The State Education Department recognizes credit-bearing certificate and diploma programs as eligible for State student financial assistance if they meet certain criteria. (Note: credit-bearing certificate and diploma programs are treated as one and the same; the Department does not register “diploma” programs.)
A certificate program is broadly defined in section 50.1(j) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education as “a credential issued by an institution in recognition of the completion of a curriculum other than one leading to a degree.”
For financial aid purposes, section 145-2.3 of the Regulations pertaining to educational eligibility criteria for State awards is more specific: “. . . certificate programs shall be of at least one academic year’s duration.” In practice, one academic year’s duration means a certificate program consisting of at least 24 semester hours.
There is one exception to the one academic year’s duration requirement. Students enrolled in credit-bearing certificate and diploma programs of at least 12 semester hours offered by degree-granting institutions are eligible for Veterans Tuition Awards. Because the statute establishing these awards included noncredit programs of at least 320 clock hours as eligible academic programs—approximately the equivalent of one semester—the legislative intent to provide these awards for programs of less than one academic year’s duration was apparent. Therefore, eligibility for the awards is extended to credit-bearing programs of at least one semester’s duration (at least 12 semester hours).