Section 145-2.1 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education defines full-time study:
- In degree-granting institutions, full-time study requires enrollment in credit-bearing courses applicable to the students' program of study, for at least 12 semester hours in a semester of not less than 15 weeks or 100 calendar days, inclusive of examination periods; or 8 semester hours (12 quarter hours) in a quarter (or trimester) of not less than 10 weeks; or 24 semester hours for an academic year of not more than 12 months.
- In nondegree/noncollegiate programs which measure study in instructional hours (clock hours), such as nondegree two-year business programs and nondegree nursing programs, full-time study requires at least 24 instructional hours per week.
Up to the equivalent of 6 semester hours in remedial, noncredit study can be included as part of the minimum semester full-time course load, except that in the first semester of postsecondary study, a student’s minimum full-time course load need include only three semester hours of credit-bearing course work.
Additionally, providing the student effort required for such activities is the same, on an hour-for-hour equivalent basis, as the effort required for a credit-bearing course, other educational activities can also be considered in the determination of full-time status, including:
- Independent or individualized study
- Practice teaching
- Graduate assistantships
- Thesis or dissertation research
- Preparation for language or qualifying examinations
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.
A student’s full-time status must be determined each term no later than the end of the institution’s drop/add period. Full-time study is required during the final term in the same manner as for any other term, even if not necessary in order to complete graduation requirements. If a student needs fewer than 12 semester hours in a final semester (or 8 semester hours/12 quarter hours in a final trimester/quarter), additional courses beyond those applicable to the degree or certificate program can be included in the determination of full-time status. A student will be deemed to meet the full-time (or part-time study) requirement in their last semester of eligibility if the student takes at least one course needed to meet their graduation requirements and the student enrolls in and completes at least 12 semester hours or its equivalent.
In determining full-time (or part-time) status, credit-bearing courses must be applicable to the student’s program of study as a general education requirement, major requirement, or specified or free elective. Credit-bearing courses not integral to the student’s program of study cannot be included as part of the minimum full-time (or part-time) study requirement (12 semester hours or 8 semester hours/12 quarter hours).
A student matriculated at one institution can take courses in a term at another TAP-eligible institution and the courses can be included as part of the student’s minimum full-time load providing the home institution gives prior approval and providing the courses are applicable to the student’s degree requirements. The courses and program of study at the attending institution must be consistent with the matriculation institution's approved program at the time of enrollment and attendance. The home institution certifies the student’s eligibility. In order to certify eligibility for State financial aid, the matriculating institution must receive all grades and tuition costs from the school attended.
Student full-time status is separate and distinct from the requirement that a program be offered on a full-time basis. The former determines student eligibility; the latter determines whether the program is TAP eligible. Program TAP eligibility is determined by the State Education Department (SED).
A student’s minimum full-time course load can include repeated courses under certain conditions: if the student is repeating a failed course; repeating a course in which the grade earned would ordinarily be passing but is a failure in a particular curriculum; or repeating a course where credit will be earned each time.
Restrictions and limitations on courses that can be used to establish full-time status apply only to the minimum 12-credit (or 8-credit/12 quarter credit) course load. There are no restrictions on courses taken over and above the minimum full-time course load.