result of the prorated amount of time the student has been in school for the semester) will be eligible for retention on the student’s behalf on or before the 60% point in the semester (date determined by last student’s participation date, completion of assignments, instructor input or withdrawal form submission). Title IV and all other aid is viewed as 100% earned after that point in time. Any aid that is not earned must be returned back to its source. If there is a student account balance resulting from these adjustments, the student is responsible for payment. Students who withdraw without attending any class owe a repayment of 100% of the aid they received. When the institution is required to return Title IV funds to the US Department of Education within 45 days, the funds will be returned to its source in the following order: Unsubsidized Stafford Loan, Subsidized Stafford Loan, Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Plus Loan, Federal Pell Grant, SEOG, Montana Grant, Other Title IV Programs, Students/Parents. Students who withdraw before receiving all the funds that they could have earned might be eligible for a post-withdrawal disbursement. If the post-withdrawal disbursement includes loan funds, students may choose to decline the loan funds so that they don’t incur additional debt. Dawson Community College will automatically apply grant funds to current charges on the student’s account balance. If no balance exists, the student must accept the post-withdrawal grant funds in order for the school to disburse grant funds directly to the student. No portion of a second or subsequent disbursement may be disbursed to students as a post-withdrawal disbursement. Any questions concerning these policies should be directed to the Dawson Community College Financial Aid Office at 406.377.9410.
Self-Paced/Independent Study: Students will not be funded. Transfer Student: A student who has attended other institutions will be required to provide official transcripts from each of those attended prior to receiving an award letter. A transfer student who was not eligible to receive financial assistance at a prior institution as a result of his/her failure to maintain satisfactory academic progress at that institution may be placed on immediate financial aid warning at DCC or, depending upon their academic history, may be required to appeal at DCC.
Withdrawal from Dawson Community College: Students withdrawing during a semester will be placed on financial aid suspension. Those students who received financial aid should be prepared to repay a portion of aid received according to Return of Title IV Funds federal regulations and the Dawson Community College refund policy, which is printed in the college catalog.

Montana University System Complaint Process