405.00 College and University Training Services Policy

(Revised December 2019)

Table of Contents

Purpose

ACCES-VR provides services that assist participants to meet their employment outcomes.  ACCES-VR-funded services that support a participant to attend college may be provided when:

  • The participant and the ACCES-VR counselor both agree that a college degree is needed to achieve the employment outcome; 
  • The Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) contains an employment goal requiring a college degree; and,
  • The participant has the ability to complete college-level coursework.

Definitions

Available Resources:  This is the amount of money that a participant has available to pay toward ACCES-VR Financial Need-Based Services, such as towards ACCES-VR funded College Training Services.  This amount is identified by a calculation known as the Participant Contribution in the Cost of Services.  This is also known as a Spend Down or amount of money that the participant contributes towards ACCES-VR Financial Need-Based Services.

College Training Services:  This is academic training, and may include other associated services, that leads to a postsecondary degree at a college, business college or university that is either an accredited public, independent or proprietary college (including junior or community college) or university. College Training Services may be provided when the participant is enrolled in full or part-time study with attendance during day or evening sessions.

Comparable Services and Benefits: These are services or financial assistance from a source other than ACCES-VR that will meet, in whole or in part, the cost of vocational rehabilitation services to be provided by ACCES-VR (see 208.00 Comparable Benefits and Services Policy).

Employment Outcome: This is a specific employment goal that is agreed upon by the person and the ACCES-VR counselor.  The employment outcome is consistent with the person’s unique strengths, priorities, concerns, abilities, interests and informed choice with the goal of work in competitive integrated employment.

Financial Need: This is a threshold that is established that identifies when ACCES-VR may contribute funding toward some, but not all, vocational rehabilitation services.  This threshold is 300% of the Federal Poverty level for a household (see 1125.00 Financial Need Review Policy).

Full-Time College:  ACCES-VR defines full-time college as 12 credit hours or more per semester, one college year as 24 credits or more, and the equivalent of both for schools operating on a trimester or other basis.

Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE): The IPE is ACCES-VR’s written plan, agreed upon by the person and the ACCES-VR counselor, that identifies an employment outcome, the services that will be provided to achieve the employment outcome, the timeframes for those services, and the steps that will be used to measure progress toward the employment outcome. The IPE must be written within 90 days from the date of eligibility determination.

Participant: An individual with a disability who has been determined eligible for ACCES-VR vocational rehabilitation services, has an approved and signed Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE), and receives a service from ACCES-VR on or after the date that the IPE is signed.

Part-Time College:   ACCES-VR defines part-time college as at least 3 credits but less than 12 credits per semester or the equivalent in schools operating on a trimester or other basis.

Employment Outcome Development and Planning for College

Eligible individuals and participants must work with the ACCES-VR counselor to identify an agreed upon employment outcome for the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). All ACCES-VR services, including College Training Services, are provided when they are included on the IPE and necessary for the person to be able to gain competitive integrated employment (see 206.00 Individualized Plan for Employment Policy). 

Individuals who believe that a college degree will be necessary to obtain employment in their chosen field must apply to ACCES-VR by:

  • April 15 for the fall semester, and
  • September 15 for the spring semester.

Individuals who apply to ACCES-VR after this deadline, and have been determined eligible, may be considered for ACCES-VR College Training Services starting with the following semester, when appropriate. Note:  Under extenuating circumstances, these dates may be waived by the ACCES-VR District Office when:

  • The individual has completed financial aid and admission procedures prior to applying to ACCES-VR; and
  • There is sufficient time to complete the necessary assessment and planning, as identified in this policy, to finalize an IPE before the semester start date.

The following steps outline the process that the ACCES-VR counselor uses during the development of the IPE with eligible individuals and participants interested in college. 

Counseling and Guidance

When an eligible individual or participant expresses interest in pursuing a college degree so that they can become employed, the ACCES-VR counselor:

  1. Provides Counseling and Guidance to support an informed choice regarding the:
    • Exploration of interest in a college degree and the labor market for the intended employment;
    • Employment outcome;
    • Policies of ACCES-VR, financial considerations, timelines and expected progress required to maintain ACCES-VR services; and
    • ACCES-VR services that will be required to achieve the employment outcome after receiving a college degree.
       
  2. Assesses if a college degree is required to achieve the employment outcome: 

    The eligible individual or participant and the ACCES-VR counselor must explore whether a college degree is required to achieve the employment outcome and is consistent with the person’s skills and needs. This discussion should include a review of other services that may allow the person to meet their employment outcome (e.g. vocational training).Lastly, there should be an understanding that upon receiving a college degree it will provide the necessary qualifications for employment.
     

  3. Assesses the person’s ability to successfully participate in college:

    Eligible individuals or participants must be able to demonstrate the academic ability to complete college-level coursework.The ACCES-VR counselor may request the person to provide one or more of the following:

  • Most recent:
    • Report card
    • Secondary school transcripts
    • Individualized Educational Program (IEP) or 504 Plan
    • Assessments and/or evaluations  
  • Acceptance by a college or university having selective admission criteria that include:
    • High-school grades
    • Class standing
    • Scholastic Aptitude Test scores (SAT) or the equivalent

When competitive admission criteria do not apply (e.g. colleges with an open admission process), the ACCES-VR counselor may request the participant to provide one or more of the following most recent documents for review:

  • Diploma(s), including high school equivalency
  • Placement exam results
  • College and/or non-degree program transcripts
  • Armed service training
  • Documentation of previous academic performance
  • Documentation of work history

The ACCES-VR counselor reviews all provided documentation and assesses the person’s potential to complete a college degree and to achieve the employment outcome. When documentation is not recent and/or it does not provide relevant information about the person’s ability to participate in college, the ACCES-VR counselor may require more information.  For instance, a work/training experience or assessment may be necessary prior to ACCES-VR funding College Training Services.  Note: The ACCES-VR counselor should consider the eligible individual’s or participant’s rehabilitation and/or assistive technology needs when assessing the ability to benefit from College Training Services.  

  1. Reviews the responsibilities related to selecting the college and applying for Financial Aid:

If the ACCES-VR counselor determines a college degree is required to meet the mutually agreed upon employment outcome and the eligible individual or participant has the ability to successfully participate in college, the counselor discusses the following with the person:

  • ACCES-VR may only provide funding toward College Training Services when the eligible individual or participant meets Financial Need (see 1125.00 Financial Need Review Policy);
  • The selection of a college or university that will best meet the person’s vocational rehabilitation needs and is the most cost-effective program for ACCES-VR; and   
  • ACCES-VR requirements that the following to be done prior to ACCES-VR considering funding toward College Training Services needed to obtain a degree:
    • Participant meets
    • Completion of financial aid;
    • Use of all comparable benefits; and
    • Application of the participant’s Spend Down, when applicable (see Process for Determining ACCES-VR’s Contribution to College Training Services).

Note:  ACCES-VR may only authorize College Training Services up to a maximum of one academic year at a time.

Note:  ACCES-VR will encourage participants to apply to colleges and universities located in New York State.  When a participant attends an out-of-state school, the ACCES-VR counselor will encourage the participant to also apply to that State’s Vocational Rehabilitation Agency to potentially address vocational rehabilitation needs locally, other than the ACCES-VR supported College Training Services. 

Remedial Courses and Graduate School

Required Remediation

Remedial Courses Prior to College 

Required remediation for basic academic skills should be accomplished before college admission.  Options include taking remedial courses through Adult Education/Title II Programs and/or Educational Opportunity Centers (EOCs). Remedial courses that are not part of a matriculated program are considered on an individual basis, based on the person's unique needs.

Remedial Courses During College

Some colleges offer remediation courses and may also be able to provide a pre-testing assessment to determine the person’s academic skill levels and the extent of the need for remediation. The results of this assessment can be used to determine if remediation courses that are offered by the college can address the person’s remediation needs. In these situations, the ACCES-VR counselor will consider whether the remedial courses offered by the college will enable the person to complete the degree within the maximum duration allowed under this policy (see Timeframes for Completion section).

ACCES-VR funding of remedial courses is limited to a maximum of two (2) courses per semester based on full-time enrollment and a maximum of one (1) course per semester based on part-time enrollment.    

Graduate School

The ACCES-VR counselor must confirm that the following criteria are met prior to including College Training Services at a graduate school on the IPE:   

  • Graduate school is required to meet the employment outcome and based on the eligible individual’s or participant’s work experience, a graduate degree is required for career advancement, or
  • The eligible individual or participant, without a graduate degree, holds a position that has a requirement for a graduate degree and, due to their disability, is unable to maintain employment and complete graduate school at the same time.

Eligible individuals or participants must demonstrate the academic ability to complete graduate-level coursework.  The ACCES-VR counselor may request the person to provide one or more of the following:

  • Most recent college transcripts
  • Acceptance by a college or university having selective admission criteria that include:
    • College grades
    • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the equivalent, when applicable

The ACCES-VR counselor reviews all provided documentation, including current and past work in the relevant field, to assess the person’s potential to complete a graduate-level degree and to achieve the employment outcome. When documentation is not recent and/or it does not provide relevant information about the person’s ability to benefit from ACCES-VR’s College Training Services provided during graduate school the ACCES-VR counselor may require more information.  For instance, a work/training experience or assessment may be necessary prior to ACCES-VR funding any College Training Services for graduate school.  Note: The ACCES-VR counselor should consider the eligible individual’s or participant’s rehabilitation and/or assistive technology needs while assessing the ability to benefit from College Training Services provided at graduate schools. 

Prior to finalizing an IPE, the ACCES-VR counselor is required to receive the approval of the designated supervisor, District Office Manager, and Regional Coordinator for all College Training Services to be provided at a graduate school.  College Training Services for graduate school considered after the development of the original IPE must be reviewed with the ACCES-VR counselor as early as possible and no later than the junior year of college.   Note:  There must be sufficient time to complete the necessary assessment and planning, as identified in this policy, and to finalize an IPE before the semester start date.

Note:  All provisions in this policy and other associated ACCES-VR policies, including, but not limited to Financial Need criteria and use of comparable benefits prior to ACCES-VR’s contribution, and all ACCES-VR maximum contributions apply to College Training Services in graduate school.  

Timeframes for Completion of a College Degree

Participants are expected to follow the general timeframes for the completion of a college degree (e.g. two years for a two-year degree, four years for a four-year degree).  Participants may enroll in college either full-time or part-time (see Definitions). 

Part-Time College: 

Participants enrolled on a part-time basis for college and receiving ACCES-VR College Training Services must achieve their employment outcome at the end of two calendar years or enter college on a full-time basis.

Note:  A participant whose disability does not allow them to enroll in full-time study will need to consider all options (e.g. enroll in coursework during the summer, mini-semester, intersession, etc.) with their ACCES-VR counselor to meet the maximum allowable timeframe.

Full-Time College: 

Participants enrolled on a full-time basis and receiving ACCES-VR College Training Services may reduce to a part-time at any time.  The participant may also become part-time when the credits per semester are less than ACCES-VR’s full-time definition due to a dropped course.  Note:  When a participant moves from full-time college to part-time college, the semester when the change occurs is counted as part-time and is applied to the part-time maximum timeframe for completion. 

ACCES-VR funding for College Training Services during the summer, mini-semester and/or intersession may only be provided when it is cost effective for ACCES-VR to do so and if it can be documented that one of the following criteria exist:

  • The participant can take required or sequential courses that would not be available at any other time; or
  • The participant can retake a course failed during the semester that is required to meet the completion target date on the IPE; or
  • The participant has a disability that restricts the number of credits taken each semester and credits earned between semesters are required to meet the part-time maximum for the completion of their degree; or
  • It will advance the graduation, or completion, date.

Note: ACCES-VR may only pay up to the maximum yearly contributions toward College Training Services identified in this policy, when the participant meets Financial Need.  These maximum yearly contributions include funding used toward any college summer, mini-semester, and/or intersession.

The ACCES-VR counselor may approve a funding extension beyond the above identified maximum time limits for completion of a participant’s college degree, when appropriate.  This extension is limited to up to one semester for each required academic year to complete a program (e.g. Two additional semesters for a two-year degree, four additional semesters for a four-year degree).  This includes participants enrolled in part-time college with a pro-rated extension.   Note:  All timeframes for completion of a college degree identified in this policy are cumulative and inclusive of any change in school, major course of study and ACCES-VR case re-opening after partial completion. 

ACCES-VR Approvals and Contribution

Accreditation and Approval of a College or University

Colleges, universities and other degree-granting institutions must:

  • Be approved ACCES-VR vendors; and
  • Accredited by a regional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education; or
  • Approved by the New York State Board of Regents prior to being authorized.

Note: ACCES-VR reserves the right to not approve a college or university as an ACCES-VR vendor. 

Process for Determining ACCES-VR’s Contribution to College Training Services

ACCES-VR completes a two-step process to determine its contribution, if any, toward College Training Services. 

  1. Comparable Benefits

    All comparable benefits must be utilized prior to ACCES-VR funding College Training Services.  The participant must seek out and apply for all available comparable benefits and inform the ACCES-VR counselor about awards and changes to awards.  Examples of comparable benefits include, but are not limited to, Pell, TAP, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), or other grants.  Merit-based scholarships (e.g. academic, athletic, artistic, etc.), loans, and work-study are not comparable benefits and not included when calculating ACCES-VR’s contribution toward College Training Services.
     

  2. Determination of Financial Need

    ACCES-VR funding of the following College Training Services is contingent upon Financial Need:

    • Tuition
    • Required Academic Fees
    • Room and Board
    • Required Textbooks and Materials
    • Required Computer and Software
    • Assistive Technology
    • Transportation
    • Required Internet Access

      All participants must complete a Financial Need Review at least annually or sooner if there is a change in their financial status.  ACCES-VR’s contribution toward College Training Services is contingent upon the determination of an eligible individual’s or participant’s Financial Need and available resources, when applicable.  Based upon the Financial Need Review (see 1125.00 Financial Need Review Policy) it will be determined if the eligible individual or participant:
       

    • Is exempt from consideration of available resources as someone who receives public assistance.  If the person meets these criteria, then ACCES-VR may contribute to the cost of College Training Services up to, but not exceeding, the maximum allowances identified in this policy.
    • Meets Financial Need and has no available resources, based on the calculation of participation in the cost of services.  If the person meets these criteria, ACCES-VR may contribute to the cost of the College Training Services up to, but not exceeding, the maximum allowances identified in this policy.
    • Does not meet Financial Need because they have available resources.  A person’s available resources are identified by the calculation of participation in the cost of services.  When a person has available resources, they are then required to contribute to the cost of College Training Services. This contribution is also known as a Spend Down.  Once the person has agreed to their contribution and the Spend Down has been met, they will then meet the Financial Need criteria and ACCES-VR may contribute to the cost of College Training Services up to, but not exceeding, the maximum allowances identified in this policy. 

      Note:  The amount of ACCES-VR funding toward College Training Services is not guaranteed from year to year and may change based on the results of the annual Financial Need Review.

ACCES-VR Maximum Contribution to College Training Services’ Expenses

As outlined above, for participants who meet Financial Need, ACCES-VR may pay for the following expenses up to the identified maximum amounts after application of all comparable benefits.  Note: ACCES-VR may only provide funding towards courses and related expenses that are necessary to fulfill degree requirements.

Note: All ACCES-VR yearly maximum contributions include the costs of all semesters, trimesters, summer sessions, intersessions, and mini-sessions. 

  • Tuition:  The current published tuition rate (or credit hour rate for part-time study) at a SUNY/CUNY or Community College is the maximum amount that ACCES-VR may contribute to the cost of tuition for any college or university. Note: ACCES-VR’s maximum contribution to the cost of graduate programs at private universities is the published SUNY graduate tuition rate for the program of study.
  • Required Fees:  ACCES-VR may pay a maximum of $300 per semester, $200 per trimester or $600 per academic year for required academic fees. 
  • Required Textbooks and Materials:  ACCES-VR may pay a maximum of $1,000 per academic year for required textbooks and materials.  Note:  ACCES-VR will not pay for expendable supplies (i.e. items that cannot be reused) such as paper, pencils and notebooks, unless documentation is provided demonstrating specific requirements for a course and/or necessary to address a disability-related limitation.

Participants are expected to use cost-saving strategies, whenever possible, in the purchase of textbooks and materials such as purchasing used textbooks and selecting bookstores with the most competitive pricing.Note:  When a participant is using ACCES-VR funding to purchase required books and materials from an online source, the most cost-effective shipping method must be used.Purchasing items with ACCES-VR funds that are not required books and materials is prohibited.Should a participant use funds inappropriately and not follow these requirements, ACCES-VR will seek reimbursement for the costs of non-required books and materials and may re-evaluate future funding for College Training Services.

  • Required Computer and Software:  ACCES-VR may purchase computer/tablet and software for participants attending college when the participant can provide documentation that:
    • The computer and software are required of all students by the college as a condition of attendance; or
    • The computer and software are required for all students in the participant's matriculated course of study; or
    • The participant's disability precludes use of campus or public computer resources.

Purchase of computers and software for college will be provided at the lowest possible cost with an ACCES-VR maximum of $800.00.Purchase of software only, separate from a computer, is subject to the required textbooks and materials maximums (see Required Textbooks and Materials).Note:  Only one purchase of a computer and software up to the maximum of $800.00 is allowable for the lifetime of a case.

  • Room and Board:  ACCES-VR may contribute up to a maximum of $1,040 per semester, $693 per trimester, or $2,080 per academic year for room and board when:
    • Travel to the college is more than a commutable distance as defined by the guidelines of the local ACCES-VR District Office; or
    • It is more cost-effective for ACCES-VR to contribute up to the maximum cap toward the cost of room and board; or
    • When determined appropriate based on the participant’s disability-related needs.

Note:  ACCES-VR may only fund room and board while the student is enrolled and participating in the academic program.  For example, room and board will not be funded during a non-academic portion of the year (e.g. summer when not engaged in the academic program).

Paying Full Room and Board as a Cost-Effective Strategy:ACCES-VR may pay for the full cost of room and board, as a cost-effective strategy in the following situations:

  • In lieu of special transportation between home and college.  ACCES-VR may pay the full cost of room and board as charged by the college when the costs of room and board on campus are less than the costs of the special transportation.  This cost comparison should be applied only when the choice of special transportation is reasonable, based on the commuting time and distance. 
  • When interpreter services are included in the cost of college.  ACCES-VR may pay the full cost of room and board as charged by the college when interpreter services are provided by the college without charge and the cost of room and board is less than the amount ACCES-VR would have paid for the same interpreter services at other colleges. 

Note:  ACCES-VR’s Financial Need criteria and use of comparable benefit and all other ACCES-VR maximum contributions still apply (see 208.00 Comparable Benefits and Services and 1125.00 Financial Need Review Policy). 

ACCES-VR Maximum Contribution Toward Other Related Costs

As outlined above, for participants who meet Financial Need, ACCES-VR may pay for the following expenses after application of all comparable benefits for the following:

Assistive Technology:  If the participant requires specific assistive technology devices to make use of purchased books and materials, ACCES-VR may purchase limited to low cost adaptive items such as but not limited to electronic text players, spellcheckers and note-taking devices.

Additional materials and equipment required by the participant to address disability-related needs are considered separately under the Rehabilitation Technology (see 1370.00 Rehabilitation Technology Policy).

Transportation:  All transportation, including special transportation, will be authorized separately consistent with the ACCES-VR Transportation Policy (see 1355.00 Transportation Services Policy).  Transportation may only be provided for the dates the participant is in school and must be the most cost-effective method of transportation.  When the participant will be living away from home, transportation will not be authorized for travel to and from college. Note:  ACCES-VR may fund special transportation when it is required for the participant who is living away from home to get to the living arrangement at the beginning of the semester and to return home at the end of the semester.

Internet Access:  ACCES-VR may contribute toward the cost of internet access only when documentation supports that internet access:

  • Is required for the course of study, and
  • There is no other available internet access such as at the college or public library (considered a comparable benefit), or
  • Due to the participant’s disability he/she is unable to utilize the college or public library. 

Internet access will not be funded during a non-academic portion of the year (e.g. breaks between semesters, summer when not engaged in the academic program).  The purchase of internet access must be at the most cost-effective amount. 

ACCES-VR Contribution:  Other Considerations

Gallaudet University and National Technical Institute for the Deaf

ACCES-VR provides funding of full room and board, either on campus or in school-sponsored off-campus housing in lieu of interpreter services for deaf students attending college programs when the full cost of interpreter services is provided by the school.  For a participant living in housing not sponsored by the school, ACCES-VR may pay the documented cost of that housing, up to an amount equal to full room and board at school sponsored housing. Documentation such as a copy of the lease agreement must be provided before payment can be made.   Note:  ACCES-VR will only fund room and board while the student is enrolled and participating in the academic program. 

Edinboro University

Edinboro University offers an on-campus residential program with supports for students with significant mobility impairments. These disability-related supports offer an opportunity for individuals with significant mobility impairments to attend college.  Edinboro University’s costs include tuition, fees, books, housing and support services such as, but not limited to, care coordination, transportation and wheelchair maintenance.

For individuals who may not otherwise be able to attend college due to their significant mobility impairments, ACCES-VR may fund college at Edinboro University (e.g. participants who have weather-related wheelchair complications or the inability to fund the combination of home and transportation services needed for college that would be equivalent to the dormitory).ACCES-VR may provide funding to participants that meet these requirements for this setting and may provide full funding for the support services package Edinboro University offers as necessary disability-related supports, except for personal care services when provided on campus by an ACCES-VR contracted vendor(s).

Learning Disability Services Programs

ACCES-VR has approved four colleges’ learning disability services programs: Manhattan College, Mercy College, Iona College, and Hofstra University.  These colleges are responsible for providing ACCES-VR with a listing of the services provided under their learning disability services program and all associated costs. 

The ACCES-VR counselor will work with the participant with a learning disability to identify the types of services that they may needed for college, including services offered by the college’s student disability services office.ACCES-VR may fund the full cost of an approved learning disabilities services program only when it is less than the cost of providing the disability-related services separately.

Other Services

Disability-Related Support Services

Disability-related support services (i.e. interpreter, tutor, note-taker) are the responsibility of the college, when related to the reasonable accommodation needs of the student.  ACCES-VR is the payor of last resort and participants should first seek disability-related support services from the college.  If the ACCES-VR counselor has identified that the participant has a need for disability-related support services outside those available through the student disability services office at the college these may be authorized separately from the College Training Services outlined in this policy (see 1391.00 Personal Assistance Services Policy).   Note:  Disability-related support services are not contingent on Financial Need (see 1125.00 Financial Need Review Policy).

Tutorial Services

ACCES-VR may pay for a limited amount of tutoring services for participants in college only after tutoring resources available through the college have been exhausted.  Time-limited tutoring may be provided when:

  • The tutoring is required to successfully complete a required course, and
  • Documentation of the need for tutoring in a required course, including the number of hours, is provided to the ACCES-VR counselor (e.g. A letter from the participant’s instructor or academic advisor regarding their performance in the course and the number of tutorial hours recommended to improve performance).

ACCES-VR funded tutoring cannot exceed seven (7) hours per week.  The cost of tutoring should be at the lowest possible fee, not to exceed $15 per hour.  Note:  ACCES-VR may work with the college to arrange a co-payment of a tutor while still maintaining a maximum of $15 per hour contribution, unless waived.

Upon approval for tutoring services, and prior to their start, the tutor must provide ACCES-VR with:

  • Documentation of their expertise and ability to provide the specific tutorial services required by the participant (e.g., academic degree in the specialty area, letters of reference from responsible and knowledgeable sources), or
  • The college’s list of approved tutors that cites that tutor as approved. 

Note:  ACCES-VR will not reimburse travel by tutors. 

The Role of the ACCES-VR Counselor

The ACCES-VR counselor and the participant both have responsibilities in maintaining ongoing communication about expectations, both academic and financial, and ensuring the accurate calculation of ACCES-VR’s contribution, if any, to College Training Services. 

The ACCES-VR Counselor:

  • Annually reviews the College Fact Sheet with the participant and ensures that the participant has been informed of the ACCES-VR provisions that apply to College Training Services. The signed College Fact Sheet, documenting this review, is filed in the participant’s record of service and a copy provided to the participant and legal guardian, when applicable.
  • Applies all comparable benefits and ensures the participant meets Financial Need prior to authorizing the use of ACCES-VR funds for College Training Services.
  • Meets with the participant at least once each academic year and reviews academic performance necessary to meet degree requirements within the agreed upon timeframes and progress toward the employment outcome.
  • Reviews information that the participant is meeting academic standards as established by the college or university and retaining financial aid eligibility.
  • Continues to assess the participant’s ability to successfully complete a college degree and benefit from ACCES-VR funded College Training Services.
  • Works with the college’s student disability services office, when the participant has provided a signed release of information form, for the provision of supports to participants who have registered with the office.
  • Maintains contact with the college financial aid office, as needed and when the participant has provided a signed release of information form, to ensure the participant is receiving consideration for financial aid.
  • Ensures that financial aid is applied to all direct costs including textbooks and required materials.
  • May advance funding against anticipated financial aid if not yet received, when determined appropriate. 
    • Completes the Refund of Advance of Financial Aid Awards form with the participant, and legal guardian when applicable, that shows their agreement to repay any advanced funding and maintains a signed copy in the participant’s record of service and provides a copy to the participant.
    • Recovers any advance payments that have been made once the participant has received TAP, Pell or other financial aid monies.

The Role of the ACCES-VR Participant

The participant must seek to secure all available financial aid, in whole or in part, from other sources. ACCES-VR’s contribution is contingent on timely application for all applicable financial aid. The participant, and legal guardian when applicable, must:

  • Annually review the College Fact Sheet with the ACCES-VR counselor and sign it demonstrating understanding and agreement. A copy will be provided to the participant, and legal guardian when applicable, for their records.
  • Review plans for college applications with the ACCES-VR counselor and the maximum limits that ACCES-VR will fund prior to applying to colleges, whenever possible.
  • Consider all disability-related support services such as those provided by the college’s student disability services office.
  • Provide the ACCES-VR counselor with written information from the college regarding the academic standards that must be met to remain in good standing at the college and to retain eligibility for financial aid.
  • Provide the ACCES-VR counselor with all requirements needed for graduation for the agreed upon course of study and a copy of the college transcript each semester, as soon as it is available, for verification of academic standing.
  • Meet with the ACCES-VR counselor at least once per academic year and review academic performance and progress toward the employment outcome.
  • Inform the ACCES-VR counselor immediately before dropping agreed upon courses. Participants must be aware of deadlines for dropping courses and should do so by the published date.  Note:  When dropping a course reduces the number of credits to less than 12 for a semester, that semester will be counted as part-time college (see Timeframes for Completion section).  
  • Provide the ACCES-VR counselor with documentation from the college financial aid office of financial aid awards, student loans, work-study and all scholarships, including merit-based, on an annual basis.
  • Apply for all available financial assistance on an annual basis and provide the ACCES-VR counselor with documentation verifying each application. Note:  Part-time college students must also apply for Aid for Part Time Students (APTS).
    • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and apply for financial aid within the required timeframes on an annual basis. This single application is required to apply for the Pell grant and for other financial aid, including the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).
  • Inform the ACCES-VR counselor of changes to awards or changes in financial status and provide documentation that verifies these awards or changes.
  • When applicable, use any excess financial aid from a prior semester toward required textbooks and materials, room and board, and/or transportation expenses for the following semester.
  • Agree to reimburse ACCES-VR for any funds advanced against anticipated financial aid.  Review and sign Refund of Advance of Financial Aid Awards form.
    • Notify the ACCES-VR counselor when the financial aid award is received and reimburse ACCES-VR for any overpayment from advanced funding. Note:  Participants will be informed in writing that ACCES-VR will reduce the level of its future financial contribution toward services on the IPE, including College Training Services until all advance payments are reimbursed in total. Failure to repay may lead to termination of the ACCES-VR contribution toward college costs.
  • Register with Selective Service, when applicable.  Federal financial aid requires registration with the Selective Service System. If a participant is not eligible to receive financial aid due to failure to register for Selective Service, he must register with the Selective Service prior to being eligible for ACCES-VR funding for College Training Services. Participants must provide documentation that they have registered and are eligible for financial aid.
  • Provide a copy of the diploma or degree to the ACCES-VR counselor upon receipt.

Note: Default of a Student Loan:  If a participant is in default of a student loan or has not provided a refund for a grant such as Pell or TAP, all financial aid (including Pell and TAP) will not be available to the participant. ACCES-VR is prohibited from paying for any College Training Services or other related services at an institution of higher education unless maximum effort has been made to resolve the default. Maximum effort means that the participant must work out a satisfactory repayment plan with the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), lending institution or grantor and re-establish eligibility for financial aid.  The participant must provide documentation from HESC that a repayment plan has been established and eligibility for financial aid is restored.  ACCES-VR may then consider funding College Training Services once eligibility for financial aid has been re-established.

Note:  Controlled Substance Rule:  Participants who have been convicted under Federal or State law of illegal sale or possession of a controlled substance lose eligibility for Pell grants for a period of time depending on the offense. Eligibility for Pell grants may resume upon successful completion of a drug rehabilitation program. ACCES-VR participants affected by this law must apply for Pell funds to determine eligibility status.  If the participant is temporarily ineligible for Pell grants, ACCES-VR will continue to provide the required services necessary to attain an employment outcome, including College Training Services.

Academic Standards and Suspension of ACCES-VR Funds

The participant is expected to maintain:

  • Satisfactory academic performance as defined by the standards of the college that they are attending; and
  • Academic eligibility for financial aid; and
  • Academic performance necessary to meet the degree requirements within the agreed upon timeframes.

If the participant does not meet these standards, the ACCES-VR counselor will discuss with the participant strategies or supports for how to improve academic performance, including but not limited to available supports provided by the college’s student disability services office and/or the local independent living center.  The ACCES-VR counselor may also discuss the participant’s employment outcome and the possibility of assisting them with a new outcome that does not require a college degree.

The ACCES-VR counselor will discuss the need for the participant to meet the academic standards or be at risk of suspension of ACCES-VR funding toward College Training Services.  Participants will be provided a reasonable opportunity to improve academic performance, typically one semester, before suspension of ACCES-VR funding.  If ACCES-VR suspends funding toward College Training Services and the participant continues college without ACCES-VR support, ACCES-VR may reconsider future funding toward College Training Services once the participant has met academic performance standards, maintained eligibility for financial aid, and followed the required curriculum for their college degree.

Suspension of ACCES-VR funding toward College Training Services due to failure to meet academic standards does not result in the participant’s case being closed.  However, repeated inability to meet the academic performance standards will result in a review of the IPE and a possible alternative employment goal that is not contingent on a college degree. 

Waivers: Exceptions to Limits on Cost and Timeframes for Completion of a College Degree

Should a participant believe there is a need to exceed ACCES-VR’s maximum financial support toward College Training Services or the timeframes for completion of a college degree, the participant may ask the ACCES-VR counselor to submit a waiver request.   The waiver request must be submitted by the ACCES-VR District Office to the Central Office Waiver Committee (see 100.00 Participant Involvement Policy).  Submission of a waiver request does not guarantee approval. The Central Office Waiver Committee will review the following: ACCES-VR’s College and University Training Services Policy and all related policies, spending limits for College Training Services, justification for the waiver request, whether the academic program is available at SUNY, CUNY or community colleges, and the participant’s finances, including their entire financial aid package (e.g. grants loans and scholarships) not considered a comparable benefit.

Financial Commitments

Individuals should not take on any financial commitments with the anticipation of ACCES-VR funding for services.  Individuals are required to wait until the ACCES-VR counselor provides an ACCES-VR finalized IPE for services and ACCES-VR’s financial contribution towards services before they incur any expenses or costs.  The individual will be responsible for all expenses or costs incurred before receipt of ACCES-VR’s finalized IPE and approval for financial contribution towards ACCES-VR services. 

Related Policies:

  • 100.00 Participant Involvement
  • 208.00 Comparable Benefits and Services
  • 410.00 Non-Degree Training at Trade, Business and Other Schools
  • 430.00 Out-of-State Services
  • 1125.00 Financial Need Review
  • 1355.00 Transportation Services
  • 1370.00 Rehabilitation Technology
  • 1391.00 Personal Assistance Services