Effective Date: 7/18/2016
Updated: June 15, 2018


MEM and MF students have to meet specific credit and grade requirements in order to continue in their program and retain their financial aid. The Nicholas School has a policy regarding academic status, and central Financial Aid requires a policy regarding satisfactory academic progress for students receiving Title IV financial aid.

Point equivalents for letter grades:

  • A+, A: 4.0
  • A-: 3.7
  • B+: 3.3
  • B: 3.0
  • B-: 2.7
  • C: 2.0
  • C-: 1.7
  • F: 0.0

Academic Status / Standing


Students enrolled in the Nicholas School of the Environment are required to earn at least 48 credits in order to earn the Master of Environmental Management (MEM) or Master of Forestry (MF) degree. Students enrolled in a dual degree program must earn at least 36 credits in order to earn their MEM or MF.

Academic status is reviewed at the end of every semester.

Any of the three situations will result in probationary status for the following semester:

  1. failing one or more courses;
  2. two or more C’s (C-, C, C+); or
  3. failing to maintain a cumulative average of at least B- (2.7).

A student on probation must meet jointly with his/her advisor and one additional senior faculty member selected jointly by the student and advisor before the end of drop-add (preferably before the beginning of the semester) to discuss what is going wrong and how to remedy it. These faculty committees have the discretion to suggest that a student take a leave of absence for a semester if they judge that to be the best way for the student to improve academic performance. A student on probation must meet again with the advisor and second faculty member a month after the first meeting to review academic progress.


Any student who does not meet academic standards at the end of the second probationary semester will be subject to dismissal from the Nicholas School of the Environment. Decisions on dismissal will be made by the Education Committee.


In addition, students must have at least 48 units of credit with a grade point average of B- (2.7) or better to graduate. Courses that do not count toward the 48 required for the master’s degree (e.g., physical education courses, prerequisite courses) are not included in the grade point average. Students who fail to meet that standard during their final semester must take additional Duke credits to meet the standard before they can graduate. Any exceptions are at the discretion of the Education Committee.

    Satisfactory Academic Progress: Standards for School-Based Awards

    The policy regarding awards from the Nicholas School (e.g., merit-based financial aid, fellowships, scholarships, recognition awards with no monetary component) for students placed on probation is:

    • Students not in good standing (with regard to academics or honor code) are not eligible for any new awards from the Nicholas School (e.g., scholarships, fellowships, recognitions without monetary component) whether academic performance is a criterion or not. Students on academic probation are, however, eligible for summer internships supported or coordinated by the Nicholas School and its Career and Professional Development Center. Students on academic probation will still be excluded from internships and internship grants that require "good academic standing" such as the Sussman internship grant. Students with honor code violations are not eligible for Nicholas School supported/coordinated internships.
    • Students holding scholarships or other awards when they are put on academic probation MAY be allowed to keep them for one semester if the student’s written petition to do so is approved by the Education Committee (sent to Director of Professional Studies and the Assistant Dean for Academic and Enrollment Services). Students on probation for honor code violations will usually not be approved to retain Nicholas School funding. Any student not released from probation after one semester will not be eligible to retain the scholarship/fellowship.
    • Students who are dismissed for honor code or other serious violations must relinquish any awards.

    Satisfactory Academic Progress: Standards for Title IV Financial Aid

    Federal regulations require that, in order to be eligible for assistance from any Federal Title IV student aid program, including but not limited to the Stafford Unsubsidized Loan and the GradPLUS loan, a student must be making satisfactory academic progress.

    For the purpose of Title IV financial aid eligibility only, a student enrolled in the Master of Environmental Management and/or Master of Forestry degree in the Nicholas School of the Environment as a full-time degree-seeking student must meet the following standards of satisfactory academic progress:

    1. The student must have a cumulative grade point average of at least a B- (2.7) or higher after completing their first semester and at the end of each subsequent semester (fall and spring semesters; does not include summer terms one and two).
    2. A student in either the MEM or the MF must earn their degree before earning 72 credits (150% of the standard minimum 48 credits). A student in the dual MEM/MF must earn at least 72 credits in order to graduate and successfully complete the degree requirements before earning 108 credits. A student in a dual degree program must complete successfully at least 36 credits and earn their degree before earning 54 credits on their Nicholas School transcript. Students must successfully complete all of their degree requirements before obtaining 150% of the credits needed to graduate from each program as outlined.
    3. The student must earn satisfactory grades in at least 67% of their cumulative credits. Satisfactory grades in the Nicholas School are A, B, C (including + and -), CR and P.

    Any student who fails to meet satisfactory academic progress will be placed on Title IV warning for one semester.  During that semester, the student will continue to be eligible for Title IV aid.  At the end of a term during which a student is on Title IV warning, if the student still fails to meet any of the requirements, the student will become ineligible for Title IV assistance.

    Title IV Financial Aid Warning

    A student may be placed on financial aid warning as a consequence of not making Satisfactory Academic Progress as outlined above.  The student can be placed on Warning status without an appeal or any other action by the student.  The warning status lasts for one semester, during which the student continues to be eligible to receive federal financial aid funds.  If a student fails to make satisfactory academic progress (SAP) after the financial aid warning period the student will lose their federal eligibility unless they successfully appeal and are placed on financial aid probation, outlined below.

    Appeal Process

    A student who becomes ineligible for Title IV assistance at the end of a term during which they were on Title IV warning may appeal the determination if the student believes there were extraordinary circumstances that prohibited them from achieving (SAP).  A letter of appeal should be submitted by the student to Assistant Dean and Director of Professional Studies outlining the basis on which they are appealing the termination of federal student aid. Grounds for appeal include grade point average Supporting documentation, including a letter of support from the student’s coursework advisor, is helpful but not required.  The student may submit other documentation that supports the appeal from medical professionals, counselors, or other third party professionals (non-family members) who understand the details of the situation.  The student should also include an explanation of what has changed in their situation that will allow them to demonstrate satisfactory academic progress at the next evaluation. 

    The appeal will be reviewed by the Assistant Dean, Director of Professional Studies and the student’s coursework advisor; the Nicholas School registrar may also be asked to participate. The committee shall review the student’s progress in light of any extenuating circumstances, and make a determination regarding the appeal. The decision will be conveyed to the student in writing and that decision will be placed in the student’s file. 

    Students who have not successfully completed their degree requirements within the 150% credit parameters as outlined in #2 above may not appeal that requirement.

    Financial Aid Probation

    If the appeal decision is to reinstate the student’s eligibility for Title IV funds, the student may be placed on probation for one additional term on the condition that the student is required to achieve minimum SAP standards at the end of the probationary semester.  If it is statistically impossible to achieve the minimum SAP standards by the end of the probationary period, the student must submit another successful appeal before the institution can place the student on an academic plan.  With a second successful appeal the Assistant Dean (Student Administration) would develop an academic plan in conjunction with the student’s course work advisor that, if followed, would ensure that the student is able to meet the Nicholas School’s academic progress standards by a specific point in time and allow them to continue to receive Federal financial aid funds.

    The student may continue to receive Title IV aid during the probationary term.  If the student has not met the academic progress standards or the requirements specified in the academic action plan by the end of the probationary term, he/she will be ineligible for further Title IV aid until such time as he/she meets the standards.

    At the end of each regular term (i.e. Fall/Spring), the Student Services Office will notify students who have failed to meet the academic progress requirements as quickly as possible.

    Loss of Financial Aid Eligibility

    A student becomes ineligible for all federal student aid funds if Duke’s SAP review indicates he or she does not meet the required GPA, is not maintaining the required pace, has exceeded the permitted maximum time frame, and has exhausted our stated appeal process and allowable probationary period.  This remains true even if a student is not previously issued a “warning” communication. 

    Communication of Status

    Students will be notified of their financial aid status relating to satisfactory academic progress at the end of each regular semester if that status is unsatisfactory.  Students will be notified each term if they are placed in probationary status or if their lack of SAP has resulted in the loss of financial aid eligibility.  The process for appeal will be included in any communication.  Students will be notified by email to their Duke University email account after the close of each semester.



    Policy owner
    Student Services