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Frequently Asked Questions - Ability to Benefit



I heard the federal government no longer accepts the ATB in place of a high school diploma or a high school equivalency diploma obtained from Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), formally known as GED to meet the requirements for eligibility of federal grants and loan programs. Does this affect my NYS award?

The federal change in regulations regarding the use of the ATB does not currently impact eligibility of the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and other financial aid awards administered by NYS. To meet the high school requirement for TAP eligibility, a student who does not have a U.S. high school diploma or the recognized equivalent may receive NYS aid, provided the student has received a passing score on a federally approved ATB test identified by the NYS Board of Regents.

In September 2007, the Regents approved four ability-to-benefit tests to be used to determine eligibility for State financial aid:

My college has informed me that I need to take an Ability to Benefit (ATB) exam in order to be eligible for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and Scholarships. What exactly is meant by ATB?

If you do not have a US high school diploma or recognized high school equivalency diploma. You must take and pass an ability to benefit (ATB) exam approved by the NYS Board of Regents and designated by your school to be eligible to apply for State aid. The ATB exam demonstrates the student's ability to benefit from the training offered.

I have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) from my high school, is this considered the same as a high school diploma or a high school equivalency for State aid purposes?

No, an IEP diploma is not equivalent to a local or Regents high school diploma. You must contact your college to identify the procedures you will need to follow to be considered for admission. For State aid purposes, you will still need to take and pass an ATB exam.

I do not have a high school diploma or a high school equivalency diploma and have not been home schooled; however, I have attended college before and have earned 24 college credits. Can schools accept these credits in place of an ATB exam?

Yes, if you have earned 24 credits in the core classes required by the New York State Education Department you will not be required to take an ATB exam to be eligible for State aid. Also, the 24 credits can be used to obtain a high school equivalency diploma.

What college credits meet the 24 core credits requirement?

To meet the requirement, the required distribution is: six (6) credits of English, three (3) credits of humanities, three (3) credits of social science, three (3) credits of natural science, three (3) credits of math, six (6) credits applicable to the student's program.

Do I need to receive the high school equivalency diploma if I have the 24 core credits or do the credits alone meet the ATB requirement?

No, you do not need to apply for the TASC, to be eligible to apply for State aid. However, you should contact your college directly as it may be an admissions requirement.

I have been to college before, am transferring my credits to another college and have never received any State aid. My new school said that I need to take and pass an ATB exam in order to be eligible to receive any State aid since I do not have a high school diploma.

Yes, the Ability to Benefit regulations apply to all students who are first-time state aid recipients in the 2006-07 academic year or thereafter, who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, unless the credits already taken satisfy the 24 credit requirement.

I currently have a college degree and am continuing with my education, however, I do not have a high school diploma or a high school equivalency diploma. Will I need to take and pass an ATB exam to be eligible to apply for State aid at my new college?

If you are seeking to earn a degree and already have earned a degree from a regionally accredited college or university or any institution in New York State authorized by the Board of Regents to confer degrees, your prior degree can be used to satisfy State requirements to be used in place of an ATB exam.

I graduated from a university outside the United States. Will my foreign degree allow me to be eligible for State aid without taking the ATB exam?

If your degree comes from a college or university that is recognized by your home country’s Ministry of Education, you are considered to meet the requirements and do not have to take an ATB exam.

I have a non-U.S. high school diploma and have never had any New York State aid before. Do I qualify for State aid or any State scholarships?

Without a U.S. high school diploma or its equivalent you will need to take and pass an Ability to Benefit (ATB) exam. Again, the ATB requirements apply to all students who are first-time state aid recipients and the exam is required to be eligible to receive any State aid in the 2006-07 academic year or thereafter.

I have taken the required ATB exam but have just found out that I did not pass it. Will I be able to retake the exam?

You will need to contact your college directly to see what the requirements are for the specific ATB exam you have taken.

I have already started at my college and have just found out I did not pass the ATB exam I took prior to the start of school. If I retake the exam and pass it this time will I be able to receive State aid for the term I am currently in?

For both the fall and spring term of academic year 2007-08 you will be allowed to take and pass an ATB exam up until the end of the term to be eligible for State aid. However, beginning with the summer term of 2008 in academic year 2008-09, you must take the exam within the institution's add/drop period to establish award eligibility in that term.

I have been home-schooled. Am I eligible for State aid?

Yes, you will be eligible to apply for State aid once you have received a letter from your home school’s district superintendent attesting to the substantial equivalence of the home schooling to the education completed by public high school graduates.

I was previously enrolled in a college prior to the start of the 2006-07 academic school year but due to extenuating circumstances I had to defer my enrollment to a later date. I am now being told that I need to take and pass an ATB exam, however, I was never informed of this when I first applied. Why do I need to do this now?

Schools are required by State law to use the date of actual enrollment. Since you enrolled but never attended prior to the 2006-07 academic year, the new State regulations apply. You must take and pass an ATB exam to be eligible to apply for State aid.

Are United States high school diplomas the only high school diplomas that are acceptable to be eligible for State aid?

Yes. Note: US high school diplomas include diplomas from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands and qualify you to be eligible to apply for State aid.

See also...

Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) Testing Requirements for State Financial Aid