The Value of an MBA Degree. MBA students generally enter their graduate programs expecting to graduate to enter a rewarding business career. MBA degrees, like other prominent and premier graduate degrees, can carry substantial value over the graduate's lifetime. Those values include more than substantially increased earnings. The values also include reputational and social gains, as this Harvard Business Review article acknowledges. An MBA degree is especially worthwhile when the graduate expects to enter business or another field requiring leadership or administrative skills. If you have begun an MBA program, then you know the value you expect to realize from your investment of time, money, and effort.
Attrition Is a Real Obstacle. But entering an MBA program is no guarantee of graduating from the program. Plenty of MBA students fail to graduate. One recent study indicates that ten percent of MBA students fail to complete the program. Attrition rates at some MBA schools are much higher. Indeed, only 63% of online MBA students, or fewer than two out of three, graduate. Starting is no guarantee of finishing. Attrition is a real possibility. If you are enrolled in an MBA program, then you must work hard, wisely, and diligently toward your graduation and hope to avoid distractions and interruptions beyond your control, or you may face dismissal from your MBA program.
The Academic Progress Hazard. Your biggest risk of washing out of your MBA program isn't that you will commit some horrific form of misconduct. Yes, some MBA students do abuse drugs or alcohol, commit sexual misconduct, or commit crimes warranting their program dismissal. But your bigger risk is that something beyond your control will interfere with your ability to do as much work as your school requires, at the minimum level of competence your school requires. Your MBA school expects you to progress steadily through the academic program. Schools, including MBA programs, dismiss large numbers of students every term and every year for failing to take the minimum course load, complete the minimum number of credits, and earn the minimum grade point average to make minimum academic progress. Your biggest attrition risk is failing to make the required academic progress.
Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policies. Your MBA school has a satisfactory academic progress (SAP) policy. If you face any delay in your academic progress or have lower grades or course failures or withdrawals, then you need to know that SAP policy. SAP policies are the mechanisms that MBA programs use to ensure that students take, complete, and pass enough courses, with a minimum cumulative grade point average, to warrant continuing in the program. SAP policies are not the school being harsh, mean, or strict. Instead, federal regulations at 34 CFR §668.34 require your MBA program to have an SAP policy and to consistently enforce that SAP policy, or the school's students could lose their access to federal loans and aid. You need to respect your school's SAP policy and the interest of school officials in following that SAP policy, even if you need relief from it. For example, the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business has an elaborate SAP policy, with complex tables and definitions, requiring at a minimum:
- a cumulative grade point average of 2.70 / 4.00
- completion of studies within 150% of the average program length
The Good and Bad of SAP Policies. MBA programs would have other reasons for SAP policies even if the federal government didn't require them. MBA programs, like other premier graduate programs, typically have only so much room in each entering class. When a school accepts a student into an MBA degree program, the school's financial and reputational interests are in promoting that student through the program to graduation so that the school can admit the next student. Graduate business students who instead languish around the school for an extra year after extra year, barely making minimum academic progress, reduce the school's efficiency in making the most of its operational resources. They can also reduce the confidence of employers that the MBA program has the student services and support, and the academic rigor, to graduate qualified employees.
The Up and Out Motive. In short, your MBA program wants you to graduate on time with the rest of your entering class. And you should want to graduate timely, too, except when circumstances beyond your control prevent you from doing so. You, too, should want your MBA program to maintain high standards. You want to learn valuable knowledge and skills and to develop sound work ethics. Your business school's SAP policy ultimately helps you, too, not just your school and employers who hire its graduates. SAP policies, when properly applied, are generally a good and necessary thing for all concerned. Better to treat them as such than to tilt at windmills. Hold your school accountable to its SAP policy. Don't let it shortchange you on your hard-earned opportunity to progress and graduate with the MBA degree you pursued. Let the SAP policy help you along the way, including getting appropriate relief from it when necessary. Let national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento represent you so that you find that relief rather than suffer SAP dismissal.
What Satisfactory Academic Progress Policies Include. When you read your MBA program's academic progress policy, you will notice a lot of detail. Federal law requires much of that detail. Under federal regulations appearing at 34 CFR §668.34, satisfactory academic progress policies must include each of the following if the business school's students are to receive federal financial loans and aid:
- the school's minimum grade-point average or similar standard to remain in compliance
- the program's minimum number of credits to earn each year toward completing the MBA degree
- what effect incompletes, withdrawals, repeats, and other major changes have on academic progress
- the number and type of credits the school accepts on transfer from another business school
- how frequently the school determines adequate progress and on what schedule
- the actions the school may take against an MBA student whose progress is inadequate under the policy
- any appeal rights an affected student has for unsatisfactory academic progress decisions
- the grounds that would relieve a student from an unsatisfactory progress sanction, like student illness or death of a family member
- how the student may regain eligibility for the federal aid the student loses for unsatisfactory progress
SAP policies are thus a product of federal law, mixed with institutional financial interests. Your academic attorney representative needs to know the lay of the legal landscape to be effective in negotiations with your business school. That's why you should not retain a local lawyer who is unfamiliar with this academic issue in this administrative environment. The knowledge, skills, and experience you need are instead that of an academic attorney expert. Retain national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento if you face SAP issues with your MBA program. Then, you will have the premier representation that your investment in your education deserves.
SAP Policy Relief. If you receive your MBA program's SAP warning, notice of probation, or dismissal notice, then understand that you may have relief from the SAP policy. Students face SAP dismissal for all sorts of reasons. Often, those reasons are beyond the student's control, not even fully the student's responsibility. Sickness or injury waylays some MBA students. The death of a parent or other close relative, or serious illness and disability of a spouse, child, or other family member for whom the student must care, are other reasons why some MBA students must delay their academic program or may suffer lower grades, course failures, or course withdrawals. The federal regulation 34 CFR §668.34 authorizes schools to grant students relief from the school's SAP policy when the student demonstrates special circumstances warranting that relief. If you face SAP probation or dismissal, you may be able to save your investment in your MBA degree by graining SAP relief.
Take Concerted Action. To do so, though, you must take prompt and diligent action. Your MBA school won't do the necessary work for you. The federal SAP regulation 34 CFR §668.34 authorizes schools to offer SAP appeals or requests for reinstatement. If you pursue an SAP appeal or request for reinstatement, then you may be able to turn your SAP dismissal into SAP probation and soon, satisfactory academic progress. You must, though, locate, draft, and submit your MBA program's SAP appeal or request for reinstatement form with all required documentation. See, for example, the University of Arizona Eller College of Management's SAP appeal form. Your appeal or request for reinstatement requires more than a mere signature. You have to make your case for relief. Remember: your MBA program must satisfy federal officials and accrediting agencies that it is consistently applying its SAP policy. Your appeal or request for reinstatement and its documentation must be complete and compelling.
What to Show. You have two things to show and document in your SAP appeal or request for reinstatement: (1) the compelling circumstance that caused you not to make satisfactory academic progress; and (2) your change in circumstance, including your academic plan that will allow you to regain good academic standing. Advocating and documenting your excuse and special circumstance can mean gathering physician statements, medical records, death certificates, or witness and counselor statements. Proving your change in circumstance, meaning your recovery, and your sound academic plan requires insight into the academic resources and strategies that SAP officials at your MBA school recognize as effective for academic success. You can't wing it. You can't shoot in the dark. Your proof and plan must be first-rate, sound, sensible, and convincing, or you'll still face SAP dismissal.
SAP Appeal Policies. If your MBA program has given you an SAP warning, placed you on SAP probation, or dismissed you from the program due to SAP issues, then you may well have an appeal from the program's action. The federal regulation 34 CFR §668.34 mandating SAP policies does not require that your business school offer an appeal. However, the regulation does require that if the school offers an appeal, which many MBA and other graduate programs do, then the school's appeal policy must state:
- how the student may reestablish financial aid eligibility
- the appeal grounds such as “[t]he death of a relative, an injury or illness of the student, or other special circumstances”
- what the MBA student must submit as to why the student failed to make satisfactory academic progress, and what has changed in the student's situation that will allow the student to demonstrate satisfactory academic progress at the next evaluation
SAP Appeal Grounds. Notice the two example grounds that the federal regulation gives for relief from an MBA-program SAP dismissal: a relative's death or the student's injury or illness. Business schools may accept other reasons for relief and may include those other reasons in their SAP policies. Schools will generally not accept reasons like a change in majors, double majors, or unexplained and undocumented personal reasons. The SAP policy at Detroit's Wayne State University provides a good example of an SAP policy that includes additional grounds for SAP relief. Wayne State lists these specific valid reasons for an SAP appeal:
- medical emergencies
- severe health issues
- severe personal or family problems
- financial or personal catastrophe
- return for a second degree or certificate
These grounds are, however, just examples. Your SAP issues may, in fact, be due to one or more of these listed grounds. Or your SAP issues may be due to other grounds that your MBA program would find to be valid reasons for relief from its standard SAP policy. Don't assume that you lack the grounds for an SAP appeal without first consulting national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm.
Help for SAP Appeals and Requests. You very likely need the expert help of a skilled and experienced academic administrative attorney for your SAP appeal or request for reinstatement. As an MBA student, you are surely smart and resourceful. Yet MBA students aren't necessarily trained in law, legal procedures, and advocacy in the way that lawyers have that training. And MBA students generally don't have experience with academic administrative matters governed under federal regulations. Academic administrative attorneys have that skill and experience. You very likely need attorney assistance, and not just the help of any local attorney but the help of an expert academic administrative attorney.
Fortunately, expert help is available. If you face an SAP warning, probation, or dismissal from your MBA school, then national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm can help you evaluate and pursue your SAP appeal or request for reinstatement. Your MBA degree is worth the effort and attention. Attorney Lento has helped hundreds of graduate students and other students avoid SAP or other dismissal from their college or university. Attorney Lento helps MBA students day in and day out nationwide. Call the Lento Law Firm now at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation with Attorney Lento or use the Firm's the online service.