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Term Definition
Major

“Major” generally is used synonymously with “program of study.” To be eligible for State student financial aid, a student must be matriculated in an approved program of study, that is, a program reviewed and registered by the State Education Department and eligible for financial aid.

The Department publishes an official Inventory of Registered Programs that is the official record of all approved programs.

Make up Deficiency

To be eligible for State student financial aid, a student must remain in good academic standing, defined as pursuing a program of study and making progress toward completing the program’s requirements.

If a student fails to remain in good academic standing, the student loses eligibility for a subsequent award.

One of the ways a student can regain eligibility is to make up the deficiency—failure to pursue or failure to make progress, or both—without benefit of State financial aid.

For example, if a student is at the 100 percent pursuit level—that is, must get a grade in at least 100 percent of the minimum full-time course load of 12 credits—and the student gets a grade in only nine credits, the student must make up the three-credit shortfall at his/her own expense. Thus, the student might take a three-credit course during a winter term or summer session to make up the deficiency without benefit of State student aid.

Matriculation

While matriculated status for academic purposes is a policy decision within the discretion of an institution’s faculty and administration, the definition of matriculated status for financial aid purposes is established in section 145-2.4 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, (italicized text); explanatory text follows:

  • A student shall be considered in matriculated status if the student has filed a written application for enrollment at the institution for the purpose of earning a degree, diploma or certificate;
    A student must be enrolled in an approved program (one that the State Education Department has registered as TAP eligible). A student who has not formally applied to an institution and is simply enrolling in individual courses is not matriculated.

 

  • In accepting the student’s application, the institution has taken into account the capacity of the student to undertake a course of study and its own capacity to provide what instructional and other support the student needs to complete the program;
    To assess the student’s capacity to complete the program, the institution must have adequate admissions procedures to evaluate a student’s academic needs and determine, where necessary, appropriate remedial study and support services.

 

  • The institution, on the basis of that demonstration, has recognized the student as a candidate for that degree, diploma or certificate
  • It shall not be necessary that the student, in addition, have passed matriculation examinations or language examinations, or completed any other particular prerequisites established by the school in accordance with local custom or regulation;
    For example, some institutions require students to take placement examinations. Successful completion of such examinations shall not be necessary for a student to be considered matriculated.

 

  • Effective for academic terms beginning after January 1, 1978, students accepted in special programs for the disadvantaged, may be considered matriculated on that basis only if such programs are in the EOP, HEOP, SEEK or College Discovery categories, or otherwise approved by the Commissioner.
  • The student who is enrolled for courses solely to complete teacher certification, licensing, or other external requirements, or solely for personal or cultural advancement, and who is not recognized as a candidate for a degree, diploma or certificate, shall not be considered a matriculated student.
  • 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.
    To be considered matriculated for financial aid purposes, a student must take courses—credit-bearing or a combination of credit-bearing and noncredit remedial courses—which are recognized by the institution in the term taken as contributing toward completion of a program of study.

 

  • 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 and special requirements designed to establish the qualifications of the student to pursue the program successfully.
  • 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.
    A student who is admitted conditionally is not considered to be matriculated.

 

  • Retroactive matriculation by the school shall not establish retroactive eligibility for student aid unless such retroactive action was necessary to correct clerical error or administrative delay in reviewing the application of a student who was in fact eligible for matriculation as of the retroactive date.
  • Students enrolled in a degree granting institution other than the institution in which they are matriculated must be certified as eligible for tuition assistance by the matriculating institution. The courses and program of study at the attending institution must be consistent with the matriculating institution's approved program of study at the time of enrollment and attendance. In order to certify eligibility for State financial aid, the matriculating institution must receive all grades and tuition costs from the school attended.
      Academic practices at some institutions permit entering students to defer declaring a major until a later time in their college study. In such instances, students usually take courses in a variety of disciplines that are common to a number of degree programs. 

Students who defer declaring a major may be considered matriculated in one or more of an institution’s approved programs; however, students must declare a major within 30 days of the end of their institution’s drop/add period—in the first term of the sophomore year for two-year programs or the first term of the junior year for four-year programs, so that the student is able to complete the requirements for the degree within the timeframe specified in the academic program as registered by the State Education Department and appears on the Inventory of Registered Programs as a program eligible for State student aid. While a declaration must be made at specific points as noted above, students are of course, free to change their choice of major during their program of study.

If a student has completed all requirements for one degree and is taking additional courses but has not formally matriculated in another degree program, that student is not eligible for further aid.

Memorandum of Agreement

Beginning in 1977 and renewed a few times since that date, the New York State agencies involved in the administration of State student financial assistance programs have endorsed a Memorandum of Agreement. The Memorandum sets forth the responsibilities of each agency with respect to financial aid oversight as well as the obligations of each agency to the other parties to the Agreement.

The signatories to the Memorandum of Agreement are the State Education Department, the Higher Education Services Corporation, the Office of the State Comptroller, and the Division of the Budget.

Provisions in the Memorandum form the basis for the State Comptroller’s audit of institutional adherence to law, rules and regulations. The Memorandum also provides that the State Education Department shall maintain a list of programs approved for State student aid that shall be made available to the State Comptroller and the Higher Education Services Corporation.

Minimum Course Load

The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education define full-time and part-time study for financial aid purposes.

Full-time study is defined in section 145-2.1(a) of the regulations as enrollment in credit-bearing courses applicable to the students' program of study, for at least 12 semester hours for a semester of not less than 15 weeks or 100 calendar days, inclusive of examination periods (or eight semester hours a quarter). The minimum full-time course load, then, is 12 semester hours.

If a student wishes to take courses that are not required for the student’s program, then the student must take those courses over and above the minimum 12 semester hour course load. This is important when determining whether the student has maintained good academic standing, as only courses that are applicable to the student’s program of study can be considered.

Minimum Standards

Regulations of the Commissioner of Education enacted in 1981 adopted specific criteria for determining good academic standing. As specified in section 145-2.2, each institution seeking to participate in State student financial aid programs is required to establish and apply “a standard of satisfactory academic progress which includes required levels of achievement to be measured at stated intervals. Criteria for achievement shall include, but need not be limited to: (i) the minimum number of credits earned, or courses successfully completed at each interval; and (ii) the minimum cumulative grade point average or similar measure at each interval.” 

Prior to implementing the standard(s) of progress, as well as any subsequent changes, each institution is required to obtain the approval of the Commissioner of Education.

These requirements for good academic standing as defined by the Commissioner continue in effect for students who receive their first State award during the 1981-82 academic year through academic year 2005-2006. 

For first-time recipients in academic year 2006-2007 and thereafter, the New York State Legislature amended the Education Law to specify the satisfactory academic progress standards to be used by all institutions. Thus, the required minimum standards for determining award eligibility are now mandated by law for all students who are first time, full-time students in 2006-2007 and thereafter.

The New York State Legislature mandated additional changes to the minimum standards in 2011. Effective for the 2010-11 academic year and thereafter, New York State Education Law requires a non-remedial student, whose first award year is in 2010--11 and thereafter, must meet new standards of satisfactory academic progress (SAP). Non-remedial students whose first year is 2007-08 through 2009-10 must meet the SAP requirements enacted in 2006. Those meeting the definition of "remedial student" are not subject to the new SAP standards, but will use the requirements established in 2006. 

Students who received their first State award prior to that date continue to be bound by the standards approved by the Commissioner for their institutions. An institution can choose to adopt the standards mandated in Education Law for all students in lieu of maintaining and applying two sets of standards. In that case, the institution needs to make a request to the State Education Department seeking Commissioner's approval of revised standards, i.e., the standards established in Education Law.