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Term Definition
C Average Requirement

Effective with the 1996-97 academic year, Education Law section 661 requires that a student have at least a cumulative C average (2.0 on a 4.0 scale, or the equivalent) after the student has completed the second academic year of study. In practice, this requirement is interpreted to mean that a student must have a C average or better after the student has accumulated 24 payment points (received 4 semester payments or the equivalent) to be eligible for further awards. In other words, a student seeking a fifth semester award payment must have a C average. 

All State grant and scholarship programs (except STAP) are subject to this requirement.

Transfer Students

Institutions generally accept in transfer only courses in which grades of C or better were earned. Therefore, students with transferable credits who have already received four semester payments are presumed to meet the C average requirement and are eligible for the initial term at the new institution.

To determine the eligibility of transfer students, an institution may elect to include, for financial aid purposes, the grades earned for courses accepted in transfer providing this policy is applied to all financial aid applicants. 

Readmitted Students

A student readmitted to an institution attended previously who has received two or more years of award payments must have a C average or better to receive further State student aid. The student’s cumulative grade point average would be based on prior grades earned at the institution. 

Change of Program

A student who does not meet the C average requirement cannot regain eligibility by changing programs within an institution.

Regaining Eligibility

Students can regain eligibility in one of two ways:

  • Complete additional course work without State support until a C average is achieved; or
  • Be eligible for and be granted a waiver.

The President of the Higher Education Services Corporation may grant a waiver of the C average requirement. This waiver is in addition to the one-time waiver of good academic standing requirements permitted under section 145-2.2(b)(5) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. 

As specified in Education Law, the C average requirement may be waived for undue hardship based on:

  • Death of a relative of the student;
  • Personal injury or illness of the student; or
  • Other extenuating circumstances

Institutions must maintain documentation of the reason(s) a waiver is granted but do not have to report the waiver in the certification process. If warranted, a C average waiver may be granted more than once.

Note: The C average waiver may not be used to regain eligibility for a Part-time TAP award, a program that requires the student to have and maintain a C average. 

Certificate Program
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).
Change of Program
An academic program change can affect a student’s eligibility for State student financial aid.

If the student is in good academic standing for financial aid purposes and changes to a new program, the student is eligible for beneficial placement on the chart of satisfactory academic progress. However, a student who has failed to maintain good standing cannot regain eligibility by changing programs within an institution.

Institutions should keep written documentation of program changes, whether they involve a change at the same level (i.e., from one baccalaureate program to another) or a change from one level to another (i.e., from an associate degree program to a baccalaureate degree program). Documentation is important to assure that the student is matriculated in an approved program.

All State student aid programs have citizenship requirements. HESC uses criteria for federal student aid programs to determine eligibility. A student must be one of the following:

  • United States citizen (includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands) or U.S. national (includes American Samoa and Swain’s Island);
  • Permanent resident with a Form I-151 (Alien Registration Receipt Card) or Form I-551 (Permanent Resident Card), without conditions;
  • Holder of a Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) showing one of the following designations: “Refugee,” “Asylum Granted,” “Indefinite Parole,” and/or “Humanitarian Parole, Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending,” “Conditional Entrant" (valid if issued before April 1, 1980);
  • Citizen of the Freely Associated States, the Pacific Islands of Palau, the Marshall Islands, or the Federated States of Micronesia; or
  • Participant in a suspension of deportation case pending before Congress.

Individuals in the United States on an F1 or F2 visa only or on a J1 or J2 Exchange visa only are not eligible. 

Concurrent Benefit

Generally, educational grants or scholarships from the armed forces or other federal agencies that provide tuition support are held to be concurrent benefits. Students cannot receive benefits concurrently with a state-sponsored scholarship or academic performance award, nor can students hold two academic performance awards concurrently. Grants or other assistance providing only subsistence or maintenance are not concurrent benefits.

Concurrent benefits do not affect TAP and other general awards.

HESC does not consider aid from institutional or private sources to be concurrent benefits.

Conditional Admission

Students who are admitted conditionally and not considered to be fully matriculated are ineligible for State student aid.

Section 145-2.4(c) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education on matriculated status states that:

A student shall be considered matriculated only if the courses pursued by the student are fully recognized at that time as contributing towards fulfillment by the student of the requirements for completion of the program. A student required to complete certain courses to make up deficiencies in background or training may be considered matriculated if acceptance and credit are not conditioned upon additional or special requirements designed to establish the qualifications of the student to pursue the program successfully. However, if credit is conditional, depending upon satisfactory completion of certain special and additional requirements, then the student shall not be considered to be fully matriculated.

Institutions are advised to review the admissions section in their catalogs to assure that the information provided makes clear that if a student is admitted conditionally, then the student is ineligible for State student financial aid.

Cost of Attendance
Certain financial aid programs (e.g., TAP, APTS and Veterans Tuition Awards) cover tuition only. Other programs cover a student’s cost of attendance.

The cost of attendance includes both direct costs and indirect costs. Direct costs are billable charges that student must pay to the school. Indirect costs are expenses incurred that must be paid separately by the student.

Cost of attendance generally can include tuition, room, board, books, fees, and an allowance for transportation. 

Credit is defined in section 50.1(n) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education as “a unit of academic award applicable towards a degree offered by the institution.” Essentially interchangeable with the term credit is “semester hour.” As defined in section 50.1(o) of the regulations:

Semester hour means a credit, point, or other unit granted for the satisfactory completion of a course which requires at least 15 hours (of 50 minutes each) of instruction and at least 30 hours of supplementary assignments, except as otherwise provided pursuant to section 52.2(c)(4) of this Subchapter. This basic measure shall be adjusted proportionately to translate the value of other academic calendars and formats of study in relation to the credit granted for study during the two semesters that comprise an academic year.
Remedial courses do not carry credit since, by definition, the courses are not applicable towards a degree offered by the institution. Some institutions offer “developmental” courses, usually understood to consist of some combination of credit-bearing degree level work and noncredit remedial work.

Although not defined in regulation, a “quarter credit” is equal to two-thirds of a semester credit. For example, eight semester hours equates to twelve quarter credits. (Twelve quarter credits multiplied by two-thirds equals eight semester credits.)

Credit Accrual
Credit accrual in the context of State student financial assistance refers to an element of good academic standing, specifically, satisfactory academic progress toward a degree. Each term an award is received, a student must accrue (earn) a minimum number of credits with a minimum cumulative grade point average to be making satisfactory academic progress and eligible for a subsequent award. 

Students first receiving State financial assistance prior to the 2006-2007 academic year are subject to the standard of satisfactory academic progress approved by the Commissioner of Education and in effect at their institution.

For students first receiving aid in 2006-2007 and thereafter, the undergraduate credit accrual and grade point average requirements are mandated in Education Law for all recipients. 

Standards of satisfactory academic progress for graduate study remain those approved by the Commissioner.
Cumulative Passing Average

“Cumulative passing average,” when used in the context of an eligibility criterion for State student financial assistance, applies only to the Aid for Part-Time Study Program (APTS). In addition to maintaining good academic standing, students who receive an APTS award must also achieve a cumulative passing average in order to be eligible for a subsequent award.

Institutions should note the distinction between these two requirements: good academic standing relates to student eligibility. The cumulative passing average requirement is separate and is used to determine whether an institution will be reimbursed for tuition waived for APTS recipients. It is possible for a student to satisfy good academic standing requirements yet fail to achieve a cumulative passing average for a given semester. The reverse may also occur.

Note: the one-time undergraduate waiver of good academic standing has no application to the cumulative passing average requirement.

In establishing what is meant by cumulative passing average, the Commissioner of Education took into account the variety of grading systems and practices in effect at the diverse postsecondary institutions in New York State. In recognition of the need to allow as much flexibility as possible, the Commissioner determined that a cumulative passing average for the course work undertaken for the term an APTS award is received can be no lower than the minimum passing course grade at an institution. For example, if the minimum passing course grade is a D, or 1.0 on a 4.0 scale, 1.0 would be the minimum passing average.

Treatment of W grades for financial aid purposes should also be consistent with the treatment of these grades for general academic purposes. For example, if a W is a nonpunitive grade that does not count in a student’s average, it would not count for financial aid purposes. Thus, the average of two C’s and a W would be a C. A student who has received all W’s would not have achieved a cumulative passing average. Such a student would have no average.

In the case of incomplete (I) grades, institutions can consider a student with an otherwise passing average that includes an I grade to have an overall passing average. The I grade does not affect the average positively or negatively. On the other hand, a student with an incomplete who has not achieved a cumulative passing average may be able to do so with the resolution of the incomplete grade. As in the case of W grades, a student receiving all I grades would not have achieved a cumulative passing average.

P (Pass), S (Satisfactory), or U (Unsatisfactory) grades may present problems for some institutions if these grades are not ordinarily assigned a quality point or numerical equivalent for calculation in the student’s cumulative average. If that is the case, institutions may wish to consider establishing equivalents for financial aid purposes. If such equivalents are established, a written policy should be developed to explain this grading policy.

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