Section 145-2.1(a) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education defines full-time study in terms of enrollment for a minimum number of credits in a specified time period. Thus, full-time study is defined as “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, inclusive of examination periods; or eight semester hours in a quarter; or, in programs not organized on a semester or quarter basis, 24 semester hours for an academic year of not more than 12 months or the equivalent, as determined by the commissioner.”
Note: when the regulation refers to “quarter,” such a calendar consists of three terms, used interchangeably with “trimester.” Thus, a two-semester calendar consisting of 12 semester hours in each semester requires the same total semester hours (24) as a calendar consisting of three quarters/trimesters of 8 semester hours in each term.
If a college’s calendar does not conform to one of these calendar types, there is no basis for determining whether the student is full time for financial aid purposes. In such situations, it may be possible to accommodate atypical calendars by creating “simulated semesters.” For example, if a college offers a 12-week spring term followed by a 6-week internship, neither free-standing term satisfies section 145-2.1(a) and neither is, therefore, eligible for aid. However, by linking the two terms to form an 18-week “simulated semester,” the resulting term is eligible for State student aid. Simulated semesters can also be used to accommodate calendars consisting of four terms in the regular academic year. To comply with the regulation, pairs of adjacent terms are linked to form two simulated semesters.
To adopt a simulated semester calendar arrangement for financial aid purposes, an institution must request approval from the State Education Department and agree to two conditions:
- the combined terms that make up the simulated semester must be covered by a single tuition charge; and
- to be full time, a student must register/enroll for at least 12 semester hours to be completed in the simulated semester at the beginning of the first component/module of the simulated semester (the student can enroll in any combination to make up the 12 credits: e.g., 6 and 6, 9 and 3, 3 and 9, etc.).
The student cannot be certified full time until the beginning of the second component of the simulated semester, when the student course load is at least 12 credits.
Good academic standing is determined based on the student’s performance in the combined terms that make up the simulated semester.
This simulated semester model can also be adapted for institutions operating on quarter/trimester calendars, as simulated trimesters.