Section 601(4) of the Education Law establishes the kinds of academic programs that are approved for State student financial assistance. These include:
An entitlement program refers to a program that is available to every student who meets the eligibility criteria. TAP, Part-Time TAP, Accelerated TAP, and STAP are examples of entitlement programs.
Aid for Part-Time Study is not an entitlement program. It is a campus-based program; participating colleges select students from a pool of candidates who meet the eligibility criteria and determine individual award amounts.
|Failure to Make Progress||
To remain eligible for State student financial assistance, a student must remain in good academic standing. Good academic standing consists of two elements, defined in section 145-2.2 of theRegulations of the Commissioner of Education: (1) make satisfactory academic progress toward a degree and (2) pursue the program of study.
|Failure to Pursue||
Education Law requires a student to remain in good academic standing to continue to be eligible for State student financial assistance. Good academic standing consists of two elements: making satisfactory academic progress toward a degree and pursuing the program of study. Students must satisfy both elements to remain in good academic standing. Failure to satisfy either element results in a loss of good standing and loss of a subsequent award until eligibility is regained.
|Fast Track Courses||
“Fast track” courses meet for a different period of time than a full term. They may start and end before or after the regular semester and run for different lengths of time. Some colleges refer to such courses as “late start” courses.
To be full time for TAP purposes, a student who takes fast track courses must carry at least one course that meets for the full 15 weeks in a semester (inclusive of examination periods) to satisfy the durational requirement in section 145-2.1(a) on full-time and part-time study in theRegulations of the Commissioner of Education.
If the fast track courses all begin at the start of a semester, students can be certified as full time as soon as they have a full tuition liability. If the fast track courses begin later than the regular semester, certification cannot take place until the student achieves full-time status, that is, when the student’s course load is at least 12 credits.
The basic requirement for fast track courses is the demonstration of enrollment for a full-time course load, either by actually registering for at least 12 credits to be undertaken during the semester or prefiling a plan of study for enrollment in at least 12 credits. The student cannot add fast track courses at a later date during the semester to achieve a full-time course load.
For financial aid purposes, there are two types of five-year programs that can entitle an undergraduate student to an additional year of State financial assistance.
According to section 661 of the Education Law, an undergraduate student is eligible for up to four years of undergraduate assistance unless the student is enrolled in an approved five-year program, in which case the student is eligible for five years of undergraduate assistance.
This section of the Law is implemented by section 145-2.7 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education A student enrolled in an academic program that requires five years to complete and that the State Education Department has registered as a five-year program is eligible for a fifth year of undergraduate assistance. Examples are certain architecture or engineering programs. “Three Plus Two” programs that combine three years of liberal arts plus two years of a specialization are not considered five-year programs but rather a five-year pathway to a degree that normally takes four years to complete.
The second type of eligible five-year program is one that is an organized program of remedial study approved by the Commissioner. These include the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program, and the College Discovery (CD) program. Students accepted in an opportunity program are considered matriculated on that basis and are eligible for TAP but, in accordance with statute, are not eligible for STAP. An opportunity program student who is enrolled in a second bachelor's degree program is not eligible for a fifth year of TAP.
Commissioner’s approval for the fifth year of payments applies to all academic performance and general purpose awards for which a fifth-year payment is authorized.
Note: A fifth year of undergraduate assistance reduces a student’s statutory eligibility for four years of graduate award eligibility to three years.(Effective with the 2010-11 award year, graduate TAP funds have been eliminated. Graduate awards for the Veterans Tuition Award and the Senator Patricia K. McGee Nursing Faculty scholarship continue to be funded)
Legislation pertaining to eligibility for State student financial assistance was enacted in 2006 that affects students first receiving awards in academic year 2006-2007 and thereafter. According to amended section 661(4) of Education Law, an applicant for a State award must have a certificate of graduation from a high school in the United States or the equivalent of such certificate. Therefore, high school credentials from foreign countries are no longer acceptable. Students who completed their secondary education in another country must take an approved ability-to-benefit test to be eligible.
In the case of college-level study, institutions should evaluate foreign credentials, or have them evaluated by a commercial evaluation service, to assure that the study was, in fact, beyond secondary school. Schools should retain copies of foreign academic transcripts and the evaluation (in English translation, as applicable) in the student’s folder. To be acceptable, foreign study must have been completed at an institution approved by the country’s Ministry of Education.
Some institutions establish policies that permit students a “second chance” academically.
An example of such a policy is as follows: a student receives several D’s and F’s and is dismissed for failing to achieve the minimum grade point average to continue as a matriculated student. After an absence of one year, the student is permitted to return and, if the student earns at least 12 credits with a minimum 2.0 grade point average in the initial semester, prior F grades are deleted from the cumulative grade point average.
Although such academic policies are permissible, the institution must nevertheless maintain all original grades on the academic transcript to be in compliance with the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. Section 52.2(e)(6) requires that the institution maintain an accurate, complete, and up-to-date academic transcript of the student’s performance at the institution.
Additionally, if the student also failed to meet good academic standing requirements for financial aid purposes, the forgiveness policy for academic purposes does not necessarily restore the student’s aid eligibility. In the example above, however, if the student did fail to maintain good academic standing, was out of school for a calendar year, and did not receive State student financial assistance at any other institution, this student would regain eligibility upon readmission as a matriculated candidate for a degree.
A full-time program is one that is capable of completion in the “normal” time. For example, section 52.2(c)(7) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education specifies that a four-year degree must be capable of completion in four academic years of full-time study. Thus, a baccalaureate degree that requires 120 semester hours should be capable of completion at the rate of 15 semester hours per semester to be completed in the normal time of four academic years.
The State Education Department reviews proposed academic programs and, if they can be completed in the normal time for the particular degree level, registers the programs as being offered on a full-time basis. Only programs registered as full time are eligible for TAP.
“Full-time program” differs from a student’s full-time course load or full-time study requirements. While a full-time program must be capable of completion in the normal time to be registered as a full-time program, students need not complete the program at the rate of 15 semester hours a semester. The full-time study requirement, pursuant to Commissioner’s Regulations section 145-2.1 (a), is a minimum course load of at least 12 semester hours.
Section 145-2.1 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education defines full-time study:
An institution’s faculty determines the equivalent hours, using the definition of a semester hour of credit in Commissioner’s Regulations: one semester hour requires (15) 50-minute hours of classroom instruction and 30 hours of outside assignments. When there is no classroom instruction involved, the expected equivalent is two or three supplementary hours for one class hour. A student’s noncredit, noncourse activity must be approved by the institution in a prefiled plan of study as an integral part of the student’s program.
|Good Academic Standing||
Good academic standing for financial aid purposes is defined in section 145-2.2 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. From 1981 onward, good academic standing consists of two elements, both of which must be met: satisfactory academic progress and program pursuit.
Satisfactory academic progress is an achievement requirement and is defined as accruing/earning a minimum number of credits toward a degree with a minimum cumulative grade point average in each term an award is received. Beginning in 1981, regulations required each institution that participated in State student financial aid programs to submit for Commissioner’s approval a proposed standard of satisfactory academic progress, in almost all cases in chart format.
However, for first-time recipients in academic year 2006-2007 and thereafter, Education Law specifies the minimum credit accrual and cumulative grade point average requirements for two-year and four-year degree programs. These standards were increased for non-remedial students effective with the 2010-11 academic year and thereafter. For students who received their first award prior to academic year 2006-2007, institutions can choose to continue to follow the standards of progress approved by the Commissioner or can adopt the statutory standards for all students.
The second element of good academic standing is program pursuit. Program pursuit is defined in regulations as completing—getting a grade in--a percentage of the minimum full-time course load in each term an award is received. The percentage, as specified in regulations, begins at 50 percent of the minimum full-time course load in each term of the first year an award is received increases, to 75 percent in each term of the second year an award is received, and to 100 percent in each term of the third year an award is received and thereafter.
Pursuit is an effort or completion requirement rather than an achievement requirement, so courses in which a student receives either passing or failing grades can be used to satisfy the pursuit requirement. Thus, grades of A through F and any other grade that indicates the student completed the course and all necessary assignments (P, S, U, R) are acceptable to meet the pursuit requirement. W grades or any grade which indicates the student failed to complete the course or assignments cannot be used to satisfy the pursuit requirement. Incomplete (I) grades can be used to meet the pursuit requirement providing college policy requires the grade to be resolved to a passing or failing grade no later than the end of the subsequent term.
While only credit-bearing courses can be used to meet satisfactory academic progress requirements (credit earned toward a degree), students can meet the pursuit requirement by completing remedial and/or credit-bearing courses.
The student’s academic transcript is the primary record for grades and grade changes. Since grade changes can have an impact on whether a student maintains good academic standing and remains eligible for financial aid, it is important to document such changes.
Section 52.2(e)(6) of theRegulations of the Commissioner of Education states:The institution shall maintain for each student a permanent, complete, accurate, and up-to-date transcript of student achievement at the institution. This document will be the official cumulative record of the student’s cumulative achievement.
In accordance with the regulation, when a grade for a course is changed, the original grade as well as the new grade must be shown so that there is a permanent and complete record. Other documentation can include faculty and/or registrar approvals of grade changes.
When a student repeats a course to earn a better grade, both the first grade and the grade earned for the repeated course must be recorded on the academic transcript.
|Grade Point Average||
Students are required to remain in good academic standing to continue to be eligible for State student aid. One element of good academic standing—satisfactory academic progress—consists of a credit accrual and grade point average requirement. Students must meet specified minimum credit accrual and cumulative grade point average requirements in each term an award is received to remain eligible for a subsequent award payment.
The cumulative grade point average increases gradually until a student has received four semester payments (six quarter/trimester payments) at which point the student must maintain a cumulative 2.0 grade point average, as mandated by Education Law Section 661.
|Grades Acceptable for Pursuit||
Pursuit of program is one element of the good academic standing requirement and is a measure of the student’s effort to complete a specified percentage of the minimum full-time or part-time course load in an aid-supported semester. Grades acceptable for meeting the pursuit requirement include passing and failing grades of A through F and any other grade that signifies that the student completed all assignments and attended the entire term.
Incomplete (“I”) grades that school policy requires to be converted to a passing or failing letter grade no later than the end of the following term can also be used to satisfy pursuit.
Withdrawal grades such as “W”, “WF”, “WP” and any other grade that indicates a student did not complete the term are not acceptable for pursuit purposes.
Some grant programs provide assistance for undergraduate study only (e.g., Aid for Part-Time Study) while others also provide awards for graduate study (e.g., Tuition Assistance Program, Veterans Tuition Awards).
Education Law provides up to eight years of TAP and Veterans Tuition Award (VTA) eligibility: four years at the undergraduate level and four years at the graduate level. If a student enrolls in an approved five-year undergraduate program, the student can receive five years of assistance but then can receive a maximum of three years of awards at the graduate level.(Effective 2010-11 and thereafter, TAP funding for graduate students is no longer available. Graduate funding for the VTA has not been affected)