One key to successful financial aid administration is the creation, collection, and maintenance of adequate documentation to substantiate certification of eligibility for awards. The agreement that institutions sign with HESC to participate in TAP and scholarship programs specifies that such records should be retained for five years.
Institutions should review the various eligibility criteria for State awards and assure that they are maintaining records that demonstrate the student’s eligibility.
This practice should begin, for example, with admission. To be eligible for an award, a student must be:
- US citizen or recognized noncitizen
- A New York State resident
- Have a certificate of graduation from a US school or the recognized equivalent or have achieved a passing score on an ability-to-benefit test approved by the NYS Board of Regents
Each of these eligibility criteria relating to the point of admission requires documentation. Where this documentation is maintained—in the admissions office or, upon the student’s entrance, moved to the financial aid office—is at the discretion of the institution.
The enrolled student’s academic transcript is a primary source of documentation of the student’s courses, grades, and program in which the student is matriculated. (As required by the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, the academic transcript must be retained permanently.)
Documentation is also important when an institution grants waivers. Maintaining a record of the process whereby justification for the waiver is reviewed--as well as the resulting decision--is necessary to substantiate that the granting of the waiver was appropriate.
In every instance where the financial aid decision depends on whether the student meets eligibility criteria, the importance of maintaining adequate documentation cannot be stressed enough. Clearly, if and when the institution’s administration of State student aid is audited, the more detailed and complete the documentation, the better the outcome is likely to be.
Ability to Benefit