Rewards and Challenges of Dentistry. Dentistry is a financially and socially rewarding career. Dental students generally know their good prospects. Getting into dental school isn't easy. One recent article indicates that only a little more than half of the applicants to dental school get accepted and enroll in dental school each year. And once you get there, the dental program isn't easy. One recent study indicates that the attrition rate for dental schools is over seven percent. The same study discerned that academic reasons explained half of that attrition, while personal reasons explained the other half. You chose to enter dental school, believing that you would graduate to gain a rewarding career. Yet you also surely expect the dental program to challenge you.
How Dental Schools Dismiss Students. Dental schools dismiss some students for misbehavior, including things like alcohol or drug abuse, sexual misconduct, theft, or vandalism, and even professional misconduct like patient neglect or abuse. But misconduct dismissals do not make up the bulk of dental school dismissals. Instead, dental schools follow their satisfactory academic progress (SAP) policies to address the great majority of personal and academic reasons why dental students fail to complete the degree program. SAP policies help dental schools set and maintain the minimum standards necessary to timely graduate competent and committed dentists. If you don't meet your dental school's SAP requirements, then you can face dismissal and loss of your anticipated dentistry career. For example, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry has this SAP policy:
- Maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 1.60 at the end of the freshman year and 2.00 by the end of the senior year
- Complete at least 67 percent of all attempted credit hours
- Complete the degree program in a maximum time frame of no more than 150 percent of the average length of the program
Why Dental Schools Require Satisfactory Academic Progress. Satisfactory academic progress policies can seem unfair, punishing good dental students or requiring good students to hasten their education under difficult circumstances. Yet dental schools, like other higher-education programs, have several good reasons for maintaining satisfactory academic progress policies. One reason is that federal financial aid regulations at 34 CFR §668.34 require dental schools to maintain SAP policies. The federal government doesn't want to waste student loans and aid on dental students who aren't making good progress toward a degree. Hence the federal regulations. Dental schools can lose their funding if they fail to maintain compliant SAP policies.
Accreditation Also Matters. Accrediting agencies also review dental school SAP policies. Your dental school depends on its accreditation. Loss of accreditation can affect everything, including your dental school's ability to qualify for federal funding. Accreditation officials will scrutinize not only an institution's SAP policy but also individual student SAP records. Dental school officials know that their SAP policies and policy implementation are under scrutiny. You may feel that your dental school's SAP policy is unfair in your situation, and you may well be right. But to some extent, federal regulations tie a dental school's hands to a sound SAP policy. You may deserve relief from your school's SAP policy as the school applied it to you, but the school must have some form of SAP policy.
The Better Approach Than Blame. Generally, the better approach isn't to blame your dental school for its policy but instead to ensure that the school is properly applying its policy, including allowing good excuses for relieving students from its worst effects. To some extent, your dental school's hands are tied. The school must have an SAP policy that complies with federal regulations. And the school must implement that SAP policy consistently in a way that will satisfy accrediting agencies. You may just have to show your dental school that it isn't applying its SAP policy to you in a responsible manner. Don't fight the system. Work within the system for the relief that the system should afford you. And that's where national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento's representation can be most effective for you. Having represented hundreds of college and university students and students of professional programs, in disputes with their institutions, attorney Lento knows his way around the system.
Satisfactory Academic Progress Requirements. Satisfactory academic progress policies are not solely or even primarily an academic matter. If they were, then schools could set their own academic standards. SAP policies instead have their origin in financial concerns. Federal student loans and aid finance higher education generally, including dental schools. For their students to qualify for federal financial loans and aid, dental schools must maintain satisfactory academic progress policies. Federal regulations at 34 CFR §668.34 require dental and other schools to define the minimum number of courses or credits students must complete within a maximum time, and at what level of competence, generally meaning a minimum grade point average. The financial reason is that the federal government doesn't want to waste public backing of federal loans and aid on students who won't graduate to practice dentistry competently. Schools can lose their federal funding if they don't adopt and follow SAP policies. SAP policies are serious business to your dental school, and so should be serious business to you.
The Downward SAP Spiral. Unfortunately, academic progress issues in dental school, as in other higher-education programs, often start with a single poor or failing grade that snowballs across courses. A course repeat and time-consuming remediation activities can sap your time and motivation, especially in dental school where the learning curve continually steepens. One bad grade then turns into ever more academic challenges when incisive intervention could have kept you happily on course. Dental schools can unintentionally place significant obstacles in front of a student facing SAP issues, compounding the student's challenges. Those obstacles can include:
- extra professor, teaching assistant, advisor, and administrator conferences
- elaborate grade appeals requiring extensive briefing and documentation
- extra papers or other coursework not required of other students
- makeup quizzes or exams, or retake quizzes or exams
- repeated courses, programs, labs, or parts of courses
- counseling sessions, tutoring sessions, or other remedial demands
- completing detailed forms and other institutional requests
- learning and following complex academic administrative procedures
Reversing the Downward SAP Spiral. If that situation of ever-greater remedial demands exhausting your time and energy sounds like your dental school situation, and you face SAP issues, then let national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento help you deal with your dental school to get squarely back on course. You need an achievable academic plan, one that your school accepts and approves within its SAP policy. You also need to get out of the academic hole into which you have fallen, not because of your lack of effort but because of the peculiarly demanding design and structure of your dental school's instructional program and the unhelpful way in which it allocates its academic resources. Attorney Lento can help with academic planning in the context of SAP resolutions. Make a concerted effort now to reverse the downward SAP spiral. Yes, doing so will take work. But you've likely been working hard already. You just need the results to show for it.
The Reasons for Dismissal Matter. If you face SAP issues in dental school, hope remains for relief from strict SAP requirements. The reasons for your challenges can matter. The same federal regulations that require SAP policies also permit dental and other schools to allow students relief from those policies' strict requirements when a student can demonstrate special circumstances. The regulation itself, 34 CFR §668.34, mentions only the student's illness or injury or the death of a family member. But the regulation permits the school to accept other, similar special circumstances. Your dental school's SAP policy need not even define the specific reasons that would qualify for relief. You may be able to make a showing for relief based on any compelling circumstance. For example, the University of Louisville School of Dentistry has this SAP policy, including the opportunity to appeal for any “extenuating circumstances.”
What You Must Do. You cannot, though, simply sit back and let the school do the work for you. If you get your dental school's SAP warning, notice of probation, or notice of dismissal, you must take prompt, clear, and concerted action. Your school's SAP policy will very likely provide for either an SAP appeal or request for reinstatement. That opportunity means that you must complete and submit the school's SAP form, like this form required by the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, with all required documentation. If you instead do nothing or don't timely submit the right form with the right documentation, then you will face SAP dismissal. Remember: your dental school's federal auditors and accrediting agencies inspect SAP records. Your dental school must cross its I's and dot its T's when offering any student relief from its SAP policy. You must help your dental school do so.
What You Must Show. Your dental school's SAP policy will require you to make two convincing showings when you ask for relief from its SAP policy. The first showing you must make is the special circumstance that should excuse you from the policy's minimum standards, along with documentation proving that circumstance. Your excuse may be medical. If so, then you'll need doctors' statements and medical records. Your excuse may relate to a death in the family. If so, then you'll need a death certificate and memorial bulletin or obituary. Whatever reason kept you from meeting the school's minimum standards, you'll need to prove both the reason and how it affected you.
Plan for Academic Recovery. The other thing that your SAP appeal or request for reinstatement must show is your plan for regaining satisfactory academic progress. Your plan for recovery is just as important as your excuse for falling into SAP peril. If you cannot show what change in personal circumstances and study practices has already occurred or that you plan to make, and how that change will surely lead to academic improvement and success, then your appeal or request for reinstatement will fail. Your plan is everything. Put a solid plan in place, and then expect to follow your plan until you have regained satisfactory academic progress.
Getting Qualified Help to Make the Showing. Dental students are good learners, good in science, medicine, and the skills of dentistry. Dental students are not generally good at legal research, analysis, argument, advocacy, and documentation. Dental students haven't gone to school to learn how to argue. Dental students are honing their dental knowledge and clinical skills for the practice of dentistry, not the practice of law. Academic administrative lawyers have the training that dentists lack to make convincing showings for relief from SAP policies. Not just any lawyer will do. SAP disputes within a dental program are administrative, not court, proceedings. And they are academic administrative proceedings, an area in which few lawyers have the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience. To convince your dental school that you deserve SAP relief, your lawyer will need the commitment, skill, and experience of an academic administrative attorney. Don't hire just any lawyer. Seek the services of a national academic administrative attorney with substantial experience in SAP disputes.
If your dental school has given you an SAP warning, placed you on probation, or dismissed you for unsatisfactory academic progress, then retain national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento to help you pursue your SAP appeal and reinstatement. Don't waste your investment in dental school. Don't give up your dream for a rewarding career in dentistry. Attorney Lento has helped hundreds of professional students, graduate students, and other students nationwide to avoid SAP or other dismissal from their college or university. Call the Lento Law Firm now at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation with Attorney Lento or use the Firm's online service.