THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
ALBANY, NEW YORK 12234
ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS FOR STATE STUDENT AID
Questions and Answers from Statewide Conferences Held in November 1982
In November 1982, the State Education Department and the New York State Financial Aid Administrators Association co-sponsored a series of seven statewide conferences on the subject of "Academic Requirements for State Student Aid." At each conference, staff from the department reviewed the requirements, and representatives from the Office of the State Comptroller discussed preliminary findings from a number of test audits of institutional compliance with Commissioner's Regulations on good academic standing and attendance. In the formal presentations, these two general points were stressed:
(1) Institutions must establish and publish policies, and maintain clear, accurate records pertaining to such items as waivers and waiver use; treatment of transfer and readmitted students who have lost good academic standing; and verification each term that a student has met (or failed to meet) standards of pursuit and progress.
(2) Institutional officials are responsible for providing students with information and advice about all academic requirements, particularly those which affect financial aid eligibility.
In addition to providing a forum for the thorough review of implementation questions and concerns, the conferences also served to identify a number of academic issues that are inextricably linked to State student aid and therefore warrant careful review. Those noted below, and others, are amplified in the summary of conference questions:
-the need to have clear definitions of admissions requirements;
-the need to maintain an adequate record of grade changes, including dates and the instructor's authorization, for the purpose of documenting a student's eligibility at the time of award certification;
-the need to have criteria for ascertaining a student's academic deficiencies in order to prescribe appropriate remedial coursework;
-the need for an academic policy that differentiates between college-level, credit-bearing courses and those which are pre-college-level remedial courses which, according to The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, may not carry credit;
-the need to establish the credit equivalency of non-credit remedial work, based on the definition of semester hour in Regulations;
-the need to maintain a record of remedial non-credit courses, if such courses are not indicated on the student's permanent academic transcript;
-the need to maintain a record of credits accrued and applicable to a specific program in which a student is currently enrolled.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a summary of conference questions and answers that we hope will be useful to institutional academic policymakers as well as to those campus administrators responsible for State student aid. The questions and answers are divided into two main sections as follows:
I. Academic Requirements (Pursuit and Progress) for Students Who Received Their First State Award in Academic Year 1981-82 or Thereafter
II. Other General Questions
If you have a question about any information in this paper or have other questions about academic requirements for State student aid which are not covered, please contact the Office of College and University Evaluation, Room 5N Mezzanine, Education Building, 89 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York 12234. Telephone calls can be directed to (518) 474-2593.
I. ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS (PURSUIT AND PROGRESS) FOR STUDENTS WHO RECEIVED THEIR FIRST STATE AWARD IN ACADEMIC YEAR 1981-82 OR THEREAFTER
PROGRAM PURSUIT AND SATISFACTORY ACADEMIC PROGRESS
Question: To what extent does an institution have to publish a detailed explanation of the new academic requirements for State awards?
Answer: Institutions must establish and publish their standards and policies with respect to State student financial assistance. If detailed information is not provided in the catalog, a summary statement should appear which indicates where complete information may be obtained.
Q. Is the pursuit requirement the same for all students, including those in opportunity programs? After 4 semesters of TAP, is everyone at the 100% pursuit level?
A. Yes, to both questions.
Q. Why can't pursuit be included on the satisfactory academic progress chart of credits accrued and cumulative grade point average?
A. As established in the Regulations, program pursuit must be determined independently from satisfactory academic progress. It is a measure of effort-- coursework completed, whether passed or failed--rather than achievement (credits earned). Pursuit is absolute. It is keyed to the number of payments a student has received regardless of the school the student is attending, the number of credits the student has earned, or other factors which may change a student's placement on the satisfactory academic progress chart. Keying pursuit to the progress chart could prove especially confusing for transfer students, for whom the number of payments and credits accrued might not "line up." If an institution wishes to indicate the pursuit requirement on the same page as the progress chart, we suggest a narrative footnote such as:
Satisfactory program pursuit is defined as receiving a passing or failing grade in a certain percentage of a full-time courseload in each term for which an award is received. The percentage increases from 50% of the minimum full-time courseload in each term of study in the first year for which an award is received, to 75% of the minimum full-time courseload in each term of study in the second year for which an award is received, to 100% of the minimum full-time courseload in each term thereafter.
Q. In a transfer or readmit situation, is there an assessment of pursuit?
A. The fact of a student's transfer or readmission does not alter the student's pursuit requirement. The pursuit level a student must meet in the first term at a new institution is based on the total number of State award payments a student has received, excluding STAP payments, as defined in the Regulations.
Q. If a student is at the 100% pursuit level, enrolls for 15 semester hours, and then drops to 12 semester hours, has that student failed to meet program pursuit?
A. No. The Regulations require that the student complete a certain percentage of the minimum full-time load. The minimum full-time load at a semester-based institution is 12 semester hours. Therefore, the student at the 100% pursuit level must complete 12 semester hours, not 100% of the semester hours that may be the "normal" full-time load at an institution.
Q. What is the pursuit requirement for graduate students?
A The level of pursuit a student must meet depends on the total number of payments the student has received. If a first-time graduate student had received two undergraduate semester payments, that student would be at the 75% pursuit level in the first term of graduate study. If the student had received no undergraduate TAP, the student would be at the 50% pursuit level in the first term of graduate study. Similarly, if the student received four or more undergraduate TAP payments, the student would be at the 100% pursuit level from the first term of graduate study onward.
Q #9; How do you monitor pursuit and progress for a student receiving a half-time accelerated TAP payment?
A. To determine the proper placement on the progress chart for students receiving a half-payment for accelerated study, follow the procedure of "rounding down" to the nearest whole payment. For example, if a student has received 2 semester payments plus a half summer award, he has used up 2-1/2 terms of TAP eligibility. In the following fall (rounding down from 2-1/2 to 2), he will be seeking his third TAP payment. If, after again receiving fall and spring payments (award #'s 3-1/2 and 4-1/2) a student gets a second summer half payment, the student has now used a total of 5 terms of TAP eligibility: four semester awards plus two (half) summer payments. The student will therefore be seeking a sixth payment the following fall and will have to have met the credit accrual requirement for the sixth award to be eligible for payment.
Pursuit is determined every term whether the student is full time or part time. After the student has received four TAP payments, whether for full-time or part-time study or a combination, the student is at the 100% pursuit level.
A full semester award payment for accelerated study (for a course load of at least 12 semester hours) is treated like any other full-time award. In such cases, the student would have to meet the program pursuit requirement for the payment level being received. For example, if a student received fall and spring payments as the first and second awards, and then received a full summer award, the summer term pursuit requirement would be at the 75% level.
NOTE: Only those students who are in good academic standing and were full time in the preceding term or will be full time in the succeeding term are eligible for a half-time accelerated award.
Q. What is the relationship between credits and payment points?
A. The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, which administers the State's student aid programs, uses a point system to indicate the number of State award payments a student has received. The student must meet good academic standing requirements based on the number of payments received. Therefore, the number of payment points must be converted to payments. Then the number of payments received will indicate the student's placement on the chart of satisfactory academic progress and thus the number of credits a student must earn.
Q. What is meant by "beneficial placement?"
A. Beneficial placement means that a transfer student, or student in good standing who is changing programs, may be repositioned on the chart of satisfactory academic progress based either on the number of payments received or credits earned, whichever is more beneficial to the student.
Q If a student is already at the 100% pursuit level, what difference does beneficial placement on the chart make?
A. Beneficial placement does not have a bearing on the pursuit requirement. If the student has received 4 or more State award payments, the student is at the 100% pursuit level and must complete the minimum 12 semester hours (in a semester-based institution). However, to satisfy the pursuit requirement, the student may get passing, failing or incomplete grades; since failing or incomplete grades do not add to the number of credits earned, placement at a lower point on the chart of progress where credits accrue at a more gradual rate may still be to the student's benefit.
Q. What are the pursuit and progress requirements for a student beginning a second associate degree?
A. For a student beginning a second associate degree, the pursuit of program requirement is based on the number of award payments the student had received in the past. For example, if the student received four semester awards while completing the first degree, the student would be at the 100% pursuit level in the first semester of the new degree program. In terms of placement on the satisfactory academic progress chart, if the student is permitted to apply a certain number of credits from the prior degree toward the second degree, then the student would be placed either according to payments received or credits granted, whichever is more beneficial to the student. If no credits from the prior degree apply to the second degree program and the student is beginning with 0 credits, the student would be placed at the first point on the chart.
TRANSFERS AND READMITS
Q. If a student goes part time for a term, what are the student's pursuit and progress requirements upon return?
A. Any work taken at the student's own expense and creditable toward completion of the student's program may be added to the student's total credits earned and cumulative grade point average. Pursuit is based on payments; whether a student satisfies the requirement is determined by performance in a prior term for which an award is received.
Q. If a student receives TAP in the fall, meets good academic standing requirements, and then takes a leave of absence for the spring, how is the student's eligibility determined for the following fall?
A. If the student was eligible for a subsequent award in the last term the student was enrolled, the student would still be in good standing upon return from a leave of absence.
Q. Are students who have lost good standing and are readmitted after an absence from school of at least one calendar year candidates for beneficial placement?
A. Yes. Students who have lost good academic standing, are absent from school for at least one calendar year, and are then readmitted by the institution, may be placed on the chart of satisfactory academic progress based either on the number of credits earned or payments received, whichever is more beneficial to the student. The student's pursuit requirement, however, would be determined by the total number of award payments the student had received.
Q. How are payments tracked for students who have attended a registered private business school and then transfer to a degree-granting institution?
A. The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation assigns payment points for payments received at a registered private business school in the same fashion as awards received at a degree-granting institution. Therefore, the payment points shown on the certification roster would determine the student's pursuit requirement and may also be used to determine the beneficial placement for the student on the satisfactory academic progress chart.
Q. If an institution determines from the payment roster that a student has received a prior State award, but the institution did not receive a transcript or other information from the student about prior schooling, will the State release the name of the prior school?
A. This is a question for the Higher Education Services Corporation. The Corporation maintains a payment history on each student who receives a State award. However, in view of legislation governing the rights of privacy, we don't know whether the Corporation can release the information about a student's prior schooling. An institution does have the right to ask the student about the prior award and then pursue the issue of prior academic work.
Q. What is the logic of permitting a student who loses good standing to transfer to another institution without needing to be granted a waiver, but requiring a student in the same situation to use a waiver to make a similar change of program within an institution?
A. Originally, when the Regulations were in draft, a waiver was needed if a student lost good academic standing and transferred to another institution. However, the case was made during public hearings on the proposed Regulations that because of difficulties in obtaining transcripts from prior institutions as well as the time-consuming process of evaluation, it was often difficult to make a decision about admitting or accepting a student's prior coursework in time to certify the student for the first term in a new institution. Therefore, in lieu of needing a waiver, a student who satisfies admissions criteria and is accepted by a new institution is deemed eligible for a State award payment for the initial term upon entry. In such instances, reliance is placed on institutional adherence to sound admissions procedures. The above reasons are not justified in the case of the student who has lost good standing and is changing from one program to another in the same institution.
Q. What happens in the case of the transfer student who comes with 45-60 credits but needs remedial work?
A. A student may be certified for TAP even though the student may need some remedial coursework. The Regulations governing full-time study permit a student to take up to 6 non-credit equivalent units in remedial work as part of the minimum full-time load and still be eligible for a State award payment.
Q. What happens with that same student who has received many credits and is taking some remedial non-credit work? The student may not meet the credit accrual requirements for satisfactory academic progress.
A. A student in that situation may need to take more than the minimum full-time load in order to meet satisfactory academic progress requirements.
Q. If a student subject to the new Regulations transfers, can the grade point average for courses completed at a prior institution be computed in an overall grade point average for TAP purposes at the new institution?
A. At its discretion, an institution may establish a policy that the grade point average for prior academic work accepted in transfer will be added to the grade point average for work completed at a new institution for purposes of determining the student's eligibility for financial aid. Such a policy would have to apply to all students receiving State student aid.
Q. What credits are considered in placing a transfer student on the chart of satisfactory academic progress--all credits, or only those applicable toward the degree?
A. In accepting credits completed by a transfer student at another institution, a school should accept only those credits that it will apply toward a degree. Therefore, the student's placement on the chart of satisfactory academic progress will be based only on credits applicable toward the degree program in which the student enrolls at the new institution. In the case of the student who enters with a number of credits but who has not decided on a definite major, the institution, in consultation with the student, must make the decision to accept all credits that may be applicable toward one or more degrees at the receiving institution. At the point when the student determines a specific major or degree program, and assuming the student is in good academic standing for purposes of State student financial assistance, the student may be repositioned on the chart of satisfactory progress based on an evaluation of the credits which will now be applicable towards the degree program in which the student is enrolling.
Q. Is an institution expected to determine if a transfer student left a prior institution in good academic standing?
A. Financial aid officials are not expected to determine whether a student left a prior institution in good academic standing. The student is eligible for an initial term upon transfer to a new institution if, in the admissions process, the student's academic record as known to the institution has been reviewed, the institution believes that it has the capacity to offer what the student needs, and the institution believes that the student has the capacity to undertake a program of study.
Q. If a transfer student is dismissed from a prior institution, is that student eligible for a State award at the receiving institution?
A. Yes. The student is eligible for the initial term upon entry. In that first term however, the student must be informed of the academic requirements to be met to be eligible for a subsequent award payment.
Q. How do you treat a transfer student coming in with 12 semester hours for whom the certification roster shows four TAP payments received?
A. The student who is being admitted with only 12 semester hours of credit but 4 TAP payments would be placed on the chart of satisfactory academic progress based on the number of credits accepted in transfer rather than the number of TAP payments received. The principle of beneficial placement would put this student at the lower end of the progress chart where credits may be accrued at a more gradual rate.
Q. What happens when a student changes programs, loses credits in transfer, and is left with poorer grades?
A. A student cannot lose good academic standing by transferring from one program to another, even if in transfer the student may lose credits that would have resulted in a higher grade point average.
Q. If a student is repositioned on the chart of satisfactory academic progress, for example, as the result of transfer, does this mean the student has more than 8 semesters of undergraduate TAP?
A. Education Law limits a student to four years of undergraduate TAP, or five years for students in approved five-year programs. (However, students in two-year programs are limited to 3 years of TAP.) Statute limits graduate TAP to no more than four years; in no case shall a student receive more than 8 years of TAP, total. Therefore, repositioning on the chart of satisfactory progress does not alter the student's total State award eligibility.
Q. Must an institution publish its waiver policy?
A. The institution must have a written policy statement about the granting of waivers, but that statement need not be published in the catalog.
Q. Must a student be granted a waiver when a program change results in the loss of some credits earned previously?
A. If a student is in good academic standing at the time the student wishes to make a program change, the student does not need to be granted a waiver. If necessary, the student may be repositioned on the satisfactory academic progress chart.
Q. If a student is granted a waiver under the Supplemental Tuition Assistance Program (STAP), is that student still eligible for the one-time undergraduate TAP waiver under the new Regulations concerning pursuit and progress?
Q. Can an institution have a policy of no waivers?
A. The responsibility for granting a waiver rests with the institution. While a policy of granting no waivers may be rather harsh, there are no established procedures by which students may complain that the waiver was not granted.
Q. Why is there no way to indicate to the Higher Education Services Corporation that a waiver has been used for students who receive TAP prior to 1981?
A. The institution must retain a record of whether a waiver is available, when it is granted, and the reasons for which it is granted. The Higher Education Services Corporation will record waivers granted only to students under the new Regulations concerning pursuit and progress. A pre-1981 TAP recipient may receive more than one waiver if institutional policy permits more than one.
Q. Can an institution grant a student one waiver for failure to meet the pursuit requirement and another waiver if the student should fail to meet satisfactory progress?
A. No, unless one waiver was granted while the student was an undergraduate and the second while a graduate student. Under the new Regulations, the student is entitled to only one waiver as an undergraduate and one waiver as a graduate student.
Q. How can a student who has lost good academic standing regain eligibility under the new Regulations?
A. There are four methods by which a student subject to the new Regulations who has lost good academic standing can regain eligibility. The student may:
(1) make up the deficiencies without benefit of State support. For example, if a student was at the 75% pursuit level (requiring completion of 9 semester hours) but received a grade in only 6 semester hours, i.e., 3 credits short, the student could take and complete a 3-credit course at his own expense and make up that deficiency.
(2) apply for and be granted a waiver.
(3) be readmitted to the institution after an absence of at least one calendar year by meeting the institution's academic requirements.
(4) transfer to another institution where the student must meet the new institution's admissions requirements.
Q. If the student is dismissed and goes part time for a year at his own expense but does not make up prior deficiencies, is that student eligible upon enrolling full time after the year?
A. No. The student must be absent from school for one calendar year. However, it is highly unlikely that a student studying part time at his own expense for a year would not make up a prior shortfall in pursuit or progress. Indeed, if such part-time study were so unsuccessful, it is probably best that the student not return to a full-time program at the school.
Q. If a student is dismissed based on failure to meet an institution's minimum academic requirements (which may be more rigorous than those established for TAP) but has met the TAP standards, when is the student again eligible for TAP?
A. If a student has met TAP standards but is dismissed based on an academic standard that is higher than the TAP minimum, the student is eligible for TAP immediately upon readmission.
Q. Can a student who loses good academic standing regain eligibility by changing programs?
A. A student who has lost good standing may not regain eligibility by changing within an institution from one program to another. Such students can regain eligibility only by being granted a waiver, by making up deficiencies at their own expense, or by being readmitted to the school after an absence of at least one calendar year.
Q. If a student who is in good standing changes from one program to another within an institution, may that student be repositioned on the chart of satisfactory academic progress to the student's benefit?
Q. How many payments can a student receive at a two-year institution?
A. Education Law limits undergraduate award payments to three years for students in two-year (associate) degree programs. Students are bound by that same limit whether enrolled in a certificate program or a second associate degree program. A fourth year of undergraduate TAP is available only to students in baccalaureate programs.
Q. How does an incomplete grade affect a student's eligibility for a subsequent award?
A. Incomplete grades may be used to satisfy the pursuit requirement if the incomplete will change to a passing or failing grade by the end of the following semester. If, at the time of certification, a student has one or more incomplete grades, but nevertheless meets the satisfactory academic progress and program pursuit requirements for a subsequent award, the student can be certified. If, however, at the time of certification a student with an incomplete grade does meet satisfactory academic progress requirements, we suggest delaying certification until the incomplete grade is resolved. An institution may also discuss with the student the option of applying for a waiver should the outcome of the incomplete grade not be sufficient to make the student eligible.
Q. Might not students complain that they were unfairly dismissed from school because, although they didn't meet the institution's rigorous academic requirements, they still met the TAP standard?
A. To be eligible for a State award, a student must be matriculated in a degree or certificate program at an institution. If the student is dismissed based on failure to meet an institution's academic requirements, that student is no longer matriculated and is ineligible for aid on that basis, regardless of whether the student may still meet the minimum academic requirements for TAP. The TAP standards apply only to students allowed to continue at an institution.
II. OTHER GENERAL QUESTIONS
Q. Can all students be subject to a single standard for determining good academic standing?
A. Yes. Institutions that wish to avoid the complexity of having two sets of standards, one for students who received an award prior to 1981-82 and another for students receiving an award in 1981-82 or thereafter, may choose to adopt program pursuit and satisfactory academic progress requirements as their institutional policy of good academic standing for prior award recipients. Institutions that do choose to adopt program pursuit and satisfactory academic progress requirements for all students need not be concerned with the attendance requirement.
Q. If a pre-1981 award recipient would qualify under the old Regulations, based on the original institutional statement of good academic standing, but the institution is now on the single standard which the student fails to meet, can the old standard be used for that student?
A. No, but consideration could be given to use of the single waiver.
Q. If a student completes all requirements for a degree, doesn't file for the degree, and doesn't graduate but continues to take courses, can the student be certified for TAP?
A. In order to be certified for TAP, a student must be matriculated for a degree and taking courses that are applicable toward a degree. If a student has completed all requirements for one degree, and has not formally matriculated in another degree program, that student should not be certified for TAP.
Q. If a student completes one degree, can the student continue to receive TAP for a second degree at the same level?
A. A student with remaining TAP eligibility can receive TAP for a second undergraduate degree at the same level; however, the student can receive TAP for only one graduate degree at the same level.
Q. If a student is receiving two degrees, in a 3-2 engineering program for example, is the student eligible for 5 years of TAP?
A. No. Approved five-year programs for purposes of TAP are those single degree programs that require five years of academic study to complete. A five-year path to a four-year degree is not considered an approved five-year program for purposes of TAP, nor is the combination of 2 four-year degrees into one five-year program.
Q. Are students who have not declared a major eligible for TAP?
A. A student who is admitted as a matriculated student but has not declared a major can be considered enrolled in one or more degree programs at the institution and thus eligible for TAP. However, students in a two-year program must declare a major within 30 days of the end of the add/drop period in the second year of the program or by the same point in the third year of a four-year program.
Q. If a student must drop out of school for medical reasons, how is the student's TAP award affected?
A. A student who is forced to leave school for medical reasons may be granted an extension to complete work that could not be completed in a single term. Regulations provide that a student may have one or more terms to make up the work ordinarily to be completed in a single term. The student receives one term payment, but may have additional time to complete the minimum full-time load. The student will not receive an additional award for the extra time needed to complete work. Satisfactory progress and pursuit requirements would apply to the full load and would be determined at the completion of the period the student is granted to complete the minimum full-time load.
Q. Can a student repeat a failed course and have that course considered part of the full-time course load for TAP?
Q. If the student is taking courses at another institution as part of the full-time load, does the home institution have to maintain documentation of the student's performance?
A. The "home" institution must approve courses taken elsewhere as part of the full-time load as acceptable toward its degree, must receive tuition for the courses taken elsewhere, and maintain documentation of the student's performance. In the case of students attending summer session, the institution the student attends in the summer makes the determination about eligibility for an accelerated summer award, providing the "home" institution has approved the courses as applicable toward its degree.
Q. What is the applicability of TAP requirements of good academic standing to student loans?
A. The Department's good academic standing requirements do not apply to student loans. Questions concerning loan eligibility should be directed to the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation.
Q. At what point should students be reviewed for TAP eligibility?
A. Students must be reviewed each term to determine whether they meet the good academic standing requirements for a subsequent payment. This review should take place at a point when the student's grades for the term are final. It is in the student's best interest that this occur before the start of another term.
Q. How can programs be approved by the State Education Department but ineligible for TAP?
A. In addition to specific instances, there are two general categories of programs that can be approved and registered by the State Education Department but which are nevertheless ineligible for TAP. These two categories are: (1) credit-bearing programs of study in Theology or Religious Education that seek to provide professional training; and (2) diploma or certificate programs of less than one academic year's duration (i.e., fewer than 24 semester hours). These programs must be approved and registered by the Department, but they are ineligible for TAP.
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 Departments Affirmative Action Officer, Education Building, Albany, NY 12234.