Repeated Courses and State Student Financial Aid Eligibility

MEMORANDUM TO CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERS OF POSTSECONDARY INSTITUTIONS IN NEW YORK STATE

No. 86-17 December 14, 1986

SUBJECT: Repeated Courses and State Student Financial Aid Eligibility

During the past year, the Office of the State Comptroller has presented the State Education Department with findings from a number of audits of the Tuition Assistance Program which suggested there was need for clarification regarding the impact of repeated courses on a student’s financial aid eligibility. The purpose of this memorandum is to provide information and guidance on this issue.

In recent preliminary audit reports, disallowances have been proposed for students who were found not to meet the definition for full-time or part—time study by virtue of their having repeated one or more courses which had already been taken and passed. Based on these audits as well as communications with the field, it appears that institutions may be insufficiently aware that The Regulations of the Commissioner of Education provide that certain courses do not count toward full-time or part—time study. For example, if a student repeats a course in which a passing grade acceptable to the institution has already been received, the course cannot be included as part of the student’s minimum full-time or part-time course load for financial aid purposes. When such courses are included in meeting the minimum requirement, they render the student ineligible for a State award. In the following instances, repeated courses may count toward full-time or part-time study: (1) when a failed course is repeated; (2) when a grade received is passing at the institution but is unacceptable in a particular curriculum; and (3) when a course may be repeated and d credit earned each time. These points will be discussed more fully below.

Basic to the payment of State student aid is the requirement that courses that make up a student’s minimum course load be creditable toward the degree, diploma or certificate program in which the student is enrolled. This requirement is based on a long-standing provision in Commissioner’s Regulations which specifies that to be considered in the determination of full-time and part-time study for State award purposes, courses must be an integral part of the student’s program of study.

When an award recipient completes with an acceptable passing grade a course that is a part of the student’s curriculum, i.e., "an integral part of the student’s program," the course is credited to the student’s degree, diploma or certificate. Once credit has been earned, if such a course is repeated, it is no longer required as part of the student’s program and therefore cannot be included as part of the student’s minimum course load for financial aid purposes. While there may be many valid academic justifications--e.g., to give the student a better grasp of the subject matter or to raise an unsatisfactory grade point average--retaking a course to improve the original passing grade is a student’s academic option. In such situations the credit will not be earned twice. Upon repeating the passed course, the student cannot be said to be taking a course that would be an integral part of his or her program, since that requirement would already have been fulfilled.

For example, a student who has applied for TAP receives a "D" in a liberal arts elective that is accepted by the institution toward the student’s baccalaureate degree in history. However, the student wishes to retake the course in the hope of improving the original grade. Since the original "D" was acceptable to the institution and, therefore, credit was earned, when it is taken a second time the credit will not be earned again. In this situation, the credits for the repeated course cannot be included in the calculation of full-time status for the purpose of determining the student’s eligibility for a TAP award. The Department fully recognizes that it may be in the best interest of some students to retake certain courses. In accordance with law and regulations, however, these courses must be taken over and above the stated minimum course load for financial aid purposes for a given term.

There are circumstances where a repeated course can be included in the determination of full-time or part-time status for financial aid purposes. A student may repeat a failed course. A student may repeat a course in which a grade is earned that is passing at the institution but is not acceptable in a particular curriculum. For example, a student is enrolled in a nursing program where the lowest acceptable grade in a nursing course is a "C." The student receives a "D" in a nursing course. The course, when repeated, may be included for purposes of determining the student’s full-time or part-time status for financial aid eligibility. The student would not earn credit applicable toward the program of study for the course in which the "D" was received; therefore, the course, when repeated, may be counted for financial aid purposes.

It is worthwhile to note that this situation differs from one where, for example, an overall C average is required in a particular curriculum. In such cases, courses which have been successfully completed with passing--though low--grades and are repeated for the purpose of improving the grade point average cannot be included as part of the minimum course load in the determination of full-time or part-time status for financial aid purposes.

There is a third circumstance where a repeated course may be included as part of the student’s minimum course load for financial aid purposes. In this instance, a student may take a course more than once and earn credit each time. For example, an institution requires a student to complete two credits in physical education and allows credit to be earned each time when the same physical education course is repeated. A student takes tennis more than once to satisfy the college’s physical education requirement of two credits and earns one credit each time the course is taken. Since the course is applicable to the student’s program of study each time it is taken, the course may be counted two times as part of the student’s course load when determining the student’s status for financial aid purposes.

Beyond the effect on full-time or part-time status, there is an additional ramification for financial aid eligibility related to repeating a course in which an acceptable grade has already been earned: such a course cannot be considered in determining whether a student has met the pursuit of program requirement and is in good academic standing. For example, a student is at 100 percent pursuit level and must complete with a passing or failing grade at least 12 semester hours. The student carries a full-time course load of 15 hours, including one course that is being repeated for the purpose of trying to raise a "D" grade. If the student withdraws from one course--but completes the repeated course--the student has failed to meet the pursuit requirement: the repeated course cannot be counted as part of the 12 semester hours needed to satisfy pursuit.

Simply stated, a course that an institution does not require a student to repeat for the student to earn credit toward a degree may not be considered in determining whether a student has satisfied the pursuit eligibility requirement for a State award.

The Office of the State Comptroller has agreed that no disallowances will be recommended in this area until after May 1, 1987. This "grace period" will permit institutions time to assure that campus administrators responsible for counseling and advising students are familiar with this issue and the impact on financial aid eligibility if a student repeats a successfully completed course.

Should you have any questions concerning this memorandum or Commissioner's Regulations on State student financial aid, please contact the Office of College and University Evaluation, State Education Department, Room 5N Mezzanine Education Building, 89 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York 12234. Phone calls can be directed to the Office at (518) 474-2593.

Donald J. Nolan
Deputy Commissioner for Higher and Professional Education

cc: Financial Aid Officers
Academic Deans
Bursars
Registrars
Admissions Officers
TAP Certifying Officers

Last Updated: October 22, 2009