TAP Coach

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Ability to Benefit

“Ability to benefit” originated in federal regulations for Title IV student financial aid programs and was adopted in NYS Education Law for state financial aid eligibility purposes effective for the 1995-96 academic year and thereafter. 

When a student does not have a high school diploma or recognized equivalent (i.e., GED), a student has a third possibility for establishing eligibility for TAP and other State awards: Demonstrating the ability to benefit from the training offered. Since 1995, such students have been required to pass a federally approved ability-to-benefit (ATB) test to be eligible to receive a TAP award. (Students who are attending college full time on an early admission basis before receiving their high school diplomas can take an ability-to-benefit test to be eligible for TAP.) 

Federally approved tests and minimum passing scores are published in the Federal Register and updated by the U.S. Department of Education when necessary. For state student aid, the same federal tests and minimum scores have been used. 

However, legislative changes in 2006 and 2007 included new provisions regarding TAP awards. Students who first receive awards in the 2006-2007 academic year must have a certificate of graduation from a recognized secondary school in the United States, or the recognized equivalent, or receive a passing score on a federally approved ability-to-benefit test that has been independently administered and evaluated as defined by the Commissioner. (Note: for home schooled students, a letter from local school district officials confirming that the student has received an education "substantially equivalent" to instruction given to students graduating high school in the public schools is recognized as the equivalent of a high school diploma.) 

For students who first receive awards in the 2007-2008 academic year, section 661(4)(e) of the Education Law now specifies that a student who does not have a U.S. high school diploma or the recognized equivalent must receive a passing score on a federally approved ability-to-benefit test that has been identified by the NYS Board of Regents as satisfying the eligibility requirements of this section and that has been independently administered and evaluated as defined by the Commissioner of Education.

In June 2007, the Regents adopted a new section 145-2.15 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education concerning the approved tests, how satisfactory scores will be determined, and the criteria for independent test administration. In September 2007, the Regents approved four ability-to-benefit tests to be used to determine eligibility for State financial aid: the Accuplacer, ASSET, COMPASS, and CELSA (Combined English Language Skills Assessment). The CELSA is approved providing the applicant also takes a math component from one of the other approved tests. This requirement applies to students at eligible institutions receiving their first award in 2007-2008. 

Effective spring 2007-08, students must take one of the four tests identified by the Board of Regents. Effective summer 2008-09, first-time recipients must take and pass an approved ability-to-benefit test within the institution's add/drop period to establish award eligibility in that term.

Academic Calendar
Section 145-2.1(a) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education defines full-time study as enrollment for at least 12 semester hours for a semester of not less than 15 weeks or 8 semester hours in a quarter, inclusive of examination periods, or 24 credits in an academic year of not more than 12 months (designated “uniterm”). With each calendar type, full-time study results in a total course load of 24 credits for the academic year. 

For financial aid purposes, when the regular academic year is divided into two equal terms of at least 15 weeks, the terms are designated semesters. When the academic year is divided into three equal terms, the terms are designated quarters (usually on quarter credits) or trimesters (usually on semester credits). Although not stated explicitly in the regulation, since two 15-week semesters comprise a minimum 30-week regular academic year, using this measure, quarters or trimesters must be at least 10 weeks in length (three 10-week terms equal 30 weeks). Note: a quarter credit equals two-thirds of a semester hour credit; thus, 12 quarter credits equal 8 semester hours.

For students to be eligible for financial aid, an institution’s academic calendar must satisfy one of these calendar types.
Academic Eligibility Criteria
Educational eligibility criteria (as distinct from such requirements as citizenship and residency) for State student financial assistance are defined and mandated in §601, §661, and §665 of NYS Education Law and in subpart 145-2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. These academic criteria include high school preparation, matriculation, full-time and part-time study, approved program, good academic standing, and accelerated study. 
Academic Year
The definition of “regular academic year” for determining award amounts is based on the definition of full-time and part-time study in section 145-2.1(a) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. A regular academic year in an institution operating on semesters consists of two semesters of at least 15 weeks each, including examination periods. In an institution operating on quarters or trimesters, the regular academic year consists of three quarters or trimesters of at least 10 weeks each, including examination periods. In an institution not organized on a semester, quarter, or trimester basis, the academic year consists of a single period not to exceed 12 months. 

An academic year for award certification purposes begins on July 1 and ends on the following June 30.
Accelerated Study

Education Law permits an additional “accelerated” TAP payment in an award year, over and above the regular annual award, in certain circumstances. 

Prior to the 2006-07 academic year, TAP recipients were eligible for an accelerated award payment if they were enrolled full time in the previous or subsequent term. Students who enrolled for a third full-time semester or fourth full-time quarter or trimester in a calendar year were eligible for a full-time accelerated award payment. A student could also receive a half-time accelerated TAP award (enrollment for at least six but fewer than twelve semester hours) as long as the prior or subsequent full-time enrollment requirement was met. 

However, statutory changes for academic year 2006-07 and thereafter imposed new requirements for accelerated study awards that replace the previous eligibility criteria stated above. To be eligible for an accelerated TAP payment--either a full-time or half-time award--students must still be enrolled full time in the prior term but now must also earn 24 semester hour credits or the equivalent (i.e., 36 quarter credits) in the prior two semesters or the equivalent (i.e., three prior quarters/trimesters). The 24 semester hours must be credits earned at the same institution and applicable to the student’s program of study. Transfer credits cannot be used to meet this requirement. If a student changes programs within an institution, the 24 credits must be applicable to the program in which the student was enrolled when the credits were earned. Therefore, a student changing their major may use the 24 credits from the previous degree program to meet the requirement.

The student must meet the prior study requirement each time an accelerated award is sought. 

Note: a further statutory change, effective April 1, 2007, permits the equivalent of three credits in noncredit remedial hours per semester (2 credit equivalents per trimester) to be included in meeting the 24-prior-credit requirement. While the 24 credits can be earned in a variety of ways in the prior two semesters (e.g., 12 and 12, 15 and 9, etc.), the student must be enrolled full-time in the term immediately preceding the accelerated term. For the student taking remedial courses, three credit equivalents in each semester (2 credit equivalents in each quarter/trimester) is the only permissible configuration.

At institutions where the summer term is not part of the regular academic year (SUNY, CUNY, and most independent colleges and universities), the summer term is always the accelerated term. Summer 2007 was the first term that needed to be evaluated at these institutions to determine eligibility for an accelerated award using the new 24 prior credit requirement. For schools that have continuous enrollment and the regular calendar allows students to attend three semesters or four quarters/trimesters in a calendar year, the accelerated term is the third semester or fourth quarter/trimester. The first accelerated term that needed to be evaluated at these institutions was the third semester of the 2006-07 award year or the fourth quarter/trimester of the 2006-07 award year. Use certification code 7 (previously used for students not enrolled in an approved program) to decertify students who do not meet the requirements to receive payment for accelerated study for a term.

Accelerated study eligibility at registered private business schools

(a) Schools that teach three terms of 15 weeks or more in a year: to be eligible for a third term of TAP within a calendar year (accelerated study), a student must successfully complete a total of 720 clock hours in two consecutive terms. This would generally result in 360 clock hours per term, unless the school receives approval from the State Education Department for an increase in hours per term.

(b) Schools that teach four terms of at least 10 weeks and fewer than 15 weeks in a calendar year: to be eligible for a fourth term of TAP within a calendar year (accelerated study), a student must successfully complete a total of 720 clock hours in three consecutive terms. This would generally be 240 clock hours per term unless the school receives State Education Department approval for an increase in the hours per term.

New York State Scholarships

Requirements for accelerated study apply to all full-time study scholarships that do not allow for part-time study. The following scholarships are not affected by the accelerated study requirements:

  • Veterans Tuition Awards
  • Senator Patricia K. McGee Nursing Faculty Scholarship
Accelerated Study/Remedial Coursework
Text: Effective April 1, 2007, students must have completed 24 credits in the prior two semesters (or the equivalent in the prior three trimesters) to receive payment for accelerated study. However, the equivalent of three credits per semester (or two credits per trimester) may be remedial courses. Therefore, a student that has successfully completed three equivalent credits of remedial work in each of the prior two semesters would be eligible for an accelerated payment after having earned a total of 18 credits in the preceding two semesters or three trimesters. 

The statute allows substituting only three equivalent credits of remedial study per semester. As such, a student who successfully completes six equivalent credits of remedial work in one semester and no remedial courses in the next semester, would need to earn 21 credits in the prior two semesters to be eligible for an accelerated payment. 

Example: A student attending a continuous enrollment semester-based school enrolled for 12 credits (three are remedial) for the Summer 2012-13 term, and enrolled for 12 credits (three are remedial) during the Fall 2012-13 term. The student earned 18 credits in two consecutive terms and was enrolled full-time during the Fall term. The student in this example will be eligible for accelerated study for the Spring 2012-13 term.
ADA Part-time TAP

Education Law section 661(d)(4) provides that for students who are disabled as defined by the Americans with Disability Act of 1990, "the full-time attendance requirement is eliminated. Such disabled students may be in part-time attendance, as defined by the commissioner in order to be eligible to receive payments. . ."

According to section 145-2.1(a)(4) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, for a student with a disability, "part-time study or attendance shall mean enrollment for at least three but less than 12 semester hours per semester or the equivalent, or at least two but less than eight semester hours per quarter."

Other than full-time enrollment, ADA Part-Time TAP recipients must meet all TAP eligibility requirements. Good academic standing is determined using the same satisfactory academic progress standard used for Aid for Part-Time Study—that is, for each ADA Part-Time TAP award, a recipient has two semesters to meet the progress standard. Awards use one-half of a TAP payment of eligibility. 

Students with a part-time course load that includes noncredit remedial courses must carry at least three semester hours of credit-bearing work, pursuant to section 145-2.1(a)(1) of the Commissioner’s Regulations: “Effective for academic terms beginning on or after July 1, 1984, a student carrying a part-time program that includes noncredit remedial courses shall carry at least three semester hours a semester.” That means, for example, that a student taking the minimum three semester hours must enroll only in credit-bearing courses.

Effective with the 2011-12 academic year, HESC will calculate TAP awards as a percentage of the award the ADA student would be eligible to receive if the student were enrolled full-time, similar to the current Part-time TAP award calculation formula. Consistent with such formula, this percentage is obtained by dividing the number of credits the student is enrolled in, as certified by the school, by the number of credits required for full-time study in the semester, trimester or term. The TAP points used will also be based on this percentage (see the charts below for information on award percentages and points accrual based on credits being taken). 

Certifications for ADA students will only be accepted via HESC’s web site. The HescWeb screens for "STUDENT RECORD MAINTENANCE," "VIEW/SUBMIT PENDING CERTIFICATION," and "VIEW/CORRECT STUDENT CERTIFICATION" will be modified to indicate the student meets the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 guidelines, and to allow the reporting of credits being taken in the Enrollment Status drop down list.

Consistent with Part-time TAP, any semester, quarter or term of attendance during which a student receives an ADA TAP award shall be counted as the enrollment factor percent of a semester, quarter or term toward the maximum term of eligibility for TAP awards. The total period of study for which payment may be made shall not exceed the equivalent of the maximum period authorized for that award.

The Report of Students Certified as Part-time for a Non-Summer Term (HE8278), which is currently sent to the school, will no longer be produced.

Part-time Credits

Semester Schools

ADA payment will be made for students taking 3-11 credits as shown below:

Points Accrual for Part-time ADA Payments - Semester Schools
Percent of Full Award
Points Accrued

Trimester Schools

ADA payment will be made for students taking 3-7 credits as shown below: 

Points Accrual for Part-time ADA Payments - Trimester Schools
Percent Of Full Award
Points Accrued

Note: ADA recipients who meet all other certification requirements, but are taking only two credits in a term at a trimester-based school, will require special processing. Contact HESC at (888) 697-4372 option 2 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for instructions regarding the certification of these students.

Admission Requirements

Each institution establishes its requirements for admission to various programs and levels of study. However, Education Law section 661 imposes a basic entrance requirement for eligibility for state student financial aid.

To be eligible, a student must have a certificate of graduation (high school diploma) from a school providing secondary education or a high school equivalency diploma. A third possibility for students who do not have a high school diploma or equivalency diploma is to take and pass an approved ability-to-benefit test that demonstrates the student can benefit from the education being offered.

Legislation enacted in 2006 and 2007 amended these requirements. Students who first receive an award in the 2006-07 academic year or thereafter must have a certificate of graduation from a high school in the United States. Ability-to-benefit criteria have also changed. Section 661(4)(e) now specifies that a student who does not have a U.S. high school diploma or the recognized equivalent must achieve a passing score on a federally approved ability-to-benefit test identified by the NYS Board of Regents as satisfying the eligibility requirements of this section and that has been independently administered and evaluated as defined by the Commissioner of Education. 

Additional acceptable demonstrations of meeting the high school graduation requirement include:

  • A prior degree;
  • 24 semester hour credits earned at an accredited institution in the appropriate distribution to qualify for a high school equivalency diploma pursuant to the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education (6 credits in English Language arts, 3 credits each in the Humanities, Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Social Sciences, and 6 additional credits applicable to the student’s program);
  • Appropriate documentation from the local school district of completion of high school requirements through home schooling; or
  • A GED test score certificate showing passing scores.
In the past, a student’s signed and notarized affidavit was acceptable to substantiate the completion of secondary education when original documents were lost or unavailable due to extraordinary circumstances such as war or other circumstances beyond the student’s control.

However, effective July 1, 2006, students who are unable to provide evidence of a high school diploma from a school providing secondary education within the United States* or the recognized equivalent must pass an ability-to-benefit test approved by the New York Board of Regents and independently administered as defined by the Commissioner of Education. 

* Within the United States means in a State, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau.
Aid for Part-time Study

APTS HandbookThe Legislature established the Aid for Part-time Study (APTS) program in 1984 in a new section 666 of the Education Law. Aid for Part-time Study is a different program than Part-Time TAP (established in 2006) with different requirements. One key difference is that there is no prior study (prior earned credits) requirement for APTS. 

The program is campus-based: that is, individual campuses that decide to participate in the program select recipients and determine award amounts after HESC allocates funds based on an institution’s prior year part-time degree credit enrollment. APTS is not an entitlement program and not all potentially eligible students will necessarily receive an award. Institutions have the discretion to determine policy for administering the program, to make the decisions, and to provide awards to students who demonstrate the greatest financial need until the institution’s available allotted funds are exhausted. Statute does not define need or specify how need is to be determined. Therefore, participating institutions should establish written policies defining selection criteria and methods of choosing recipients to assure an equitable distribution of available funds.

The program provides up to a $2,000 annual award ($1,000 per semester; $666.66 per quarter/trimester) for part-time students matriculated in undergraduate degree and credit-bearing diploma and certificate approved programs who enroll for at least 3 but fewer than 12 semester hours a semester or at least 4 but fewer than 8 semester hours in a quarter or trimester. The student’s part-time course load can consist of both credit-bearing and noncredit remedial courses, providing the student carries at least 3 semester hours of credit-bearing work (i.e., a student who enrolls for the minimum number of hours must enroll in a credit-bearing course). Tuition for the program in which the student enrolls must total at least $100 per year. The maximum award cannot exceed tuition charges. (Students in nondegree registered private business schools are not eligible.)

After selecting recipients, the institution must waive tuition in the amount of the part-time award at the outset of the award-supported term. Once the term has ended, institutions will be reimbursed for tuition waived for each recipient certified to have achieved a cumulative passing average for the semester hours undertaken pursuant to the award. Statute provides that students who fail to achieve a cumulative passing average are not liable for the tuition waived. Institutions will be reimbursed for those students who fail to complete the term with a passing average but only up to 10 percent of the value of all awards made at the institution to recipients who fail to achieve cumulative passing averages.

The following criteria also pertain to APTS:

  • Awards received count against a student’s total award eligibility for undergraduate tuition support (4 academic years, unless enrolled in an approved 5-year program); whether a student receives APTS or TAP or a combination during the student’s undergraduate studies, all awards draw on the student’s maximum eligibility under Education Law. As an example, a student enrolled in a four-year undergraduate program at a semester-based institution can receive up to sixteen semesters of part-time awards. 

  • As is the case with other State award programs, students must remain in good academic standing. For satisfactory academic progress requirements, a student must meet the same criteria of credits accrued with a minimum grade point average approved (or mandated by statute) at the institution for TAP but have more time to do so. For example, in the case of students at semester-based institutions, an APTS recipient has two semesters to meet the requirements on the satisfactory progress chart that a full-time TAP recipient must meet in one semester. However, in the case of pursuit of program requirements where students must get a passing or failing grade in a minimum percentage of the student’s course load, the same criteria apply, whether the student is receiving an APTS or TAP award. The student must get a grade in at least 50 percent of the student’s course load in each term that an award is received in the first year of study. The percentage increases to 75 percent of the minimum course load each term in the second year awards are received and to 100 percent each term thereafter. The good academic standing requirements are in addition to the cumulative passing average requirement that is specific to the APTS program. 

  • APTS recipients who lose good academic standing have four ways to regain eligibility: make up the deficiency at their own expense without benefit of State student aid; return to college after an absence of at least six months; transfer to another institution; or be granted a one-time undergraduate waiver. The single undergraduate waiver permitted in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education for loss of good academic standing may be used for either a full-time TAP award or an APTS award if the student fails to make progress, fails to pursue, or fails to meet both of these good academic standing requirements in the same term. However, institutions should give particular consideration to whether granting the one-time waiver for a part-time award is the most effective use of the waiver provision or whether it might best be saved for possible use for a full-time award. 

  • APTS recipients must also meet citizenship, residency, and income eligibility criteria. APTS awards are considered duplicative of other part-time awards. For example, if a student receives a part-time Vietnam Veterans Tuition Award and an APTS award, if the combined awards exceed tuition, APTS is reduced.

Applicable Courses

In the context of State student aid, applicable courses means those courses that apply to or are an integral part of the student’s program of study. To count in the determination of the student’s minimum full-time or part-time course load, a course must apply to the student’s program as a general education requirement, a major requirement, or elective (whether restricted or free elective).

This expectation regarding applicable courses is derived from several regulations in subpart 145-2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. The only exception to this requirement is in the final term of study. If a student needs fewer than the minimum number of credits to be full time, the student can take additional courses to make up a full-time course load. Excerpts from regulations pertaining to the requirement that courses be applicable to the student’s program of study are discussed in the topic on full-time study.

Students can take additional courses over and above the minimum course load requirements to enrich their college studies and not affect aid eligibility.

Because the acceptability of the courses that make up the student’s minimum course load is critical to the student’s eligibility, it is important that those college personnel involved in advising the student about course selection be familiar with this requirement.

Application Procedure

To be eligible for State student aid programs, a student must be matriculated in an approved program at a participating institution in New York State. 

To receive any state-sponsored award or scholarship, students must submit an application to HESC by June 30 of the academic year for which assistance is sought. Exception: To receive assistance through the Aid for Part-Time Study program, a campus-based program, students must submit an application to the participating institution—not to HESC. 

TAP on the Web (TOTW)—Electronic Process

NY residents can apply for both federal and state financial aid using a single online session. After filling out the FAFSA on the Web, NYS resident can link to TAP on the Web, which is pre-filled with their FAFSA data and, if applicable, historical data from HESC’s system.

Express TAP application (ETA)—Paper Process

Students initiate the TAP application process by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

New York State students who list at least one New York State college on the FAFSA will receive an email or postcard from HESC containing instructions on how to file an online application or how to request an ETA be mailed to them. Paper applications are no longer mailed automatically. Information from the FAFSA and the family's calculated NYS income will be preprinted on the ETA. The applicant should review this information, make any necessary corrections, complete any missing items and then sign and mail using the return envelope. 

Schools may request an ETA for individual students by using HESC's secure G&S Transaction Processing. Select Request TAP Form in the left hand task bar in View Student Record. The ETA can also be printed from the G&S Transaction Processing Standard Reports area of HESC's Website. HESC will process returned ETA forms and then issue award notifications, denials, or requests for additional information.

Students can update information on the original application or report information not previously reported by submitting either:

  • Request for information—This is a form that HESC sends via email to students requesting information not reported on the application. Students can use it to change any information on the application or to withdraw a financial independence claim.
  • Change form—HESC sends students an award notification via email (or postcard if no email address is available). Students can make changes online to update information previously reported, to supply missing information, or to withdraw a financial independence claim.
Approved Program
To be eligible for State student financial aid, a student must be matriculated in an approved program. Approved programs are defined in section 601(4) of the Education Law:

“Approved program” for the purpose of determining a student’s eligibility for awards provided in articles thirteen and fourteen of this chapter and subject to specific modification by sections of such articles, shall mean the following programs of study approved by the commissioner pursuant to this article in accordance with rules of the board of regents and registered by the state education department in accordance with regulations of the commissioner, or where applicable, registered by the state department of health and forwarded to the state education department: 

(1) collegiate level programs leading to a degree, or programs leading to a diploma or certificate that are fully creditable towards a degree program in that institution; 

(2) study and training programs offered by a hospital school, a community college, a unit of the state university of New York, a unit of the city university of New York, or an institution chartered by the regents or by the legislature for the purpose of granting degrees, leading to licensure as a professional registered or practical nurse or to certification in an area of medical or health technology; and 

(3) two-year programs offered in a registered private business school.

Based on statute, the Commissioner defined approved programs in section 145-2.3(b) of regulations:

Approved programs, for general and academic performance awards other than part-time tuition awards and tuition awards for Vietnam veterans, where authorized and specified by statute, shall be defined as follows:

(1)collegiate level programs shall denote those programs registered by the State Education Department under section 52.2 of this chapter or other appropriate regulation applying to a program leading to a degree, or leading to a diploma or certificate full creditable towards a degree in an institution authorized to grant degrees. Approved diploma and certificate programs shall be of at least one academic year’s duration. (Note: one academic year’s duration is interpreted to mean programs consisting of at least 24 semester hour credits or the equivalent.) Programs registered under section 52.22 of this Title shall not be considered collegiate level programs. Further, post-doctoral programs leading to specialty certification, such as in psychoanalysis or orthodonture, shall not be considered diploma or certificate programs within the intent of articles 13 and 14 of the Education Law.

(2) noncollegiate programs. (i) Hospital programs of professional nursing. Such programs shall denote programs registered by the State Education Department under paragraph (a)(1) of section 52.12 of this chapter as programs offered by a hospital nursing school and approved by the Regents as leading to licensure as a registered professional nurse. (ii) other health-related programs. Such programs shall denote other programs that lead to licensure as a licensed practical nurse registered by the State Education Department under paragraph (a)(2) of section 52.12 of this Chapter, or to certification in an area of medical or health technology, and that are registered, licensed or approved by the State Education Department or by the State Health Department. (iii) Two-year programs in registered private business schools. Such programs shall denote programs of at least 1440 instructional hours’ duration that are offered by private business schools not authorized to grant degrees and that are registered by the State Education Department under Part 126 of this Title.

Approved programs at degree-granting institutions are compiled in the State Education Department’s official Inventory of Registered Programs. The Inventory is available online at highered.nysed.gov/ocue. Institutions can locate their section of the Inventory and review the list of their approved programs. Information about whether the programs are eligible for State student aid is included in details for each program.

A basic audit question is whether a TAP recipient is enrolled in an approved program. Auditors from the Office of the State Comptroller use the Inventory of Registered Programs to make that determination. To minimize or eliminate possible audit disallowances, institutions are cautioned to confirm that their program offerings and catalog descriptions are consistent with the way the programs are recorded in the Inventory of Registered Programs. If there are any discrepancies, the institution should bring them to the attention of the State Education Department for resolution. Certifying officers should also assure that for each aid recipient, there is an official registration record of the approved program in which the student is enrolled.

If aid recipients are enrolled in a program for which there is no record of State Education Department registration, there is the potential for an audit disallowance of all funds to students in the unregistered program.

Although the statutory requirement of matriculation in an approved program applies from the beginning of a student’s studies, it is common for students to defer officially declaring a major until they have a better idea of their educational and career goals. In such instances, students are generally taking courses in a variety of disciplines that form the basis of the initial years of study of a number of different degree programs. Therefore, institutions can consider matriculated students who delay deciding on their major to be enrolled in one or more of an institution’s approved (registered) programs.

However, for financial aid purposes, students enrolled in a 2-year program must declare a major within 30 days of the end of the institution’s drop/add period in their sophomore year. Students enrolled in a 4-year program must declare a major within 30 days of the end of the drop/add period in their junior year. Students are, of course, free to change their majors after these points.

For financial aid purposes, full-time attendance is generally used interchangeably with full-time study. Section 661(4) of Education Law stipulates that, to be eligible for State awards, students “must be in full-time attendance, as defined by the commissioner, except as specifically provided in article fourteen . . .”

In section 145-2.1 of the Regulations, the Commissioner defines full-time and part-time study.

Institutions are not required to take attendance for financial aid determinations; that is a decision at the institution’s discretion. However, certification officers must have documentation of the student’s enrollment and completion of courses making up the minimum full-time or part-time course load.


Colleges and universities participating in the State’s student financial aid programs are subject to periodic audit by the Office of the State Comptroller. The purpose of the audits is to assure that institutions are administering the programs properly in accordance with applicable Education Law, regulations, and policy.

Auditors begin with a sample of approximately 200 student awards (adjusted as necessary based on the size of an institution), generally covering a three-year period. They will spend two or three months on campus reviewing college operations and controls relating to student aid as well as all records and documentation pertaining to each student’s award. Materials considered include, but are not limited to:

  • Admissions records (application, high school diploma, test scores, etc.)
  • Academic transcripts (to verify matriculation in approved program; accuracy of GPA calculation, appropriate course load per term, etc.)
  • Approved standard of satisfactory academic progress
  • College catalogs (for review of admission criteria; academic program listings, grading and other academic policies, etc.)
  • Official State Education Department Inventory of Registered Programs
  • Waiver records

The more complete, detailed, and accurate an institution’s records to support its certifications of student eligibility, the more likely there will be a positive (few if any disallowances) audit outcome.