To remain eligible for financial aid, students are required to maintain satisfactory academic progress (SAP) standards outlined by the U.S. Department of Education. Students who fall short are placed on probation, which can have negative psychological and economic consequences that undermine a student's efforts to remain in good standing and complete college. The financial barrier is particularly troubling for low-income students, since losing financial aid can mean dropping out of college.


As part of our mission to help more at-risk students graduate, we committed $1 million to support MDRC's The Finish Line: Graduation by Design project, which explores student behaviors, college policies and institutional practices that prevent students from completing the credits they start. We want to learn how colleges can reduce the number of students they place on financial aid probation and increase the number of students released from probation and restored to good academic standing. The ultimate goal of the project is to identify interventions that could address the issue, and thereby improve college completion rates.

Three colleges in the Minnesota State system have partnered with MDRC to build their capacity to diagnose and evaluate SAP issues. Faculty and administrators at Inver Hills Community College, Normandale Community College and Rochester Community and Technical College will identify individual and institutional barriers, and then work with MDRC to develop interventions to reduce or eliminate them.

At the end of the two-year project, MDRC will share insights with the field so colleges can begin to develop strategies to help students maintain academic momentum. They also will provide guidance to institutions about how to apply a behavioral framework to diagnosing and evaluating challenges they face.


Contact Senior Program Officer Sue Cui at