Changes to TAP Entrance Requirements

In the past, students taking BPSS-approved programs approved for Tuition Assistance Program funding (TAP) had to either have a high school diploma, or pass the ability-to-benefit (ATB) entrance exam approved for that course. Until now, students who obtained a high school diploma in other countries could prove their high school completion in two ways. They could either show that diploma, or they could file an affidavit, affirming that they had obtained such a diploma, but, due to circumstances, were unable to produce it. TAP audits revealed enough irregularities with these foreign credentials and affidavits to prompt the following change, enacted as part of the 2006-2007 Budget.

As in the new version by the Higher Education Corporation (HESC), in order to receive TAP, students must now “Have graduated from high school within the United States, or have a GED®, or have passed a federally-approved exam demonstrating the student can benefit from the education offered.” The test must be “independently administered and evaluated as defined by the Commissioner of the State Education Department.”

Effective immediately, foreign high school diplomas, whether in the possession of the student or through affidavit, will no longer be accepted for eligibility for TAP awards. Schools that formerly accepted foreign high school diplomas or affidavits will now be required to administer a federally approved Ability-To-Benefit (ATB) test to such foreign students. Schools that do not have such tests listed on their curriculum letter of approval will have to file an amendment with the curriculum unit at the Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision, and add such tests to their entrance requirements.

When doing so, BPSS-regulated schools must be aware of three factors.

  1. The ATB test must be federally recognized. For a list of federally approved ATB tests, see:

    Ability to Benefit Testing 

  2. The test must be “independently administered.” To comply with this new statutory requirement, the State Education Department will develop regulations concerning the independent administration of the ability-to-benefit test which will go into effect for the winter 2007 semester. For the fall 2006 semester, all non-degree granting registered business schools, where students are eligible for TAP awards, must continue to follow the Federal regulations for the independent administration of ability-to-benefit examinations that qualify students for Federal student financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. The Federal regulations on the independent administration of the ability-to-benefit test can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 668 - Student Assistance General Provisions, Subpart J - Approval of Independently Administered Tests, Title 34 Education, VI 600-699, Office of Postsecondary Education.
  3. Academically adequate passing scores. The federal passing scores on these ATB tests are set for funding purposes and are not mandated academic entrance requirements. Indeed, most scores are not equivalent to a completed high school education. Passing scores range from 7th grade (Wonderlic Basic Skills Test) to 9th/10th grade (CPat). Further, CELSA is just an ESL test, requiring further evidence of that the student has the academic prerequisites to successfully complete a program. Schools which need to add an ATB test, or change their ATB test to one on the federal list, would need to ensure high-school level preparation by doing either:
    • Raise the scores on the federally-recognized ATB high enough (that is higher than the scores on the federal list) to represent 11th or 12th grade knowledge, OR
    • If a school chooses to use CELSA or the Wonderlic Basic Skills Test with the low federal scores (Verbal 200 Quantitative 210), these would be seen by BPSS as evidence of sufficient English-language skills. These two tests could be used only in conjunction with a foreign high school diploma. The school would have to receive from the student a copy of the foreign high school diploma, with a translation. Both the copy and the translation must be notarized by a public notary in the United States, and a copy of the diploma and the translation must be maintained in the student file. Failure to follow this procedure could result in a TAP disallowance.

If you have any curriculum-related questions, contact the BPSS curriculum unit: If you have any questions concerning the changes outlined in this bulletin, contact Operational Services at