Publication Date: June 28, 2012
Subject: Title IV Eligibility for Students Without a Valid High School Diploma
Summary: This letter clarifies changes made by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 to the Title IV eligibility of students who are not high school graduates.
In Dear Colleague Letter GEN-12-01, posted on January 18, 2012, we described the provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (Public Law 112-74) that affected the Federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA). Public Law 112-74 changed the Federal student aid eligibility criteria for students who do not have a high school diploma or the recognized equivalent of a high school diploma. The new law eliminated all but one (completion of a homeschool program) of the eligibility alternatives that were available to them.
This letter describes the statutory change to section 484(d) of the HEA and discusses section 309(c), Division F, Title III of Public Law 112-74, which allows students who were enrolled prior to July 1, 2012, to continue to be eligible for Title IV, HEA student assistance under the previous alternatives. The letter also provides a simple grandfathering test and includes several enrollment scenarios that illustrate the conditions under which a student who was enrolled prior to July 1, 2012, may establish eligibility under one of the previous alternatives.
Unchanged Student Eligibility Provisions: Public Law 112-74 did not change any of the provisions allowing an otherwise eligible student to receive Title IV, HEA student assistance if the student meets one of the following criteria:
For additional information on student eligibility requirements, see Volume 1 of the 2012-13 Federal Student Aid Handbook.
Statutory Change: For students who "first enroll in a program of study on or after July 1, 2012," and who are not high school graduates or do not meet the other eligibility criteria listed above, Public Law 112-74 eliminates the following ability-to-benefit (ATB) alternatives:
As noted, the provisions of Public Law 112-74 apply only to students who first enroll in a program of study on or after July 1, 2012. Most students who attended an eligible program at any Title IV institution prior to July 1, 2012, will have established their Title IV eligibility during that prior enrollment period. For any students who previously attended an eligible program and need to establish Title IV eligibility after July 1, 2012, the provisions of Public Law 112-74 do not apply and will not prevent those students from being eligible under any ATB alternative.
A student who attended an eligible program at a Title IV institution prior to July 1, 2012, may establish eligibility at the same Title IV institution or a different Title IV institution using all of the ATB alternatives listed above. So long as the student previously attended an eligible program at an eligible Title IV institution, it does not matter whether the student received Title IV, HEA student assistance prior to July 1, 2012.
As noted above, the change to the law that removes the ATB alternatives applies to students who "first enroll in a program of study on or after July 1, 2012." Students who are registered prior to July 1, 2012, to attend an eligible program at a Title IV institution may still use the ATB alternatives.
An institution must document that a student qualifies to use one of the ATB alternatives. Such documentation could include documentation from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) that a student previously received Title IV, HEA student assistance or a transcript or other documentation from a previous institution that demonstrates enrollment in an eligible program.
Grandfathering Test: Answer the following questions to determine if an otherwise eligible student who does not have a high school diploma or the recognized equivalent of a high school diploma, or who has not completed a homeschool program, can become eligible for Title IV, HEA student assistance under one of the ATB alternatives.
If either of the responses to the two questions is YES, and the student had previously met one of the ATB alternatives, the student is eligible for Title IV, HEA student assistance.
Many of the students who are eligible to use an ATB alternative because of previous attendance in an eligible program at a Title IV institution will have earned at least six credit hours (or 225 clock hours), which would qualify as an ATB alternative for Title IV, HEA student assistance.
If the response to either of the two questions is YES, but the student has not previously met one of the ATB alternatives, the student may still establish eligibility under any of the remaining alternatives after July 1, 2012.
Note: The Department will continue to maintain a list of currently approved ATB tests and will continue to review for approval any ATB tests submitted by test publishers under the existing ATB regulations.
The following are examples of scenarios in which a student who does not have a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent, or who has not completed homeschooling, may establish Title IV eligibility based on any of the previous ATB alternatives.
Students in these five scenarios may establish Title IV eligibility by satisfying any of the ATB alternatives. A student may establish Title IV eligibility by meeting the alternative at any time prior to July 1, 2012, or can satisfy the conditions in this letter to use an ATB alternative to establish Title IV eligibility after July 1, 2012.
Thank you for your cooperation as we work together to implement these new statutory provisions. If you have questions regarding the information in this letter, please contact Federal Student Aid's Research and Customer Care Center Staff. Staff is available Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) at 1-800-433-7327. After hours calls will be accepted by an automated voice response system. Callers leaving their names and phone numbers will receive a return call the next business day. Alternatively, you may email the Care Center at email@example.com.
Eduardo M. Ochoa
Assistant Secretary for
Publication Date: 6/29/2012