Grants and Scholarships - Ability to Benefit Questions and Answers

I heard the federal government no longer accepts the Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) in place of a high school diploma or a high school equivalency diploma obtained from Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), formally known as GED, to meet the requirements for eligiblity of federal grants and loan programs.  Does this affect my NYS award?
The federal change in regulations regarding the use of the ATB does not currently impact eligibility of the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and other financial aid awards administered by NYS. To meet the high school requirement for TAP eligibility, a student who does not have a U.S. high school diploma or the recognized equivalent may receive NYS aid, provided the student has received a passing score on a federally approved ATB test identified by the NYS Board of Regents.

In September 2007, the Regents approved four ability-to-benefit tests to be used to determine eligibility for State financial aid:
  • Accuplacer
  • ASSET
  • COMPASS
  • 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.
What is meant by "independently administered" in regard to the ATB exam?
Schools are advised to refer to memos "CEO 07-02" and "CEO 07-03" from the State Education Department regarding the "Guidance Concerning Administration of ATB Tests to Determine Eligibility for TAP Awards."
What ATB tests can be used.
In September 2007, The Board of Regents approved four ability-to-benefit tests that can be used to determine eligibility for State financial aid: 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. 
Do first time state aid recipients in the 2006-07 academic year or thereafter who have a certificate of graduation (a high school diploma or recognized equivalent) from within the United States or from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands have to pass an ATB test to be eligible to receive New York State funded grants or scholarships?
No
Would a student who has earned 24 credits in the core classes required by the State Education Department, be eligible for a TASC?
Yes, students who have earned 24 credits in the core classes required by SED are eligible for a TASC. Learn more.
If a student earned the required 24 credits, does he/she have to obtain a GED/TASC or meet meet the ATB requirements?
Prior to January 2015, if the student had earned the State Education Department (SED) required 24 core credits, HESC had advised that the student did not have to obtain a High School Equivalency Diploma (GED/TASC) to fulfill the Ability to Benefit (ATB) requirement.  However, students who fell into this category were encouraged to apply.

On January 21, 2015, SED issued a memorandum providing additional guidance in relation to the high school equivalency requirements.  A student without a valid high school diploma must hold a high school equivalency diploma or receive a passing score on a federally approved ability to benefit test.  Students who have earned the required 24 credits can receive the NYS High School Equivalency Diploma by providing satisfactory evidence to SED that he/she has successfully completed the required 24 credits.  In addition, the student will have to file the required application through a process overseen by SED's High School Equivalency (HSE) Office.  Students must receive a New York State High School Equivalency Diploma by the first day of classes for a particular term to be certified as eligible for an award for that term.

SED's contact information is:

The University of the State of New York
New York State Education Department
Highe School Equivalency (HSE) Office
P.O. Box 7348
Albany, NY 12224-0348
(518) 474-5906
What requirements for ATB do college graduates need to meet?
College graduates - from US or recognized foreign colleges and universities are considered to meet the ATB standards and need not have to take an ATB exam or provide proof of a US high school diploma. (SED's criterion for foreign colleges and universities is that they be recognized by the home country's ministry of education).
Are transfer and re-admit students who first received TAP in the 2006-07 academic year required to comply with the new Ability-to-Benefit regulations?
Yes. The ATB regulation applies to all students who are first-time state aid recipients in the 06-07 academic year or thereafter.
How can schools see if a student is a first-time state aid recipient?
The Student Status Listing (Full and Abbreviated), as well as the rosters and individual student records, list the student's first year of state aid.
Are first-time state aid recipients entering as freshman students, or continuing students in the 2006-07 academic year with a non-U.S. high school diploma required to pass an ATB exam? Does this requirement apply to all State aid (ex. Academic Excellence)?
Yes, the ATB exam applies to all students who are first-time state aid recipients and is a requirement to be eligible to receive any first-time State aid.
Must the ATB requirement be met before the first day of classes for the term seeking aid?
For the academic year 2007-08, students were allowed to take and pass an ATB exam up until the end of each term in which they are seeking the award. Beginning in summer of the 2008-09 academic year, students were allowed to take the ATB exam within the add/drop period of the term. 
If a student fails an ATB exam prior to starting in the Fall term, will the student be able to re-take the ATB exam for that Fall terms State aid?
Schools will need to follow the specific requirements of the ATB exam they are using.
If a student is given permission to retake the ATB exam, are they given additional time beyond the add/drop period to take and pass the ATB?
No, a student must take the retest within the add/drop period for a particular term to be certified as eligible for an award for that term.
How can a first-time state aid recipient become eligible if they do not have a high school diploma or TASC from within the United States?
An ATB test must be passed if a student does not have a high school diploma or TASC from within the United States.
Is a home-schooled student eligible for state aid?
Yes. A home-schooled student is eligible for state aid if they take and pass an approved ATB test or the TASC test. 
Does a student have to take an ATB test if they have an Individualized Education Diploma (IEP) diploma?
Yes. A student must pass an ATB test as IEP diplomas are not equivalent to a local or Regents diploma.
Can schools still accept affidavits for students stating that they have a high school diploma from outside of the United States?
No. Effective July 1, 2006, students without a high school diploma from the United States must have passed an approved ATB exam.
If a student was previously enrolled in a school and then deferred enrollment to a later date but they do not meet the new ATB requirements, will they need to take the ATB exam?
Schools must use the date of actual enrollment.