COVID-19 Updates for Colleges

HESC appreciates the support of our partners and is here to provide colleges with guidance and the answers to your frequently asked questions as we navigate through this public health crisis together.

1. For what term(s) is the NYS financial aid hold-harmless policy for students impacted by COVID-19 in effect?
The HESC hold-harmless policy for students impacted by COVID-19 is effective during the spring term for semester schools and the winter term for trimester or three semester schools though a yet-to-be determined time. Schools will be provided with additional guidance as the State continues to address the evolving COVID-19 outbreak.

IDENTIFYING IMPACTED AND UNIMPACTED STUDENTS

1. How do we identify the students impacted by the COVID-19?
You should work within your institutions to determine how your financial aid offices will be informed of students impacted by COVID-19. It is up to the institution to determine the types of documentation they will collect to support use of the COVID-19 flag. While HESC will not require that schools submit documentation, such documentation may be needed for State audit purposes.
2. Is this policy just applicable to study-abroad students?
The HESC hold-harmless policy is applicable to any student adversely impacted by COVID-19 whether or not they were study-abroad students. This includes all students who may have an incomplete term or grade resulting from the implementation of distance learning or other alternative learning option, pursuant to State or institutional COVID-19 guidance.
3. Who is considered an impacted student?
Impacted students are those who are (a) unable to complete courses for the term or (b) earn fewer credits or a lower grade than required by award programs due to COVID-19, regardless of where or how, including:
  • Students enrolled in or who were supposed to begin travel-abroad experiences and were either called back to the US or were not able to begin
  • Students who met full-time requirements, but because of COVID-19, have fallen below the credit requirements 
  • Students who have come in contact or become sick with the virus and could not complete a class
  • Students impacted by emergency closures or temporary campus closures in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Students impacted by other related emergency events to prevent the spread of COVID-19
4. Which students are considered unimpacted by COVID-19?
Unimpacted students are those who successfully complete all credits for the term, even if impacted by COVID-19. Students who did not meet eligibility requirements as your institution’s drop/add date or students who had previously been granted a waiver would also be considered unimpacted. These students should be processed as normal.
5. Does this mean that impacted students get a "free" payment and no charge against their points?
Students who (a) are unable to complete classes or coursework due to emergency actions taken due to the COVID-19 virus, and (b) were assessed tuition by their school will be granted an extra award payment; furthermore, no points will be charged against these students.
6. If a student drops a class because distance learning may not be viable, would this be coded as a "term impacted by COVID-19" even though it was just one class?
Yes; if an award recipient drops a class because distance learning is not available, causing the student to drop below full time, the student should be coded as “term impacted by COVID-19.”
7. If all SUNY/ CUNY schools are moving to distance learning, wouldn't all state aid recipients be impacted?
No, only if the virus has impacted the student’s ability to complete classes. Please refer to question 3 in this section.
8. Is everyone “affected” based on the term or is it only because they were ill, or their courses were impacted?
Please see response to questions 3 and 4 in this section.
9. Is a student impacted if they are being forced to go to the online instruction method and then decide to withdraw because they know they will not be successful using that method, are unable to complete the requirements, or do not have a computer/internet to complete distance learning?
Schools are encouraged to develop their own policies regarding impacted students; however, HESC would support a school’s determination that a student who lacks the technology needed to complete a term through distance learning directives issued to preserve student health and safety due to the COVID-19 virus should be coded as “term impacted by COVID-19.”
10. If students are unable to complete their courses online, they will still receive all state aid? How would this be verified?
Please see response to questions 3 and 9 in this section.
11. How do we determine if a student meets the criteria of "impacted by COVID?” What kind of documentation should we have?
See question 3 in this section.
12. Is there any info from the U.S. Department of Education regarding federal financial aid loosening their 60% attendance requirements?
Schools should visit the U.S. Department of Education page for Federal coronavirus information: https://www.ed.gov/coronavirus
13. What happens if a student's original courses were not degree eligible (extra electives) and, therefore, I would have de-certified but then are impacted by COVID-19 (abroad and had to come home)?
Students who would have been decertified because their original courses were not degree eligible should continue to be decertified, because the reason for ineligibility was unrelated to the coronavirus.
14. Would a student studying abroad not in a location that was required to come home but came home be considered impacted if they did not complete all courses originally registered for?
Yes, study abroad students who (a) were directed to return home (even if the country in which they studied was not considered a coronavirus hotspot) and (b) as a result of such return, did not complete all courses originally registered for, would be considered impacted.
15. What would happen if students were not able to attend a study abroad program in Japan but were placed in another degree applicable course with a late start for 12 credits, would we code these students as impacted?
Students who are able to re-register for full-time study in the term in which their study abroad was cancelled would be treated as a regular student and would not be considered impacted if able to fulfill their coursework. Students who are placed in another degree-applicable course but fail to earn a passing grade should be decertified.
16. Are students who must finish their courses online considered impacted?
Students who successfully complete their coursework are not considered impacted. Only those who are unable to complete their coursework online or through other means due to COVID-19, as determined by the college, would be considered impacted. See question 9 in this section.
17. Should schools use a process similar to the TAP waiver to collect supporting documentation?
Schools are encouraged to develop their own policies regarding impacted students.

CERTIFICATIONS

1. Do all certifications need to be done online or can rosters/manifests be sent electronically and then schools go online to update the COVID-19 impacted field?
Yes, schools can submit the regular certification electronically and once processed, the school must submit a post-certification transaction on line to add the flag, when needed.
2. Will there be further instructions on how to help us in this process?
Yes. HESC will provide further guidance, as needed.
3. Is there any plan to automate the process so schools do not need to certify online?
Online certification is the only planned solution to hold students harmless due to the COVID-19 virus. Changes in layouts would impact schools’ systems and would result in time delays while schools make changes and additional testing time.
4. When do we use Certification Code 9?
If a student was (a) impacted by COVID-19 and therefore unable to complete their classes, and (b) not charged tuition, a school would decertify with a ‘9’ miscellaneous decertification and set the COVID-19 flag to ‘YES’.
5. I suspect that we might not know who is affected until they have issues on the next term’s rosters. Are we able to update this information at that time (meaning in the fall)? Will there be an "impacted" field from 2019 flow to 2020 rosters?
The COVID -19 flag will be available until all impacted students are processed, including next fall, if necessary.
6. Can you please provide the email address to send the CSR?
The email address to which the CSRs should be sent is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please be sure to enter “CSR” in the subject field to help HESC identify these rosters.
7. Is it appropriate to accept self-certification from the student that their course failure was due to COVID-19?
Schools are encouraged to develop their own policies and guidelines regarding impacted students.

TAP

1. Do students who are already certified for TAP and then withdraw from classes due to COVID-19 need to be recertified?
A student who was ineligible as of the institution’s drop/add date would not be recertified. For all other TAP award recipients, schools would recertify the student as a ‘1’ eligible if they have a tuition liability (or ‘9’ if they have no tuition liability) and set the affected by COVID-19 to ‘YES.’
2. What if a student is affected by COVID-19 but successfully completes all their coursework?
Students who are affected by COVID-19 but successfully complete all their coursework would not be deemed impacted and would not have the COVID-19 field set to ‘Yes.’
3. In what circumstance would we need to go back and amend a certification that's been submitted already? Do you have an example?
A student in a study abroad program who was (a) decertified because s/he was taking courses not applicable to her/his degree and (b) directed to return to the U.S. from an impacted or non-impacted country before completing the term would not be eligible for the COVID-19 flag.

If the same previously decertified student, upon his or her return, was registered in degree-applicable distance learning courses and was successful in that coursework, s/he would now be eligible for their state financial aid award, and the school would need to recertify the student.

If the student, upon his or her return, was registered in degree-applicable distance learning courses but could not complete the courses because because s/he did not have the technology/internet service to do so remotely, the school would need to recertify the student, using certification code 9 and indicate impacted by COVID-19.

SAP / POP

1. If a student is on an SAP waiver applied to the current spring semester, would this still be counted as using the one-time waiver?
A student on a SAP waiver applied to the current spring semester would still be counted as using the one-time waiver.
2. If student failed SAP/POP at end of Fall 2019, what code is used to certify for Spring TAP? What if they fail?
If the student did not meet the SAP/POP requirement at the end on the Fall term, the student would not be eligible for the Spring award unless they used the one-time waiver. If the student is eligible for the award, certify with a code 1 and, if impacted by COVID-19, provide that information with the certification. If student did not use the waiver or failed the term requirements, decertify with a code 9.

Excelsior / ETA

1. If an Excelsior Scholarship recipient is unable to meet the 30-credit requirement by the end of this academic year, do they still need to complete 60 by the next academic year? Do they still need to graduate in two years with an Associate’s degree?
HESC will issue guidance regarding the ongoing credit requirements for Enhanced Tuition Awards and Excelsior Scholarship recipients at a future date.
2. Will ADA students be evaluated under the same "Impacted Students" definition?
Yes, ADA students should be evaluated using the same guidance.

Other Scholarships

1. For students who have been impacted and already been certified for Consolidated Scholarships (e.g., WTC), will we just resubmit the roster they were on and write “Impacted by COVID-19” inside the student info?
Yes. Prior Consolidated Scholarship Rosters will not have the COVID-19 check box; therefore, schools must resubmit the roster with the written notation “Impacted by COVID-19.”
2. Should schools close and we have to work from home, will we be able to certify the CSR electronically or will we still have to fax over the form?
CSR rosters cannot be certified electronically. Completed CSRs may be scanned and emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please be sure to enter “CSR” in the subject field to help HESC identify these rosters.
3. What about APTS certification?
APTS certification web pages will also have the COVID-19 flag added and schools should certify appropriately.

GENERAL

1. What is the Payments email address?
The payments email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..