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GUIDELINES CONCERNING "MATRICULATION" AND "APPROVED PROGRAM"
FOR PURPOSES OF STATE STUDENT FINANCIAL AID

I.  INTRODUCTION

Education Law requires that recipients of State student financial aid be "matriculated" and enrolled in an "approved program." These requirements are further detailed in corresponding provisions of The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.

State audits have revealed that these requirements have not been consistently and completely observed by institutions certifying students for State awards.* The purpose of these guidelines is to provide the information and direction necessary to assure that the requirements are met.

Key provisions of Education Law and Commissionerís Regulations concerning the requirement that recipients of State student financial aid be "matriculated" appear in Attachment I. Similarly, provisions relating to the "approved program" requirement appear in Attachment II. Institutional officials responsible for determining student eligibility for State financial assistance must be familiar with these provisions to certify students properly for State awards. Perhaps more importantly, however, such officials should review and be guided by the information in Sections II and III below which addresses how the requirements are to be met.

II.  MATRICULATION

A. Background

One of the eligibility criteria for State student financial aid is the requirement that the award recipient be matriculated. While matriculated status for academic purposes is a policy decision that is within the discretion of an institutionís faculty and administration, the definition of matriculated status for purposes of State student aid is established in Section 145-2.4 of the Regulations. Since the definitions established by institutions for academic purposes may not correspond in all respects to the matriculation requirements for State student aid, it is vital that the provisions of 145-2.4 be clearly understood and observed. In this memorandum, matriculation means matriculation as an eligibility requirement for State student financial assistance in degree-granting and professional institutions.

B. General Provisions

Section 145-2.4 of the Regulations on matriculation status includes several important provisions. (See Attachment 1 for complete text.) The following information addresses and clarifies these provisions. Subdivision (a) of 145-2.4 stipulates three criteria which are fundamental to demonstrating that a student is matriculated for financial aid purposes:

*Refers to general and academic performance awards provided under Articles 13 and 14 of Title I of the Education Law.

(1) the student has filed a written application for enrollment at the institution for the purpose of earning a degree, diploma or certificate;

(2) in accepting the studentís 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, as required by subdivision (d) of Section 52.2 of this Chapter; and

(3) 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.

These provisions define the dual responsibility of the student undertaking study on the one hand and the institution admitting the student to matriculated status on the other and can be explained as follows.

Paragraph (1) is self-evident. A student must apply indicating the intention to earn a degree, diploma, or certificate. A student who has not formally applied to an institution for the purpose of earning a degree, diploma, or certificate and is simply enrolling in individual courses is not matriculated for financial aid purposes. Paragraph (2) speaks to the expectation that an institution, in accepting a student as a candidate for a degree, will have adequate admissions procedures to evaluate a studentís academic needs and determine, where necessary, appropriate remedial study and support services. For example, a student with an identified weakness in math would not be placed without remediation in advanced math courses. Paragraph (3) indicates that the institutionís decision to recognize a student as a candidate for a degree, diploma or certificate shall determine the studentís matriculated status even if there are certain requirements to be met upon entrance. For example, students may be required to take examinations to determine the level of achievement for proper placement in a course of study. Successful completion of such examinations shall not be necessary in order for the student to be considered to be matriculated for student financial aid purposes. It should be noted that certain academic requirements may have a bearing on a studentís matriculated status for financial aid. For example, if an institution requires a student to have a high school diploma in order for the student to be recognized as a candidate for a degree, certificate or diploma, a student without a high school diploma would not satisfy the third criterion for matriculation for State financial aid purposes.

C. Conditional Status

Regulations also define the circumstances in which students are not considered to be matriculated for purposes of State student aid. Section 145-2.4(c) states:

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. Program means the registered degree, diploma, or certificate program in which the student is enrolled. 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. 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.

To be considered matriculated for purposes of State student financial aid, a student must take courses -- credit-bearing or a combination of credit-bearing and non-credit remedial courses -- which are recognized by the institution in the term taken as contributing toward completion of a program of study. If a student is not permitted to take any credit-bearing work until satisfactorily completing preparatory work designed to make up identified deficiencies, the student is not considered to be fully matriculated for State award purposes. Or, if the student may take credit-bearing courses, but does not earn the credit until the remedial work is completed, such credit is conditional and the student is not fully matriculated.

Institutions may have categories of matriculated status for academic purposes that differ from the State requirements for student financial aid purposes. Institutions are advised that students who do not meet academic requirements for an institutional definition of full matriculation must be screened for student financial aid eligibility based on satisfying the three criteria in the Regulations discussed above in section B.

D. Special Provisions for Opportunity Program Recipients

In order to be eligible for participation in the Higher Education Opportunity Program; the Equal Opportunity Program; the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge Program or the College Discovery Program, a student must be both educationally and economically disadvantaged in accordance with the eligibility criteria governing these programs. One common test of educational disadvantage is non-admissibility by normal admissions standards to the college in a matriculated status in a degree program. In order to assure that opportunity program participants are eligible for State awards, Section 145-2.4(a)(3) of the Regulations permits students in these State-approved opportunity programs to be considered matriculated for financial aid purposes on the basis of their participation in the opportunity program:

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 (emphasis added) if such programs are in the EOP, HEOP, SEEK, or College Discovery categories, or are otherwise approved by the commissioner.

Only students in these State-approved opportunity programs are automatically covered by this provision. However, a special case was created with the establishment of the Supplemental Tuition Assistance Program (STAP). Although to be eligible for a STAP award a student need not be economically disadvantaged, statute requires that students be educationally disadvantaged pursuant to the same criteria used to identify students for HEOP, EOP, SEEK and College Discovery. With respect to this provision of the Regulations, the Commissioner has determined that a student approved for STAP may be considered matriculated for financial aid purposes on that basis alone. Institutions should note, however, that before a student completing a STAP-supported term of study may be certified for TAP for the subsequent term, the student must satisfy the matriculation provisions in 145-2.4.

III. APPROVED PROGRAM

A. General Provisions

Closely linked to the matriculation requirement is the regulation that requires enrollment in an approved program. To be eligible for a State award, a student must not only be matriculated, but also enrolled in an approved program. Approved programs for financial aid purposes are defined in Education Law and Section 145-2.3(b) of Regulations. In this memorandum, the discussion will be limited to approved college-level and professional programs.

(NOTE: Collegiate level programs are defined in statute as programs approved by the Commissioner that lead to a degree, or to a diploma or certificate fully creditable towards a degree in the same institution.)

Part 52 of Commissionerís Regulations requires registration for every curriculum creditable toward a degree. Institutions may advertise and offer only registered curricula. To be eligible for a State award, a student must be enrolled in a program that not only has been registered by the State Education Department but also has been designated as a State student aid-eligible program. Semi-annually, each institution receives a list of its academic offerings that have been registered by the State Education Department. This official listing, called the Inventory of Registered Programs, notes which of the registered programs are approved for State student aid and which are not.

In the course of audits, the Office of the State Comptroller has, on occasion, questioned whether certain programs in which students are enrolled have been registered and approved for State student aid by the State Education Department. These questions result from apparent discrepancies between an offering as identified by the institution in its catalog and the official listing of registered programs in the Inventory of Registered Programs. In many cases, the questions concern offerings that the institution considers options or variations within a registered program. Any options, concentrations, specializations, or clusters of courses which an institution wishes to bring to the attention of students should be clearly identified as such and identified as a part of an approved registered program leading to a diploma, certificate or degree as listed in the Inventory.

To minimize possible disallowances, institutions are cautioned to: (1) verify that their program offerings and catalog descriptions are consistent with the Inventory of Registered Programs and (2) assure that for each student certified for a State award, there is an official record of the approved program in which the student is enrolled. In reconciling the catalog with the Inventory, institutional officials should note that Regulations provide that: "New registration shall be required for any existing curriculum in which major changes are made that affect its title, focus, design, requirements for completion or mode of delivery." While the Department does not register options or specializations, adding or expanding such offerings within an existing registered program may constitute a substantial change in the program as registered and therefore should be reported to the Department for review and appropriate action. Failure to obtain the required approval could result in disallowance of all TAP funds to students enrolled in the unregistered program.

B. Approved Program and Deferred Major

Academic practices at certain institutions permit entering students to defer declaring a major until a later time in their course of study. In such instances, students usually take courses in a variety of disciplines that are common to a number of degree programs. Matriculated students who defer declaration of a specific major may be considered to be enrolled in one or more of an institutionís approved (registered) programs. For financial aid purposes, a student must declare a major within 30 days of the end of the institutionís add/drop period of the sophomore year in a 2-year program or within 30 days of the end of the add/drop period of the junior year of a baccalaureate program so that the student is able to complete the degree in the normal time frame. In each case, the academic record for the student must designate the studentís enrollment in a program that has been 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 specified points as noted above, students are, of course, free to change their choice of major.

C. Approved Program for STAP Recipients

Statute provides that STAP "shall be governed by all the law, rules and regulations pertaining to the tuition assistance program." Thus, STAP recipients must meet the requirement of enrollment in an approved program. A STAP student who is educationally disadvantaged and carrying a remedial workload as defined by the Commissioner may be considered to be enrolled in an approved program on that basis alone. Once the student completes the STAP-supported study and the institution determines that the student meets the normal requirements for admission to one or more of its approved (registered) programs, all the provisions concerning matriculation and enrollment in an approved program must be met.

Guidelines Concering Matriculation and Approved Program

Statutory and Regulatory Requirements With Respect to Matriculation

Education Law

Section 602. Duties of the Commissioner.

2. The commissioner shall promulgate regulations defining the following terms by which the president can determine a studentís eligibility for student aid and loan programs:

(a)...

(b)...

(c)...

(d)...

(e) matriculation...

(f)... .

Section 661. Eligibility requirements and conditions governing awards and loans.

4. Attendance in approved courses of study in approved institutions. To be eligible to receive payments from the president a student:

a. Must be matriculated (emphasis added) in an approved program as defined by the commissioner .

b.

The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education

Section 145-2.4. Matriculated status. (a) A student shall be considered in matriculated status if:

(1) the student has filed a written application for enrollment at the institution for the purpose of earning a degree, diploma or certificate;

(2) in accepting the studentís 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, as required by subdivision (d) of section 52.2 of this Chapter; and

(3) 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. Effective for the 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 are otherwise approved by the commissioner.

(b) 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.

(c) 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 and 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.

(d) 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.

(e) Students enrolled under permit from other institutions where they are matriculated may be certified as matriculated by the school attended.

ATTACHMENT II

Statutory and Regulatory Requirements with Respect to Approved Programs

Education Law

Section 601. Definitions.

4. "Approved program" for the purpose of determining a studentís eligibility for awards provided in articles thirteen and fourteen of this chapter and subject to specific modification by sections of such articles, shall mean the following programs of study approved by the commissioner pursuant to this article in accordance with rules of the board of regents and registered by the state education department in accordance with regulations of the commissioner or, where applicable, registered by the state department of health and forwarded to the state education department: (I) collegiate level programs leading to a degree, or programs leading to a diploma or certificate that are fully creditable towards a degree program in that institution; (2) study and training programs offered by a hospital school, a community college, a unit of the state university of New York, a unit of the city university of New York, or an institution chartered by the regents or by the legislature for the purpose of granting degrees, leading to licensure as a professional registered or practical nurse or to certification in an area of medical or health technology; and (3) two-year programs offered in a registered private business school.

Section 661. Eligibility requirements and conditions governing awards and loans.

4. Attendance in approved courses of study in approved institutions. To be eligible to receive payments from the president a student:

a. Must be matriculated in an approved program (emphasis added) as defined by the commissioner .

b. ...

The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education

Section 145-2.3. Approved programs for general and academic performance awards. (a) The commissioner shall periodically provide each approved institution of postsecondary education in the State with a list of registered programs approved by the commissioner for purposes of general and academic performance awards in that institution, and such institution shall certify as attending approved programs of study only those students enrolled in programs included in such list, except as otherwise specifically authorized by the commissioner because of administrative error, pending registration, or other special circumstances. Copies of all such lists of registered programs shall be provided to the president of the Higher Education Services Corporation for use in implementing the purposes of this section.

b) Approved programs, where authorized and specified by statute, shall be defined as follows:

(I) Collegiate level programs shall denote those programs registered by the State Education Department under section 52.2 of this chapter or other appropriate regulation applying to a program leading to a degree, or leading to a diploma or certificate fully creditable towards a degree in an institution authorized to grant degrees. Approved diploma and certificate programs shall be of at least one academic yearís duration. Programs registered under 52.22 of this Chapter shall not be considered collegiate level programs. Further, post-doctoral programs leading to specialty certification, such as in psychoanalysis or orthodonture, shall not be considered diploma or certificate programs within the intent of articles 13 and 14 of the Education Law.

(2) Noncollegiate programs. (i) Hospital programs of professional nursing. Such programs shall denote programs registered by the State Education Department under paragraph (a)(l) of section 52.12 of this Chapter as programs offered by a hospital nursing school and approved by the Regents as leading to licensure as a registered professional nurse.

(ii) Other health-related programs. Such programs shall denote other programs that lead to licensure as a licensed practical nurse registered by the State Education Department under paragraph (a)(2) of section 52.12 of this Chapter, or to certification in an area of medical or health technology, and that are registered, licensed or approved by the State Education Department or by the State Department of Health.

(iii)

(c)...

(d)...

The State Education Department does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, creed. disability, marital status, veteran status, national origin, race, or sex in the educational programs and activities which it operates. This policy is in compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Inquiries concerning this policy may be referred to the Departmentís Affirmative Action Officer. Education Budding, Albany, NY 12234.

11/4/03