Chapter 3: Student Information
3.00 Student Information
There are several specific requirements a student must satisfy to be eligible for state grant and scholarship awards. A list of these requirements for each program is in Chapter 1.
Initially, students are approved or rejected for an award based on information they submit on the application. Approval for an award is tentative and is based on an assumption that information on the application is correct and that the student will meet other required eligibility criteria. Final approval for an award is contingent upon institutional certification of student eligibility.
Additionally, students must provide other required information to enable HESC to identify students, calculate awards, and forward payment to the appropriate institution.
3.01 General Student Eligibility Criteria
Following is a description of student eligibility criteria:
a. Citizenship Requirements
All grant and scholarship programs that HESC administers require the student to meet certain requirements relating to U.S. citizenship. Students will be considered to have fulfilled the citizenship requirement if they meet citizenship requirements for federal programs.
b. New York State Residency Requirements
Eligibility for state-sponsored scholarships and awards is limited to students who meet New York State residency requirements.
Institutional Responsibility. In determining if a particular student meets New York State residency requirements, institutional personnel should know on-campus information that might reflect on a student's residency. A diploma from a non New York State high school, an out of state address for parents or for billing purposes are examples of readily available information that would reflect negatively on a student's claim to New York State residency. Institutions must review eligibility for state awards for any student whose New York State residency is questionable. In many cases, the review will be simple and the institution will need only to document the decision. Cases that cannot be determined by college officials should be forwarded to HESC. The institution should use the Student Record Maintenance page on HESC's Website to request a Residency Questionnaire be sent to the student and refrain from taking any certification activity until the student's residency has been determined.
Institutions should develop procedures to record the state in which the student attended and graduated from high school. Students who are non New York State high school graduates should not be certified until some review of their records, either by the school or HESC, is complete. It is expected that schools will review residency eligibility and make appropriate determinations before forwarding to HESC for review.
Legal Residence. To satisfy residency requirements, the student must be a legal resident of New York State. Legal residence means that the student currently resides in New York State and intends to make the state his/her permanent home. The act of living within the state's boundaries is, in itself, an insufficient demonstration of residency. The student must present evidence of having established a domicile or permanent place of abode in New York State. Living in New York State solely to attend a college or other postsecondary institution does not, in itself, establish legal residence. The student must demonstrate, to the corporation's satisfaction, through his/her conduct that he/she intends to make the state his/her permanent home. The corporation may consider actions taken by the student such as obtaining employment, housing, vehicle registration, and paying State income taxes, among others, in making its determination. Note: Legislation has been enacted, effective with 2005-06 academic year waiving the residency requirements for members of the armed forces (and their spouses and dependents) stationed on full-time active duty in New York State. See below for information regarding obtaining a waiver.
Legal Residence of Financially Dependent Students. If the student is financially dependent upon his/her parents, HESC presumes the student's legal residence to be that of the parents. If the parents are separated or divorced, HESC presumes the legal residence to be that of the parent who has been awarded custody (or who would have been awarded custody if the student were a minor). If the student's parents reside out of state, as reported on the FASFA, HESC presumes the student resides out of state. However, if circumstances warrant, a student may apply to HESC for recognition of residence separate from either or both parents. In these cases, students are sent a New York State Residence Review Questionnaire which is submitted to HESC for review.
Legal Residence Requirement for Members of the Armed Forces, their spouses and Dependents.
- If the student was a legal resident of New York State when he/she entered into the service and has maintained that legal residence while in the service, HESC presumes the student meets the residency requirement.
- If the student is the spouse or dependent of a member of the armed forces who is a legal resident of New York State but is stationed out of state, HESC presumes the student meets the residency requirement regardless of how long the member of military has been absent from New York State while on active duty.
- If the student is a member of the armed forces who is not a legal resident of New York State but who is stationed on full-time active duty in New York State, the residency requirement is waived effective with the 2005-06 academic year. To qualify for the waiver, the student must submit official documentation confirming full-time active duty status and duty station.
- If the student is the spouse or dependent of a member of the armed forces who is not a legal resident of New York State but who is stationed on full-time active duty in New York State, the residency requirement is waived effective with the 2005-06 academic year. The student must submit official documentation confirming both the full-time active duty status and duty station of the member of the armed forces and the student's status as spouse or dependent of that person.
Duration of Residency. For grant and scholarship programs requiring award recipients to be New York State residents, the student must be a legal resident of New York State for at least 12 months before the term for which assistance is sought. Undergraduate students who have not been legal residents of New York State for at least 12 months can satisfy this requirement if they are currently legal residents and were legal residents during the last two semesters of high school, regardless of any intervening time spent outside New York State. Graduate students who have not been legal residents of New York State for at least 12 months can satisfy this requirement if they are currently legal residents, were legal residents during their last two semesters of undergraduate study, and have continued to be legal residents until matriculation in their graduate programs. However, nonresidents who begin full-time study in New York State during their first year of residing in New York State are not generally eligible for state-sponsored student aid, even though they may have resided in New York State for 12 or more months. Veterans or former National Service Volunteers who were legal residents of New York State upon entry into the service can meet the 12-month requirement if they re-establish legal residency within six months of release from active duty, regardless of how long they were absent from New York State and regardless of legal residencies established elsewhere. Students who were residents of New York State before meeting citizenship requirements are considered to meet New York State residency requirements for any term of study beginning after they have met citizenship requirements if they have been residents of the state for at least 12 months.
Exceptions to 12-month rule: To receive assistance through the following programs the student need only be a legal resident of New York State at the start of the term for which assistance is sought:
- Regents Award for Children of Deceased or Disabled Veterans
- Regents Award for Children of Deceased Corrections Officers
- Memorial Scholarship for Families of Deceased Firefighters, Volunteer Firefighters, Police Officers, Peace Officers and Emergency Medical Service Workers.
Loss of Residency. New York State residency is lost when the student discontinues permanent legal residence in the state. The student is ineligible to receive any state-sponsored financial aid award that requires New York State residency for any term of study beginning after residency is lost.
Disputed Residency. In most instances HESC will provide students whose residency it is questioning with a New York State Residence Review Questionnaire before a final residency determination is made. Students who need to document legal residence must complete this questionnaire and return it to HESC. Students who have been denied an award on grounds of residency before submitting a questionnaire may appeal by submitting the questionnaire. Dependent students who wish to apply for recognition of a residency separate from their parents should submit the questionnaire, which is available from HESC by request.
c. Programs of Study -- Approved and Nonapproved
To be eligible for any state-sponsored scholarship or award, the student must be enrolled in an approved program of study. An approved program is one registered by the New York State Education Department or, where applicable, by the New York State Department of Health, as of the start of the term for which assistance is sought. The program must be specifically approved as eligible for state awards. HESC is guided by lists of approved programs provided by the New York State Education Department on its Inventory of Registered Programs or, where applicable, the New York State Department of Health. The State Education Department approves all programs. Inquiries concerning program registration should be directed to that agency.
Because students are required to be enrolled in an approved program of study to receive state-sponsored awards, the institution must offer - and students must follow - the program as it was approved. Deviation from the program requirements as approved can lead to possible audit questions and jeopardize the student's eligibility.
Collegiate Institutions. Approved programs of study at collegiate level institutions are those leading to a degree or to a diploma or certificate fully creditable to a degree. The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education require diploma and certificate programs to be at least one academic year in duration, defined as at least 24 semester hours or the equivalent, to be approved programs of study for award payment purposes.
Noncollegiate Institutions. The following types of postsecondary programs of study at noncollegiate institutions are approved for award payment purposes:
Hospital Schools of Nursing--programs leading to a registered professional nurse license.
Other Health-related Institutions--programs leading to a practical nurse license or to state certification in an area of medical or health technology.
Registered Private Business Schools--two-year programs of at least 1,440 clock hours and requiring at least 12 months but no more than 24 months to complete.
Theological Study. Students engaged in the professional study of theology are ineligible for any award or scholarship HESC administers. Theological study includes but is not limited to pursuing the following degrees:
- Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.)
- Bachelor of Hebrew Literature (B.H.L.)
- Bachelor of Religious Education (B.R.E.)
- Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.)
- Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.)
- Master of Divinity (M.Div.)
- Master of Hebrew Literature (M.H.L.)
- Master of Religious Education (M.R.E.)
- Master of Arts in Religious Education (M.A. in R.E.)
- Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.)
- Master of Theology (M.Th.)
- Master of Arts in Theology (MA in Th.)
- Doctor of Hebrew Literature (D.H.L.)
- Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.)
- Doctor of Religious Education (D.R.E.)
- Doctor of Theology (D.Th.)
d. Matriculated Status
To be eligible for any state-sponsored grant or scholarship, a student must be matriculated. A matriculated student is one:
- who has filed a written admissions application at an institution offering approved programs of study to earn a degree, diploma or certificate;
- whom the institution deems as being qualified to undertake the course of study for that degree, diploma or certificate;
- whom the institution recognizes as a candidate for that degree, diploma or certificate; and
- who has registered for courses or other academic activity the institution recognizes as contributing toward fulfilling the requirements for that degree, diploma or certificate.
Students enrolled in one of the following programs for the educationally and economically disadvantaged are considered to be matriculated solely by virtue of their acceptance into the program:
- College Discovery (CD)
- Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)
- Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP)
- Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK)
Students enrolled in noninstructional external degree programs approved by the New York State Commissioner of Education are also considered matriculated.
Deferred Major. To be considered matriculated for financial aid purposes, the New York State Education Department requires that the student declare a major by the beginning of the sophomore year if enrolled in a two-year degree program or by the beginning of the junior year if enrolled in a baccalaureate program. Beginning of the sophomore/junior year is interpreted to be within 30 days of the end of the drop/add period. Students who later change their majors are still considered to be matriculated.
Retroactive Matriculation. Retroactive matriculation by the institution establishes a student's eligibility for state awards retroactively only if such action was necessary to correct administrative error or delay in reviewing the credentials of a student who was originally eligible for matriculation.
Conditional Matriculation. Conditional matriculation does not satisfy matriculation requirements if a student was accepted into a program of study based on his/her satisfactory completion of any special requirements establishing qualification to pursue the program of study successfully. However, any student required to complete certain courses to make up deficiencies in background or training may be considered matriculated, provided acceptance into the program was not conditional upon completing those requirements.
Nonmatriculated Status. Students are considered nonmatriculated in the following circumstances:
- students enrolled in courses solely for teacher certification, licensure or other external requirements (for example, students enrolled in Fifth Pathway programs). Exception: The New York State Education Department has approved for state financial aid awards students enrolled in teacher certification programs that result in a certificate and a provisional teaching license;
- individuals enrolled in courses solely for personal or cultural enrichment; or
- individuals enrolled in postdoctoral programs.
Definition. The New York State Commissioner of Education defines full-time status at collegiate institutions as enrollment for at least 12 semester hours for a term of at least 15 weeks, including exam periods, or the equivalent. The Commissioner defines a semester hour as a credit, point or other unit granted for the satisfactory completion of a course that requires at least 15 hours of 50-minute instruction periods and at least 30 hours of supplementary assignments. For trimester/quarter institutions, the equivalent is enrollment for at least eight semester hours for a term of at least 10 weeks, including exam periods. "Equivalents" can also include independent study, practice teaching, graduate assistantship, thesis or dissertation research, preparation for language or qualifying exams and noncredit remedial courses. These "equivalent" activities must be required as an integral part of the student's program of study.
NOTE: Credit-bearing courses in the student's minimum full-time course load (12 semester hours or the equivalent) must consist of courses applicable to the student's program of study as a general education requirement, major requirement, or elective. The only exception is in the student's final term of study: if the student needs fewer than 12 credits to complete the program, other courses may be included to determine full-time status even if not required to complete graduation requirements. For recipients of the Scholarship for Academic Excellence, there is an exception in the student's final term of study: if the student needs fewer than 12 credits to complete the program, the student may attend part-time during the last semester to complete graduation requirements.
Part-time study, except as otherwise noted for specific programs (e.g., APTS, Veterans Tuition Award), is defined as enrollment for at least six semester hours but fewer than 12 semester hours or the equivalent.
Half-time study is defined as enrollment for at least six but fewer than 12 semester hours or the equivalent.
Attendance at an intersession or miniterm may not be combined with an adjacent regular term to achieve full-time status unless formally linked by the State Education Department in a simulated term arrangement. However, if an institution offers more than one summer session, all attendance at these sessions is combined into a single summer term for award purposes.
NOTE: At nondegree institutions, which measure study solely in terms of clock hours, full-time status requires attendance for a minimum of 24 clock hours per week.
Repeated Courses. Courses in which the student has already received a passing grade cannot be included in meeting full-time study requirements for state-sponsored financial aid. Repeated courses may be counted toward full-time study requirements if a student repeats a failed course, if a student repeats the course for additional credit, or when a student has received a grade that is passing at the institution but is unacceptable in a particular curriculum.
Remedial Courses. For payment purposes, remedial courses may be counted toward full-time study requirements. Up to one half of a student's minimum courseload can consist of non-credit remedial courses (for example, six credits at a semester institution), except that during the first term of college-level study, the minimum full-time courseload of 12 semester hours can include up to nine hours of non-credit remedial hours. Credit-bearing courses need equal only one-fourth the minimum full-time study requirement (for example, three credits at a semester institution).
Students who meet the other eligibility criteria can receive assistance through the STAP program if they are enrolled in a program consisting of all remedial courses in the summer term before or after their first academic year of college study in New York State on either full-time or part-time basis.
Time of Assessment. Students can achieve full-time status for a particular term if they register for sufficient credits before the certification status date (date in the term when the student will be liable for full tuition for courses taken during that term-- normally the end of the drop/add period) and provided that the student has not withdrawn or dropped below full-time status before the first day of classes. Additionally, students must have accrued a tuition liability for each of the credits constituting the full-time study requirement.
Students Not Charged Full-time Tuition. If the following types of activities are required as integral to the student's program of study and contribute to the full-time study requirement and no tuition is charged for the activity, the student is exempted from the requirement of having a tuition liability for each of the full-time credits:
- independent study
- graduate assistantship
- thesis or dissertation research
- preparation for language or qualifying examinations
- remedial courses
However, awards based on tuition liability cannot exceed the actual tuition liability. Registration fees and other fees are not considered tuition.
Students Who Fail to Attend. To receive state-sponsored student aid, New York State Education Law specifies that students attend school full time as defined by the Commissioner of Education. Since there is no law or regulation requiring degree-granting institutions to monitor attendance, the Commissioner had defined full-time attendance as enrollment for 12 or more credits per semester. Accordingly, while HESC expects schools to make a good-faith effort to ensure that students who never actually attend are not certified for awards, HESC will allow the certification of students who register for sufficient credits and incur a full tuition liability but fail to attend classes. However, when certifying students on this basis, the school should be able to demonstrate that through its normal practices and procedures it was unaware that the student never attended classes; that there has not been a refund or forfeit of any other financial aid funds for nonattendance; and that it has made arrangements to collect full tuition liability for that term.
Medical/Health Waiver. The full-time study requirement can be waived if the student absolutely cannot engage in full-time study because of health or medical reasons. The student must present to the school for approval satisfactory medical evidence substantiating that serious illness or other adverse physical condition requires restricting the student's program of study. If approved, the work of two or more terms of study may be combined into a regular full term of study (12 credits or more at a semester-based institution). Situations like these require the institution to certify the student's eligibility for an award during the term when the student has accumulated enough credits for a term award.
Students With Disabilities. Effective with the 1998-99 academic year, students who are disabled, as defined by the 1990 federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), do not have to attend school full time to be eligible for TAP awards. These students are eligible for a partial TAP award if they are attending part time (at least three credits per semester or the equivalent). The student must still meet all other TAP eligibility requirements. In addition, the TAP certifying officer must be able to document that the student is disabled as defined by the ADA. Those records can be obtained from the designated campus ADA representative. (See also Chapter 5, Section 5.10d.)
f. High School Graduation Requirement
To be eligible for any state-sponsored grant or scholarship award, students who first receive aid in:
- academic year 1996-97 to academic year 2006-07 must have:
- a high school diploma, or
- the recognized equivalent of a high school diploma (e.g., GED), or
- a passing score as determined by the U.S. Secretary of Education on a federally approved ability-to-benefit test.
- academic year 2006-07, must have:
- a U.S. high school diploma, or
- the recognized equivalent, or
- a passing score on a federally approved ability-to-benefit test independently administered and evaluated as provided by the NYS Commissioner of Education.
- academic year 2007-08 and thereafter, must have:
- a U.S. high school diploma, or
- the recognized equivalent, or
- a passing score on a federally approved ability-to-benefit test identified by the NYS Board of Regents and independently administered and evaluated by the Commissioner of Education.
g. Good Academic Standing
To receive state-sponsored grants or scholarships, the student must be in good academic standing. For financial aid purposes, good academic standing consists of two components:
1. Pursuit of Program--a requirement that a student receive a passing or failing grade (A-F letter grade) in a certain percentage of courses each term, depending on the number of state awards the student has received. The percentage is determined according to the following schedule:
|Number of payment||Must receive a grade for|
|1, 2||1,2,3||50% of minimum full-time requirement (six credit hours on a semester calendar)|
|3, 4||4,5,6||75% (nine credit hours)|
|5 or more||7 or more||
100% (12 credit hours)
For half-time accelerated payments, the above percentages are applied to the minimum half-time requirement (six credits on a semester calendar) to determine pursuit of program. The pursuit of program requirement is continuous as a student passes from undergraduate to graduate study; payments a student received as an undergraduate are added to graduate payments to determine the number of payments.
2. Satisfactory Academic Progress--a requirement that students accumulate a specified number of credits and achieve a specified cumulative grade point average each term, depending on the number of state award payments students have received. For students who received their first state award prior to and including academic year 2005-06, institutions are required to use a standard of satisfactory academic progress, approved by the New York State Commissioner of Education, to determine academic progress. NOTE: After students have received the equivalent of four semester payments of any state award, students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.
Effective for the 2010-11 academic year and thereafter, New York State Education Law requires a non-remedial student, whose first award year is in 2010--11 and thereafter, must meet new standards of satisfactory academic progress (SAP). Non-remedial students whose first year is 2007-08 through 2009-10 must meet the SAP requirements enacted in 2006. Those meeting the definition of "remedial student" are not subject to the new SAP standards, but will use the requirements established in 2006. The law enacted in 2006 mandated minimum standards of satisfactory academic progress for students receiving their first State award in academic year 2006-07 year.
Select Satisfactory Academic Progress to view the current SAP charts.
Determining Number of Payments. HESC uses a payment point system to determine the number of state award payments students have received. More information on payment points is in Chapter 5, Section 5.06.
Time of Assessment. Good academic standing must be evaluated each term. Students must meet both Pursuit of Program and Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements for that term to be considered in good academic standing.
Loss of Good Academic Standing. Students who lose good academic standing in a term when they received a state grant or scholarship are not eligible for an award for the next term.
Reinstatement of Good Academic Standing. Students who have lost good academic standing may restore this standing in one of the following ways:
- make up past academic deficiencies by completing one or more terms of study without receiving any state grants or scholarships;
- be readmitted to school after an absence of at least one calendar year; or
- transfer to another institution.
- be granted a waiver
One-time Waiver. New York State Commissioner of Education regulations permit students to receive a one-time waiver of the good academic standing requirement as an undergraduate and a one-time waiver as a graduate student. The institution issues the waiver if there are extenuating circumstances. The institution is required to publish and adhere to criteria under which it will grant a waiver. Institutional personnel are required to discuss the waiver with the student before granting one. The waiver is not automatic and must be done in accordance with the institution's published criteria. For each waiver granted, the institution must maintain a clear, accurate and complete record. Improperly granting waivers can result in an audit disallowance against the institution.
HESC maintains a record of all good academic standing waivers granted and preprints a "W" on the payment roster for students previously granted a waiver. These students cannot be granted any additional waivers. The school grants a waiver by entering a "W" in the waiver column on the payment roster.
More detailed information on good academic standing is in the "Revised Guidelines for Implementation of Regulations Concerning Program Pursuit and Academic Progress" (memorandum 81-12) the State Education Department issued in October 1981. Part of the memorandum is included as Appendix C.
h. C/Average Requirement
Students Affected. Effective with the 1996-97 fall term, students who in prior terms have received the equivalent of two or more full years of state-funded student financial aid must have and maintain a cumulative GPA of C (2.0 on a 4.0 grading scale) or better to be eligible for continued state-funded assistance. These students would have accumulated 24 or more payment points in prior terms. All state grant and scholarship programs except STAP are subject to this requirement.
Readmitted Students. Students who have received two or more years of payment of any state awards and who are readmitted to an institution they previously attended must have a cumulative GPA of C or better to receive any further state-sponsored student aid. If students return without any transfer credits from another institution, the cumulative GPA would be based on prior grades earned at the institution. If students return with transfer credits, prior grades earned at the institution may be combined with a presumed grade of C for transfer credits to determine students' cumulative GPA.
Transfer Students. Students who have previously received payment of state awards at one institution and are transferring to another institution may be presumed to have a grade of C for all transfer credits.
Students Changing Programs of Study. The C-average requirement cannot be circumvented by a change in the program of study. If a student, after receiving two years of state-funded student aid, did not achieve a C-average (2.0) in the last program of study, the student cannot regain eligibility by changing a program of study.
Repositioned Students on SAP Chart. "Beneficial Placement" permits an institution to reposition a transfer student or a student in good academic standing who is changing programs within an institution based either on the number of payments received or credits accrued, whichever is to the student's benefit. Such students must still meet the 2.0 GPA requirement if they have received two or more years of payment, even if they are repositioned at a point on the chart where a GPA of less than 2.0 is required.
Regaining Eligibility. Students who are denied an award for failing to achieve a cumulative GPA of C can regain award eligibility by completing appropriate coursework -- without state support -- to achieve a cumulative GPA of C. Students cannot regain eligibility by remaining out of school for a period of time.
Waiver of the C-Average Requirement. The C-average requirement may be waived for undue hardship based on:
- the death of a student's relative;
- the student's personal illness or injury; or
- other extenuating circumstances.
A waiver must be documented and must relate to circumstances that have affected the student's ability to achieve a cumulative C average as of the end of a particular semester or term.
The C-average waiver is separate from the one-time good academic standing waiver and may be granted more than once if circumstances warrant.
Schools must maintain documentation of why waivers are granted but do not have to report the waiver in the certification process. Students lacking a C-average who are found to be ineligible for a waiver should be decertified for not being in good academic standing. More on the C-average requirement is in Appendix C.
i. Minimum Tuition Requirement
To qualify for a tuition-based award (TAP, STAP), the student must incur a tuition liability of at least $200 per academic year prorated by term, $100 per semester or $67 per trimester/quarter.
Students with a term tuition liability less than those above are not eligible to receive a TAP or STAP award.
Aside from Aid for Part-time Study, there is no minimum tuition requirement for any other grant or scholarship program HESC administers.
j. Guaranteed Student Loan Default
Students who are in default on any federal or State student loan are not eligible for any state-sponsored grant or scholarship.
Determining Default Status. Student loans are those made by federal or State governments for post-secondery education. HESC's records can determine default status. A student is in loan default unless the student has cleared the default by paying the loan in full or bringing payment current or the student has been discharged in bankruptcy.
In some instances, students may be approved for an award and placed on a payment roster but later enter default status. HESC will attempt to advise institutional personnel when situations like this occur and will process an in-house transaction to decertify the student. The institution should never certify students for a scholarship or award if HESC has advised the institution of a loan default status. Similarly, institutions should contact HESC's TAP Payments unit for instructions before certifying the student if they suspect a student may have defaulted on a loan.
Clearing Default Status. For a student to receive an award for any term of a given academic year, HESC must clear the default by June 30 of that academic year. HESC will reprocess payment applications for students who were previously denied an award because of loan default status if the default is cleared by June 30. Students whose default is cleared after June 30 will not be eligible for an award for any term of that academic year when they were in loan default status.
Renewed Eligibility for Financial Aid (REFA). HESC will grant an award to students who are in default of a student loan. Students must apply for renewed eligibility and meet the following conditions:
- Students who have been in loan default status may renew their eligibility for further financial assistance and be approved for an award if they have voluntarily made six scheduled monthly loan repayments and continue to make scheduled monthly repayments. Students may also pay the loan in full or have the bank repurchase the loan.
- HESC will examine loan repayment records of students initially denied a TAP or scholarship award because of loan default. HESC will approve and reprocess for an award students who meet the REFA eligibility criteria.
- Students approved for an award through REFA who later fail to continue making scheduled monthly repayments will be denied an award for any term after HESC determines the student has failed to make continued payments.
- HESC will retroactively approve and reprocess students approved through REFA by June 30 of the academic year for all terms of that academic year in which the student applied for an award.
Questions regarding disputed loan repayments or other REFA issues should be directed 1-866-991-4372.
REFA provisions do not apply to loan defaults currently in bankruptcy proceedings or litigation. A lump-sum payment or other partial payments equal to six monthly payments do not satisfy the requirement that six scheduled monthly payments be made to be eligible for REFA.
k. Special Eligibility Conditions
The following can affect student eligibility to receive state awards:
Academic Discipline. With the exception of the Scholarship of Academic Excellence, students' eligibility to receive any scholarship HESC administers is limited to students who are enrolled in the specific program of study for which the scholarship was intended. The appropriate program of study for each scholarship is in the program descriptions in Chapter 1 and Appendix B. Although students may be awarded a scholarship, they may not be certified for scholarship payment if they fail to enroll in the required program of study or if they transfer to a program of study not approved for the scholarship.
Incarcerated Students. Incarcerated students in federal, state, or other penal institutions are not eligible for TAP or any academic performance award effective with the 1995-96 school year. This restriction also applies to local jails and institutions.
3.02 Required Student Data (See also Chapter 4 -- Application and Award Procedures)
To process student applications, determine eligibility and calculate awards, HESC requires students applying for state grants or scholarships to furnish the following information:
a. Social Security Number
The Social Security number is a unique number that identifies a student and enables HESC to maintain a record of all payments a student receives. HESC also uses it to verify income information. All student records are accessed and maintained via the Social Security number. HESC cannot process an application for any state grant or scholarship award without a valid Social Security number.
Students who do not have a valid Social Security number should obtain one before submitting an application. HESC will not extend application filing deadlines to enable a student to obtain a Social Security number.
b. Marital Status
Students applying for state grants or scholarships must report their current marital status-- married or unmarried (single, divorced, widowed, or separated). Students who have been married, widowed or separated/ divorced must also provide the date of this event.
Since student's marital status can be a factor in award calculation and in determining financial independence, HESC cannot process student applications for state awards unless students provide marital status information.
If separation/divorce occurs after the tax year on which an award is based (for example, 2014 for 2015-16 academic year), applicants must include the spouse's Social Security number on the application.
c. Educational Plans
State grants and scholarships are paid through the participating institution. Accordingly, students must indicate the institution where the student will be enrolled for each term of the academic year. For award calculation purposes, HESC will presume the first New York State institution listed on the FAFSA to be the college the student will attend. This will be prefilled on the TAP on the Web (TOTW) electronic application. A school code list is available on HescWeb, and students may make any appropriate changes when submitting the TOTW application to HESC for processing.
Students don't actually have to be accepted at a particular institution to submit an application for payment. However, since award funds will be sent to the institution on the application, students should be fairly certain of their education plans before applying. Students who change their plans after submitting an application can change their college code by submitting an electronic change form on HESC's Website.
A college may also submit a change on behalf of a student (see Chapter 4, Section 4.04).
d. Level of Study
Students applying for any state grant or scholarship must report their levels of study. There are two levels of study-- undergraduate and graduate. The level of study indicated will determine the TAP award payment schedule. The level of study also determines the conditions that must be met for financial independence claims for applicants younger than 22 years old. Similarly most of the state grant and scholarship programs are specifically intended for either undergraduate or graduate study.
Undergraduate Study. This level refers to matriculation in a program of study leading to an associate or baccalaureate degree or in a diploma or certificate program creditable toward an associate or baccalaureate degree.
Graduate Study. This level refers to matriculation in a program of study leading to a degree above the baccalaureate level-- masters degree, first professional degree, doctoral degree or an advanced certificate program creditable to one of these degrees. Graduate level study applies to certain scholarships, but no longer applies to TAP, as funding has been eliminated for graduate TAP effective 2010-11.
Concurrent Enrollment. If a student is taking both graduate and undergraduate courses, the degree for which the student is matriculated determines whether the program of study is considered undergraduate or graduate.
Combined Degree Programs. The level of study for students enrolled in a program of study leading to both an undergraduate and a graduate degree will vary and will depend on the manner in which the institution(s) organizes the program.
HESC will consider students undergraduate for that segment of the program in which:
- the institution formally recognizes the student as being in undergraduate status; and
- the institution charges the student undergraduate tuition.
The student will be considered a graduate student for that segment of the program in which:
- the institution formally recognizes the student as being in graduate status; and
- the institution charges the student graduate tuition.
If the combined degree program requires more than four years to complete, the student cannot receive more than four years of undergraduate awards unless the New York State Education Department formally approves the undergraduate segment of the program as a five-year baccalaureate program. If not so designated, the student can receive undergraduate awards for no more than four years of study. Awards for subsequent study will be at the graduate level.
When certifying eligibility for state awards for students enrolled in combined degree programs, the institution must be certain that the level of study is consistent for all sources of financial aid. The institution cannot certify students, for example, for an undergraduate TAP award and a graduate level scholarship or student loan during the same term.
Students' level of courses for which they are registered does not determine their level of study. Undergraduate students may be registered for graduate level courses and graduate students may be registered for undergraduate level courses, provided the courses are required or recommended for their program of study.
Students can be considered enrolled at the graduate level even if the undergraduate degree has not yet been formally awarded.
e. Five-year Programs
Normally students may receive up to four years of assistance through state-sponsored student aid programs for undergraduate study. Under certain circumstances, however, students may receive a fifth year of payment for undergraduate study through the following programs:
- Tuition Assistance Program
- Regents Award for Children of Deceased or Disabled Veterans
- Memorial Scholarship for Families of Deceased Firefighters, Volunteer Firefighters, Police Officers, Peace Officers and Emergency Medical Service Workers.
- Veterans Tuition Award
- Regents Professional Opportunity Scholarship
- Scholarships for Academic Excellence
Five-year Baccalaureate Programs. Students enrolled in a baccalaureate program that normally requires five years of study to complete and which the New York State Education Department has specifically approved as a five-year undergraduate program can receive a fifth year of undergraduate payment. Pharmacy and Architecture are examples of these programs. Combined degree programs and five-year cooperative programs, which are equivalent to only four academic years of study, are examples of programs that do not qualify as approved five-year undergraduate programs.
The five-year program designation only applies to students receiving a fifth year of payment through a single academic program. For example, scholarship winners who received four years of scholarship payment but were ineligible for TAP during one of those years because of income could receive a TAP award for a fifth year of undergraduate study even if they're not enrolled in an approved five-year program.
Opportunity Programs. Students currently enrolled in approved programs of study for the educationally and economically disadvantaged can receive a fifth year of undergraduate payment. Approved educational opportunity programs are: College Discovery (CD), Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), Higher Educational Opportunity Program (HEOP) and Search for Elevation, Education and Knowledge (SEEK). Prior enrollment in one of these programs does not qualify a student for a fifth year of payment. Enrollment must be current.
f. Income Reporting
HESC bases TAP and STAP awards on students' taxable income and, depending on circumstances, students' parents' and/or spouses' income. HESC ignores family assets such as savings and home equity, and liabilities such as medical expenses except as reflected in taxable income. Effective with the 2009-10 award year, income from state, federal and local government pensions must be included when reporting income for State aid. Effective with the 2010-11 award year, private pension annuities, which have been excluded must be included in the reporting of income for State aid.
New York State Net Taxable Income. State net taxable income as reported on New York State tax returns constitutes the basis for calculating a TAP or STAP award. Net taxable income includes wages, interest, dividends and other forms of taxable income after all appropriate deductions and exemptions have been taken into consideration. Students and families must also include income from state, federal and local government pensions and private pension annuities, which have been excluded, in the reporting of income for State aid.
Scholarship or fellowship income, including the value of contributed services and accommodations is not considered income for the purpose of New York State student financial aid programs. Income from scholarships or fellowships reported on a federal or State tax return should be subtracted from taxable income.
Income verification. HESC verifies income with the NYS Tax and Finance Department. HESC will make changes to income where applicable.
Nonfilers. Applicants not required to file a federal or state tax return should indicate "did not file" on the application form.
If a person required to report income to HESC for award calculation did not file or was not required to file a tax return, the obligation to report income remains. Applicants must also report income exemptions and deductions as if a return had been filed.
Applicants who filed a federal tax return but did not file a New York State tax return must report income, exemptions and deductions filed on the federal tax return. Applicants must also report income earned outside of New York State.
Previous Year Income. For TAP and STAP award purposes, applicants must report net taxable income from the previous tax year. This is used as a basis for calculating awards. For example, for the 2015-16 academic year, applicants use income reported for the 2014 tax year.
Family Income. The following persons must report net taxable income and income from state, federal and local government pensions and private pension annuities, which have been excluded, when applying for a TAP or STAP award:
- applicant's parents, including stepparents and adoptive parents, if applicant is classified as being financially dependent on parental support. Foster parent's income or guardian's income should not be reported; and
- applicant's spouse, if married as of December 31 of the tax year for which income is being reported.
Separated/Divorced Individuals Filing Joint Tax Returns:
- Applicants and/or the parents of financially dependent students who were separated or divorced after December 31 should report the actual income data filed on the return on the application for payment. HESC will send an inquiry letter to determine applicant's or custodial parent's share of joint income. HESC will then calculate the award based on applicants' /custodial parent's income and a prorated amount of separated/divorced spouses' income.
- Applicants and/or the parents of financially dependent students who were separated or divorcedon or before December 31 should report the applicant's and/or custodial parent's share of joint income on the application for payment. HESC will initially calculate the award on this income. To avoid the possibility that the award will later be recalculated based on joint income as a result of income verification, applicants who have submitted an application early in the year should, by July 1, submit a letter explaining the situation under separate cover. Applicants should include appropriate tax documentation-- W2s, returns, proof of separate residence, etc. with the letter. If applicants have applied later in the year and are therefore unable to provide documentation before income verification, HESC will have to adjust the award through the income verification appeal process.
HESC calculates TAP and STAP awards by adding the income of all family members whose income is required to be reported.
g. Income Adjustment
HESC will allow an adjustment to the net taxable income used to calculate TAP and STAP awards if other family members are enrolled as full-time matriculated students in a postsecondary institution for at least one term of the same academic year for which an award is being sought.
For undergraduate students, HESC subtracts $3,000 from net taxable income for enrollment by a second family member. HESC subtracts another $2,000 for each additional family member enrolled. HESC then uses the lower taxable income resulting from this adjustment to calculate the student's award. For graduate students, net taxable income is divided by the total number of family members enrolled for postsecondary study, and the resulting income is used to calculate the award.
HESC considers another family member enrolled if he/she is attending a postsecondary institution approved for TAP, Pell Grants or Stafford Loans. The postsecondary institution does not have to be located in New York State.
h. Exclusion of Income
The income of parents and spouse may be excluded in cases of death, divorce or separation occurring on or before December 31 of the tax year on which an award is based. The income may be excluded even if the applicant was claimed as tax dependent by parents or spouse. In calculating a student's TAP or STAP award, HESC does not consider income that has been excluded.
In situations involving parental separation or divorce, the incomes of both parents cannot be excluded. Only the income of the noncustodial parent may be excluded. However, applicants must report any support payments received from the noncustodial parent. Support payments will be added to family income for award calculation purposes.
For purposes of excluding income, separation means abandonment, a court injunction forbidding parental contact, or not living together for an extended period of time.
If, in situations involving divorce, a custodial parent remarries before the end of the tax year on which an award would be based, applicants must report the income of the custodial parent and his/her spouse.
i. Proration of Income
In calculating a TAP or STAP award, the applicant's parents' or spouse' s income may be prorated (i.e., only a portion of the income is used to calculate an award) in case of death, separation or divorce, or permanent and total disability if any of these events occur after December 31 of the tax year on which the award is based.
Proration of income based on separation occurring after December 31 must be based on a legal separation- separation by judicial decree or pursuant to an agreement of separation filed with a court of competent jurisdiction.
In case of parental separation or divorce, the income of the noncustodial parent is prorated.
Parent's or spouse's income may be prorated for permanent and total disability occurring after the tax year on which the award is based. However, income cannot be prorated for disability occurring before the end of the relevant tax year.
Schools may submit supporting documentation to HESC on behalf of the applicant before or after income verification.
Formula for Proration
|x No. of Months
|= Portion of Income
Used to Calculate
Base year taxable income refers to taxable income, income from state, federal and local government pensions and private pension annuities (which have been excluded) earned in the tax year being used to calculate the award.
Number of months status unchanged refers to the number of months beginning in January before the start of the academic year up to and including the month in which the event occurred. For example, for the 2015-16 academic year, the number of months from January 2015 to the month when the death, divorce, separation or disability occurred.
j. Financial Independence
Description. A student must apply for TAP as either a dependent student, which requires parental income information, or an independent student, which does not require parental income information. Applicants must report parental income unless the student meets certain conditions established in law and regulation that show the student to be financially independent of the parents. These conditions apply only to the TAP or STAP program and differ from the conditions used in defining "financial independence" for other aid programs such as Pell Grants or for public assistance.
Applicant Categories. To determine financial independence applicants fall into one of the following categories:
- Applicants 35 years old or older as of June 30 preceding the academic year for which assistance is being sought (June 30, 2015, for 2015-16 academic year) are considered financially independent regardless of any other conditions.
- Applicants between 22 and 35 years old as of June 30 are considered independent if they meet all of the basic conditions (see basic conditions).
- Applicants who were married on or before December 31 of the preceding calendar year (December 31, 2014, for 2015-16 academic year) are considered independent if they meet all of the basic conditions (see basic conditions).
- Applicants who were previously approved as independent students are considered independent if they meet all of the basic conditions.
- Graduate students are considered independent if they meet all of the basic conditions.
- Single undergraduates younger than 22 years old as of June 30 who are not in one of the above categories are considered independent if they meet both the basic and the special conditions.
Basic conditions. Basic conditions applicants must meet to be considered financially independent are:
- During the preceding year and during both calendar years of the current academic year (for example, 2014, 2015, and 2016 for the 2015-16 academic year), the applicant has not and will not reside with parents (or in a building or apartment owned or leased by the parents) for more than six weeks, even if applicants have paid rent to the parents.
Applicants who have served on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces or other National Volunteer Service will satisfy this requirement if they lived with parents for no more than six months immediately after being discharged.
- During the preceding tax year-- on which an award is based-- and the following year (for example,2014 and 2015 for awards made for 2015-16 academic year) neither parent has nor will claim the applicant as a dependent for federal or state income tax purposes.
- During the preceding year and during both calendar years of the current academic year, the applicant has not received and will not receive financial assistance or support from parents in excess of $750, including gifts and loans.
For applicants who are veterans and have been honorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces, only the basic condition relating to tax dependency is relevant. The basic conditions regarding residency with the parents and receiving financial assistance from the parents are, by law, not applicable.
Special Conditions. To be considered financially independent, certain applicants younger than 22 years old must satisfy at least one of the following conditions:
- Each parent is either deceased, totally or permanently disabled or has been declared incompetent by judicial action.
- Applicant currently receives public assistance. Public assistance does not include food stamps, unemployment insurance, or aid as a dependent child under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.
- Applicant is a ward of the court. Ward of the court does not include status as an inmate in a correctional facility.
- There has been an involuntary dissolution of the applicant's family, resulting in relinquishment of parental responsibility and control.
- Applicant is a veteran and has been honorably discharged from the armed forces.
In most of the above situations, documentation confirming the student's claim of financial independence will be readily available. However, in some instances, students encounter difficulty in documenting involuntary dissolution of the family. In these situations the applicant's condition must be authenticated (sworn statement) by a reputable third party who has direct knowledge of the applicant's circumstances. Such a person might be a clergyman, a legal aid representative or a social worker.
Claims of involuntary dissolution of the family are evaluated on a case by case basis. Following, however, are several circumstances that would indicate involuntary dissolution.
- Parents do not reside in the United States or any of its possessions or protectorates, and parents are not citizens and do not provide any support to the student.
- Abandonment by the parents (i.e. parents' whereabouts unknown and lack of parental contact can be authenticated).
- Evidence of parents mentally and/or physically abusing the applicant.
The following conditions do not in and of themselves satisfy the special conditions for financial independence:
- applicant is a veteran
- applicant's spouse older than 22 years
- applicant is incarcerated
- applicant is self supporting
Students who are approved for financial independence will receive TAP awards based on their own income (and if married, spouse's income). Parental income need not be reported to calculate a TAP award. However, independent students receive TAP awards under separate payment schedules, and the amount of the TAP award will differ from those awards paid under the schedules established for dependent students.
Independence For Less Than A Full Year. In some instances, students may not meet all of the basic conditions necessary to qualify for financial independence for the entire academic year. They may, however, qualify for financial independence for all terms beginning after January 1 of the academic year, if the following conditions are met:
- Student lived with parents for more than six weeks and/or student received more than $750 in financial assistance during previous year but not during two subsequent years (for example, for 2015-16, the student lived with parents and/or received $750 assistance in 2014, but not in 2015 or 2016).
- Parents claimed the student as a tax dependent for the previous year but not in the next year (for example, claimed in 2014 but not in 2015 for 2015-16).
- If the student was younger than 22 years old as of June 30, the student must also meet special conditions as of January 1.
If parental income is reported, the student can receive an award as a dependent student for all terms beginning before January 1 and as an independent student for all terms beginning on January 1 or thereafter. If parental income is not reported the student can only receive an award as an independent student for all terms beginning January 1 or thereafter.