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									National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

ACG and SMART Grants: Academic Year Progression
Presented at NASFAA’s 2007 Conference Washington, DC July 8-11, 2007

ACG and SMART Grants
• Two separate grant programs

• ACG: first two years of undergraduate education towards a degree
• National SMART Grant: third and fourth years of undergraduate education towards a bachelor’s degree in a specified major
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ACG and SMART Grants
• ACG-1: $750

• ACG-2: $1,300
• SMART-3: $4,000

• SMART-4: $4,000

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Academic Year Reference
• Law establishes grants for a student in:
– “the first academic year of a program of undergraduate education at a two- or four-year degree-granting institution of higher education” – “the second academic year of a program of undergraduate education at a two- or four-year degree-granting institution of higher education” – “the third or fourth academic year of a program of undergraduate education at a four-year degree-granting institution of higher education”
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Statutory Language
• Law defines eligible student in context of “academic year of a program of undergraduate education” • ED has interpreted “academic year” as meaning the Title IV definition
– Credit or clock hours – Weeks of instruction
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Academic Year Definition
• Definition of Title IV academic year for a credit hour program requires a minimum of:
– 24 semester, 24 trimester, or 36 quarter credits; and – 30 weeks of instruction

• School must define AY for each educational program eligible for Title IV assistance
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Academic Year (24 credits and 30 Weeks)
TITLE IV ACADEMIC YEAR First Second Third Fourth Fifth (if necessary) CREDIT RANGE 0 through 24 25 through 48 49 through 72 73 through 96 97 through 120 WEEK RANGE 0 through 30 31 through 60 61 through 90 91 through 120 121 through 150

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Academic Year Reference
• No more than one grant per academic year level

• Student must complete both components of the academic year definition before progressing to next level • Student’s eligibility for one grant level ends with the completion of the corresponding academic year
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Academic Year Reference
• Law establishes grants for a student in:
– “the first academic year of a program of undergraduate education at a two- or four-year degree-granting institution of higher education” – “the second academic year of a program of undergraduate education at a two- or four-year degree-granting institution of higher education” – “the third or fourth academic year of a program of undergraduate education at a four-year degree-granting institution of higher education”
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Statutory Language
• ED has interpreted “program of undergraduate education” as meaning an ACG-eligible program or SMART-eligible program • Separate definitions in 691.2

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Eligible Program: ACG
• Leads to an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree • Is a two-academic-year program acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor's degree

• Is a graduate degree program that includes at least 3 academic years of undergraduate education
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Eligible Program: SMART
• Leads to a bachelor's degree in an eligible major • Is a graduate degree program in an eligible major that includes at least 3 academic years of undergraduate education

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Duration of Eligibility
• Lifetime limits • One grant per Title IV academic year • ACG eligibility takes into account all enrollment in all ACG-eligible programs attended anywhere, unless DCL exception invoked • SMART eligibility is based on credits applicable towards current program
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11/1/06 Federal Register Preamble
“…progression is not based on the student’s enrollment in each eligible program separately, but rather is based on all eligible programs in which a student has enrolled over the course of the student’s undergraduate education.”
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Academic Year Progression
• Default (regulatory) method: Actual count • Temporary alternative method: Assumption
– DCL GEN-06-18 – Available for Formula 1 programs only – 2006-07 and 2007-08 only

• 2008-09 and beyond: New regulations
– Result of negotiated rulemaking
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AY Progression: Actual Count Method
• Actual count keeps track of credits and weeks of instruction based on student’s actual attendance • For ACG:
– All credits earned in any ACG-eligible program, plus other credits awarded towards the program (e.g., AP) – All weeks attended in any ACG-eligible program

• For SMART:
– All credits applicable to the current degree program and their associated weeks, as allowable
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AY Progression: Actual Count Method
• No weeks are associated with credits from:
– AP or IB – Other testing out (e.g. CLEP) or life experience – Courses not at postsecondary level (remedial)

– Courses taken while not a regular student
– Courses from an ineligible program (ACG)
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AY Progression: Actual Count Method
• Courses from an ineligible program
– ACG: Credits count if they are accepted for transfer, but no weeks are associated with those credits because ACG looks at the student’s entire academic history

– SMART: Credits count if they are accepted for transfer, and weeks are associated with them because SMART looks at credits in the context of the current program
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Methods of Determining Academic Year
• Actual count method must be used if:
– School cannot use formula 1 to calculate award amount – Student requests actual count determination or questions school’s determination under assumption method

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AY Progression: Assumption Method
• May be used only if Formula 1 is used (or could be used) to calculate payments • School calendar must have at least 30 weeks of instruction and be offered in standard terms

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AY Progression: Assumption Method
• Credit component of student’s Title IV academic year classification: credits applicable towards current program
– Transfer credits accepted towards program

– Credits earned at or awarded by current school towards program

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AY Progression: Assumption Method
• Assume weeks based on credits applicable towards current program, with no distinction of where credits came from
– Use Title IV academic year definition for student’s program of study to assume weeks – For each full increment of credit hours in definition, assume full increment of weeks – For a partial increment of credits, assume proportional partial increment of weeks
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Assumption Method
Accrued Credits Assumed Weeks (AW) = Credits in AY Weeks in AY
Example: AY = 24 credits and 30 weeks Student has accrued 32 credits

32 24

AW = 30

32 x 30 = 24 x AW; AW = (32 x 30) / 24 AW = 40
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Assumption Method
• An increment of credits in AY equates to an increment of weeks in AY

• In example, first 24 credits equated to 30 weeks • There were another 8 credits (32 – 24)
– 8 credits is 8/24 or 1/3 of an AY; 1/3 of 30 weeks is 10
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Assumption Method
Accrued Credits Credits in AY
32 = 1.3 24

= Number of AYs

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Assumptions Allowed Under Actual Count
• Length of summer terms
– Can be assumed to be half (for semesters) or third (for quarters) of AY in weeks – Formulas 1 and 2 only

• Previous transfer work
– Can use assumption method regardless of program structure into which student is transferring
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11/1/06 Federal Register Preamble
“To the extent a determination does not conflict with information related to grants previously received, when determining the appropriate academic year for a transfer student, the institution may rely on the transfer credits accepted, along with the estimated number of weeks of instructional time completed in proportion to the academic year of the student’s eligible program at the institution to which the student transferred.”
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Academic Year Classification
• School that can use both methods can choose:
– On a student-by-student basis – For a given student, on a term-by-term basis – One method to assess transfer credits and the other to track work after entry
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Methods of Determining Academic Year
• Assumption method results can be superseded by evidence in student’s financial aid history (NSLDS) • Must pay based on the evidence (current thinking)

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11/1/06 Federal Register Preamble
“If the student previously received an ACG or National SMART Grant for an academic year, or a portion of an academic year, an institution must consider the student to have completed an eligible program through that academic year, or that portion of an academic year, in weeks of instructional time and hours” unless it has information to the contrary.
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11/1/06 Federal Register Preamble
“For example, if an institution accepts a transfer student who has received a first-year ACG Scheduled Award, the institution must consider the student to have completed his or her first year of ACG eligibility regardless of the number of transfer credits the institution accepts.”
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Academic Year Classification
• You know what you know when you know it

• Generally, student cannot go backwards in AY classification
• Once an award has been correctly paid, student can never receive payment for prior academic year classification
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Academic Year Classification
• Can regress in classification:
– Transfer credit analysis eliminates credits from program – Even if reclassify, cannot pay for prior year if higher level payment was correct at time

• Eligible program definition differences from ACG to SMART can create “no man’s land”
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