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.