SAP maximum timeframe nightmare. I can't find examples of anyone else in my situation

Hi. This is long. It might be triggering if you’re sensitive to discussion of depression.

I graduated from high school in 2008 and started at the local community college immediately. It’s what I had to do to continue living in my parents’ house. (A reasonable expectation.) But I’d been depressed and suicidal since age 16 and spent 7 years signing up for classes, dropping them, failing them, and even passing some of them. I ended my career at that college with 141 attempted credits (66 earned) and a GPA of 2.3. I was receiving counseling, psychotherapy and medication most of this time. I did not apply for or use financial aid. (I know the government doesn’t care about this.) I just … didn’t have a plan, didn’t care, didn’t want to be alive. Didn’t care about my future because I didn’t have one anyway. All of my energy was devoted to mental illness. The only thing I wanted was to die.

I turned 25, moved out of my parents’ house (the alternative was suicide), and eventually started community college in California. So, at this point, I have attempted about 200 credit hours across the two schools and I have a 3.7 GPA at my new community college. I stopped getting treatment for depression 4 years ago because I was no longer suffering. I’m fine now.

A few months ago, I filed for a graduation check and discovered that the school didn’t have my previous transcript on file, and they had no record of me ever meeting with an advisor or counselor despite the fact that I did. I had no idea! I sent them an official transcript at that point.

My new school has paid me about $6k in Pell grants (before I submitted that transcript). Last week I read about SAP and now know that I was ineligible for that money. I’m terrified now that I’m going to have to repay that money. (My finances are abysmal and I’m both unemployed and ineligible for unemployment right now.)

I’m starting at a CSU in the fall and my plan was to power through my BA as fast as possible to get this over with, finally, so I can start a career and no longer be broke and in debt. For the first time in my entire life, I don’t want to die. I don’t know how to make this work but I want to. I have to.

So, basically, I messed up over and over and over and over again,
currently have 200 attempted credit hours and am not meeting PACE,
was awarded Pell grants no one knew I wasn’t eligible for,
and am terrified I’m going to have to repay them,
be barred from any federal financial aid in the future,
and have to drop out of school for good,
just as I figured out how to make things right and restart my life.

I know I can appeal but I need to finish half a BA, so that’s about 60 more credit hours … I think the school would have to be insane to approve further aid for someone like me. I’ve also seen some schools say that chronic illness isn’t a justification, which is … fair. I shouldn’t have done what I did.

If you have any experience with this process, please advise me. I know I have to talk to my school’s financial aid office but I need some idea of what’s going on, what might happen, and what I need to do at this point or I’m just going to call them on the phone and cry hysterically.

Please do not get into the what-ifs. It’s never wise to worry about what you don’t understand, but it’s particularly good advice for those prone to depression/anxiety. You need to schedule an appointment with a financial aid advisor immediately. The sooner you learn YOUR options given your unique situation, the better. I wish you the best. Please report back to let us know what happened.


Thank you for responding. I ended up calling the financial aid office just now and was told that I basically don’t need to worry about this school because I’m graduating this semester, but I do need to call the financial aid office of the university ASAP to figure out what to do, and be ready to file a SAP appeal. The person I spoke to thought I had a good chance of having my appeal approved when I explained my circumstances.

Maybe I’ll skid by because the SAP standards are mainly meant to stop people from staying in college forever to collect money and defer payments, and I’ve used barely any financial aid. I’m hopeful now.


I’m glad you called and talked to someone. I’m sure you feel much better now. The university will most likely ask you to meet with an advisor, make a plan for classes, and stick to the plan. That’s a good thing to do, anyway. I agree that you will most likely have your appeal approved, but you might have to appeal every semester (the school may have to do this to comply with federal regulations).

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I’m ok with that. It’s literally impossible for me to ever meet SAP so an appeal every semester seems fair.

I’ll come back and update as I hear more from advisors, just in case anyone else ever ends up on this page because they’re looking for help in the same situation. <3

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You say that at the first school, you did not use financial aid. How many credits have you used financial aid in total?

24 credits. I have only used financial aid for 2 semesters. I need it for 4 more semesters.

Then you should still be eligible. How many credits do you have at the new school?

I have 43 credits at my new school.

All of the websites say that eligibility is determined by total number of credits attempted anywhere, at any time, and you become ineligible even if you’ve never used financial aid before. “You can only collect the Pell Grant for 12 semesters” doesn’t mean “we’ll give you a Pell Grant 12 times.” :C I don’t think I can receive aid without a successful appeal. Though I do hope that having barely used any financial aid money in the past would make the school more likely to approve my appeal.

The other attempted credits you attempted were for community colleges, which were not attempted credits for a Bachelor’s Degree.

I think when you start a new school, the financial aid department will evaluate the number of credits attempted at the new school.

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I think this poster needs to contact HIS or HER college and inquire about their SAP requirements.

SAP is more nuanced than your explanation, @Yankeefan20. The transcript from the first school will be required by the second school, and they will award credit accordingly. That credit has to be taken into consideration. This can present issues for SAP, which is based on federal regulations. The school’s financial aid and academic advising staff will be able to help this student understand how the process works at their school.


The maximum attempted 150% that is required by the degree program.

The number of credits that transfer will be the number that the above poster will start out with as attempted credits. 200 credits will not transfer so the person won’t be over the credit limit at the new school.

@Yankeefan20, Kelsmom is a financial aid officer. If she’s not offering assurances that the OP won’t be over the credit limit for SAP then I don’t think the rest of us can either. The OP needs to contact their school.