|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 1996-97 academic year and thereafter.
When a student does not have a high school diploma or recognized equivalent (i.e., TASC), 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 1996, such students have been required to pass a federally approved ability-to-benefit (ATB) test to be eligible to receive a TAP award.
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.
For students who first receive awards in the 2007-2008 academic year, section 661(4)(f) 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 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 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 July 2015, the Regents approved the following ability-to-benefit tests to be used to determine eligibility for State financial aid: the Accuplacer (Reading Comprehension, Sentence Skills, and Arithmetic), Wonderlic Basic Skills Test (WBST), Spanish Wonderlic Basic Skills Test (Spanish WBST), 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 Summer 2015, students must have taken one of the above tests (either administered by paper or online) 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.
The minimum passing score an institution sets on an approved ATB test must first be approved by the Board of Regents. Determinations about minimum passing scores on approved ATB tests should be strongly linked to the institution’s admission and financial aid policies, as well as with the level of curricula and academic support provided to students.
Beginning in 2011, each institution that offers ATB tests to qualify students for financial aid will certify annually, by July 1, that its procedures meet the requirements of Section 145-2.15 of Commissioner’s Regulations, which implements the amended ATB requirements.
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.
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.
Education Law permits an additional “accelerated” TAP payment in an award year, over and above the regular annual award, in certain circumstances.
|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(4)(g) 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. . ."
Beginning with the 2015-16 academic year, a new paragraph e was added to subdivision 6 of section 665 of the Education Law to establish standards of academic progress for students with disabilities who are TAP eligible and attending college part-time in accordance with Commissioner's regulations. It also provides that upon each certification, payment eligibility shall be determined and measured proportionally in equivalence with full-time study for students who are disabled as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
*Program Pursuit remains unchanged.
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.
Prior to 2011, awards used one-half of a TAP payment of eligibility.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.