Federal Student Aid Policies
The U.S. Department of Education requires institutions of higher education to establish policies relating to the processing of U.S. Federal Aid.
Admissions and Registration Policies
Satisfactory Academic Progress
Satisfactory Academic Progress for Financial Aid Recipients
US Federal regulations state that a student is required to be making satisfactory academic progress (SAP) in order to be eligible to receive federal aid from the US Department of Education. This applies to all students receiving Federal Student Aid irrespective of their study level (e.g. undergraduate, postgraduate) and mode of attendance (e.g. full-time, part-time).
The University does not have the right to waive the satisfactory academic progress requirement for any student.
Students receiving financial aid will be evaluated at the end of each payment period prior to each disbursement of federal aid (with the exception of the first disbursement). This evaluation process will consider the student’s progress as per the requirements stipulated in the guidelines applicable to their degree and level, in order to determine their eligibility for continued awards of aid.
The evaluation process is based on the University’s own assessment and registration regulations along with US Federal Student Aid guidance.
All periods of study at the University are considered during the evaluation, even those for which the student did not receive Federal Student Aid.
The evaluation process considers two aspects of student performance: pace and average grade.
The evaluation process will ensure that a student is progressing at a pace such that they will complete their course within the maximum timeframe allowed. The maximum timeframe for completion is shown in the table below. A student becomes ineligible for FSA when it is no longer possible for them to complete the course within the maximum timeframe. Pace is calculated by dividing the number of credits completed by the number of credits taken. 66.7% is the pace at which students must be successfully completing their courses to finish within the maximum timeframe.
Periods of suspension from a course will be included in the maximum timeframe. Periods when a student doesn’t receive federal aid are included in the maximum timeframe. Credits transferred from the same programme at another institution will have the time spent at the first institution included in the maximum timeframe.
Program Length in credit hours
Maximum timeframe in credit hours
(BA (Hons) / BSc (Hons))
(MA, MBA, MPA, MSc, MRes)
Incomplete modules and withdrawals due to deferred decisions, pending assessments or extenuating circumstances will not be considered during the evaluation process. All other incomplete modules will be considered to be failed and will impact pace and average grade as normal.
Maximum timeframe in credit hours
4.5 years (150%)
- Average grade
Students must have an average grade of at least a "D" at undergraduate level or “C” at postgraduate level, consistent with requirements for graduation to maintain eligibility for Financial Aid. Programmes which meet professional registration requirements (such as MSc Speech & Language Therapy) require students to have an average grade of at least a "C" at the end of second year to maintain eligibility for Financial Aid.
Student performance undertaken at another institution for which they have been awarded exemption or recognition of prior learning for their current course is also considered during the evaluation process. Transfer credits not counted towards the current course are not evaluated.
For students who are required to be reassessed in a failed module, the reassessment result will be considered during the evaluation process.
Incomplete modules and module withdrawals due to deferred decisions, pending assessments or extenuating circumstances will not be considered during the evaluation process.
Research degree students do not receive grades, so their satisfactory academic progress will be assessed by their ability to complete key assessments and on the judgement of their supervisor and the Graduate School on their progress.
Outcomes of Evaluation Process
There are two outcomes of the Satisfactory Academic Progress Evaluation Process.
- A student meets the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirement and is deemed eligible for continued Title IV funds.
- A student does not meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirement and is put on Financial Aid Warning status.
Financial Aid Warning Status
Where SAP requirements have not been met, the student will be advised in writing by the Student Records Data Manager. The student will be placed on ‘Financial Aid Warning’ status for the subsequent payment period and can receive only one disbursement for that one period before they become ineligible for Title IV funds..
While on Financial Aid Warning status the student must either:
- Meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirement by the end of the payment period to have their Finance Aid Warning status removed, and eligibility for further Title IV funds reinstated.
- The student will lose their eligibility and have their aid suspended unless they successfully appeal via the process below.
A student can make an appeal to the Student Finance Adviser if they can demonstrate exceptional circumstances. These circumstances may include –
- Death of an immediate family member
- Extended illness of an immediate family member
- Extended illness or injury of the student
- Other exceptional circumstances as determined by the Student Funding Adviser
The letter of appeal should address in detail the extenuating circumstances and what has changed in the student’s situation that will allow them to meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirement at the next evaluation. The appeal must be submitted within 10 days of receipt of the notice of being placed on Financial Aid Warning status along with all of the evidence to support the appeal.
If the appeal is upheld and the student is deemed capable of meeting the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirement by the end of the payment period, the student is placed on Financial Aid Probation status for that payment period only. The Satisfactory Academic Progress will be reviewed again at the end of the payment period.
If the appeal is upheld but the student is determined to require more than one payment period to meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirement, the student will be placed on Financial Aid Probation status and an academic plan will be developed. QMU and the student will develop a plan that ensures the student will meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirement by a specific time. The student’s performance will be measured against the plan at the end of the payment period. If the student is meeting the requirements of the academic plan, or indeed the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements, the student will be eligible to receive Title IV funds.
If the appeal is not upheld, is unsuccessful or the student does not appeal, the student loses eligibility and has financial aid suspended.
Students should submit an appeal to:
Bill Stronach, Student Funding Adviser, Student Services, Queen Margaret University, Queen Margaret University Drive, Musselburgh, EH21 6UU
Institutional Attendance Policy
Default Prevention and Management
QMU has adopted the US Department of Education's Default Management Plan
Withdrawal Process, Institutional Refund Policy and Return of Title IV (R2T4) Policy
Institutional Refund Policy
If you leave your programme of study early, you must ensure that you inform your Head of Subject and the Student Records department. The date of withdrawal will be deemed to be the date that the Student Records department receives written confirmation of withdrawal.
The date of deferral and expected return will be determined in discussions between you, your Programme Leader and the Student Records department. Deferrals will normally be for one academic year and for Title IV purposes will be treated in the same way as withdrawals.
Students withdrawing or deferring will be liable for all or part of the fee for the full academic year as follows:
If your withdrawal date is within 28 days of the start of your programme of study, you will be liable for an administration fee of £250.
If you withdraw more than 28 days after the start of your programme of study, you will be liable for the appropriate proportion of the fee based on the semesters attended wholly or in part. A student will be determined to have attended a semester where there is evidence of academic engagement (for example tutorial or seminar attendance, assessment submission, engagement with the university’s virtual learning environment) during that semester. For example, students who attended one out of the two semesters only will be liable for 50% of the total fee.
For students in receipt of Title IV funds this proportion is detailed in the Return of Title IV (R2T4) Policy below.
Any overpayment of fees will be refunded to the payer.
Return of Title IV (R2T4) Policy
Federal Student Aid regulations specify how the University must determine the amount of Title IV program assistance (Direct Loans) that students earn if they withdraw or interrupt. The University is responsible for calculating R2T4 and the Finance Office is responsible for transferring the funds. The University uses worksheets provided by the US Department of Education to calculate the R2T4 funds. All funds must be returned to the US Department of Education within 45 days of the date of when the University determined that a student withdrew. If you have questions about your Title IV program funds, please visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/
We consider a student who follows the process below to have officially withdrawn:
When a student who began attendance officially withdraws during a payment period, the amount of Title IV program assistance that has been earned up to that point is determined by a specific formula. The date of withdrawal is determined by the Registry and will be the date of submission of the withdrawal form.
The university may assume a student has unofficially withdrawn where the university suspects that the student has ceased academic related activities such as, but not limited to, physically attending classes with direct interaction, submitting academic assignments, taking exams, attending tutorials, participating in online academic discussions and interacting with QMU staff in matters relating to the student’s study. Where a student does not officially withdraw, and the university determines that the student did not complete the semester, the date of withdrawal will be determined to be the mid-point of the payment period or the last date of attendance at an academic-related activity.
The amount of assistance earned is determined on a pro rata basis. The payment period is the semester for which the loan was certified and the percent of attendance is calculated by dividing the number of days attended by the total number of days in the payment period minus any unscheduled break of 5 days or more. For example, if the student completes 30% of the payment period or period of enrolment, the student has earned 30% of the assistance they were originally scheduled to receive. Once the student has completed more than 60% of the payment period or period of enrolment, all the assistance that the student was scheduled to receive for that period is considered to have been earned. The University will use the R2T4 worksheets as provided by the US Department of Education to determine how much of the loan may be retained and how much must be returned.
If the student received more assistance than was earned, the excess funds must be returned by the University. The University will initiate return of funds as soon as possible but no later than 45 days from the date of determination of the student’s withdrawal. Any loan funds that must be returned, the student must repay in accordance with the terms of the promissory note. That is, scheduled payments are made to the holder of the loan over a period of time. Students who have received a refund of their loan proceeds before withdrawing may be required to return part or all of those funds to the lender.
There are some Title IV funds that students are scheduled to receive that cannot be earned once a student withdraws because of other eligibility requirements. A student may be eligible for a post-withdrawal disbursement if the University determines the student earned more aid than was disbursed for the period the student attended. The University must make this determination no later than 30 days after the end of the payment period. The University can use the post-withdrawal disbursement for current outstanding charges for tuition fees and QMU accommodation fees. The University needs the student’s permission to use the post-withdrawal loan disbursements to credit a student’s account for any other charges. No later than 30 days after the date of determination that a student withdrew, students will be issued a written notice in the event they have post-withdrawal loan disbursements available. The notice will include the amount and type of the funds to be disbursed, explain the obligation to repay any loan funds disbursed and include the response deadline of 14 days. The student must respond within 14 days, accepting or declining some or all funds. Title IV funds will be returned in the following order:
- Unsubsidized Federal Direct loans
- Subsidized Federal Direct loans
- PLUS Loan Funds
The requirements for Title IV program funds when students withdraw are separate from any refund policy that the University may have. Therefore, the student may still owe funds to the University to cover unpaid institutional charges. The University may also attempt to collect from the student any Title IV program funds that the University was required to return.
There are some Title IV funds, that students may have been scheduled to receive, that cannot be earned once a student withdraws because of other eligibility requirements. For example, a first year undergraduate, receiving Aid for the first time, who withdraws within the first 30 days of a programme, will be deemed not to have earned any aid.
As this policy uses a different calculation to University procedures outlined in our withdrawal and deferral information (links above), it may mean that the student owes the University once funds have been returned to the US Department of Education. Students will be notified if this is the case.