New York State TAP requirement causes confusion among UB students

Some students are tapped out

tapbackupphoto

Nicholas Galante, a junior media study major, has to come up with $1,800 to pay for his tuition this semester because he did not receive a grant from the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).

Galante is confused as to why he won’t receive TAP, which helps New York State residents pay tuition at approved schools, because he is a full-time student and received a TAP grant in previous semesters without a problem.

And he’s not the only student who is confused.

When notifications went out in early April regarding students’ TAP eligibility, many – like Galante – were surprised they would be unable to collect money from the state. At least one student was mistakenly told he was ineligible, but still hasn’t received the check he’s owed, rendering him late on paying this semester’s tuition. Some students affected are puzzled and don’t feel UB has done enough to clear up their confusion or warn them about the requirements.

Galante had no idea he wouldn’t be getting the nearly $2,000 he was counting on because he’s not enrolled in enough classes this semester that go toward his primary major.

Multiple students received an email from the UB Office of Financial Aid on April 10 notifying them they are not eligible for a TAP grant for the spring semester because they are not enrolled in at least 12 credits applicable toward their degree.

To be eligible for TAP, students must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours worth of classes that are a either a general education requirement, a major requirement or a free or restricted elective, according to Jim Hanley, training and information manager at New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC). Courses for additional majors or minors do not count when granting TAP. Michelle Gonzalez, the UB financial aid office’s interim associate director, said despite students’ recent confusion, this requirement is not new.

Students can still receive TAP without taking 12 credits applicable to their degree if they are in their final term of study before graduation.

Gonzalez could not confirm how many students are not eligible for TAP this semester because of the requirement, but said the number of student complaints about the guideline hasn’t differed from any other semester.

Galante provided The Spectrum emails between himself and his academic adviser. The adviser said in the email that when the College of Arts and Sciences advisers were asked earlier this semester to review 600 students’ records to determine if they met the “new guidelines” for TAP, it was “news to them.”

But Gonzalez said these guidelines have “been the same for a while now.”

“We’ve been very proactive with communicating with students,” Gonzalez said.

But students are still uncertain about the TAP guidelines and have experienced issues communicating with the Office of Financial Aid and their academic advisers.

“At first my financial aid adviser told me he didn’t know anything about it, then he got back to me and told me to talk to my academic adviser,” Galante said. “I went to my academic adviser and they told me to talk my financial adviser.”

Galante is taking four credits toward his major and 10 toward his minor, which doesn’t count for TAP.

Demetri Realmuto, a senior psychology major, will receive a TAP grant next fall to finish up his degree, but he cannot register for fall classes unless he pays $1,300 for this semester’s tuition.

The financial aid office told Realmuto he would not receive a TAP grant this semester to pay off the remaining $1,300 on his tuition because most of his 13 credits are not going toward his primary degree.

John Maher, a junior engineering physics major, also received the email that he wasn’t eligible for TAP because he was not enrolled in 12 credits toward his degree.

But Maher is currently enrolled in 15 credits directed toward his primary degree.

The financial aid office then emailedhim saying there was a mistake in counting his credits and that the bill would be removed from his account.

But the hold on his account has yet to be removed so Maher is still unable to enroll in summer and fall classes.

Maher has been frustrated with the responsiveness of the financial aid office and his academic advising.When he originally received the email that he was not eligible for TAP, he contacted the general email account for the TAP provost for UB, the financial aid office and his academic adviser. He said he didn’t receive a response from his financial aid adviser until 10 days later.

TAP is always given as an estimate at the beginning of each semester, according to Gonzalez. UB’s financial aid advisers can’t begin certifying students for their TAP grant until after the fifth week of classes and once a student has reached 100 percent liability – when the student takes on the full financial burden of a course – by New York State. If a student doesn’t meet the eligibility, the TAP estimate goes down. Once the process of reviewing a students’ credit load is complete, TAP is either granted or removed.

Students who received an email about their ineligibility for TAP or are confused about TAP requirements should contact their financial aid adviser or UB Financial Aid at UBFA@buffalo.edu.

Gabriela Julia is the senior features editor. Comments or questions about this article can be directed to news@ubspectrum.com