Maintained for Historical Purposes

This resource is being maintained for historical purposes only and is not currently applicable.

Summary: HERA Operational Implementation Guidance (CPS, COD System, and EDExpress Suite) -- Resource and Updates Related to ACG Recognized Rigorous Secondary School Program of Study Requirement

Publication Date: July 13, 2006

Author: G. Kay Jacks, General Manager, Application, Operations and Delivery Services, Federal Student Aid

Summary: HERA Operational Implementation Guidance (CPS, COD System, and EDExpress Suite)--Resource and Updates Related to ACG Recognized Rigorous Secondary School Program of Study Requirement

Note: This Electronic Announcement was updated on September 24, 2007 by removing the attachment for the "Quick Reference to the ACG Recognized State Rigorous Secondary School Programs of Study." This resource guide has been superseded by two updated versions of the guide--one for 2005/2006 graduates and the other for 2007 graduates. The updated versions of the guide are attached to a September 24, 2007 Electronic Announcement available at http://www.ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/0924UpdatedACGRecRigSecSchool.html.

Posted on 07-13-2006

As explained in Dear Colleague Letter GEN-06-04, the Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 (the HERA), Pub. L. 109-171, created the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) Program effective July 1, 2006. ACG awards are available for eligible students beginning with the 2006-2007 Award Year. In an Electronic Announcement posted June 30, 2006, we informed schools of the availability of ACG functionality that we will use as we work with students and schools to provide these new grant funds to eligible students. As explained in the June 30th announcement, ACG processing functions will become available between July 1, 2006 and April 14, 2007.

Ultimately, it is a school's responsibility to verify a student's eligibility for an ACG award before awarding and disbursing the aid. The school uses Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) data and information in the school's academic records to confirm and document a student's eligibility.

One of the components of a student's eligibility for an ACG award is the completion of a rigorous secondary school program of study. Dear Colleague Letter GEN-06-08 outlines the options for meeting the rigorous secondary school program of study requirement for the 2006-2007 Award Year. The available options are as follows:

  • Set of Courses Similar to the State Scholars Initiative
  • Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Courses and Test Scores
  • State-Specific Programs
    o Advanced or Honors Diploma
    o State Scholars Initiative Requirements
    o State Recognized Plan
    As noted, these options-Advanced or Honors Diploma, State Scholars Initiative Requirements, and State Recognized Plan-are state-specific programs and will vary depending on the state.

Note: The Department of Education (the Department) issued regulations to implement the provisions of the HERA on July 3, 2006 (71 FR 37990); however, the regulations are not effective until August 2, 2006. Program participants should implement the provisions of the HERA in accordance with sub regulatory guidance provided by the Department in Dear Colleague Letters and other materials until the regulations are effective.

If a school desires, it can use self-identification information that we began collecting from participating students on July 1, 2006 to assist in identifying a potentially eligible student and the type of recognized rigorous secondary school program of study completed. As a reminder, a student is not required to complete this self-identification process to be eligible for an ACG award, and a school may determine eligibility without the assistance of our information.

To assist schools as they begin to identify students who are eligible to receive ACG awards, we are providing, as an attachment to this announcement, a resource that a school can use in evaluating the options under which a student may qualify as having completed a recognized rigorous secondary school program of study. In addition, we are making some improvements to the self-identification process for students that we want schools to know about. We cover this information in the following order:

  • Quick Reference to the ACG Recognized State Rigorous Secondary School Programs of Study
  • Updates to ACG Self-Identification Process Web Screen Effective July 16, 2006
  • Contact Information
  • Attachments/Enclosures

Quick Reference to the ACG Recognized State Rigorous Secondary School Programs of Study

The recognized rigorous secondary school programs of study for each state for the 2006-2007 Award Year are posted on the Department's Web site. The URL for the "Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) Recognized State Rigorous Secondary School Programs of Study" Web page is http://www.ed.gov/admins/finaid/about/ac-smart/state-programs06.html. Via this Web page, a school can download, open, and/or print state-specific information for one or more states. The information for each state is posted in both MS Word format and PDF format.

We have developed an operational resource that schools can use as a quick reference to the recognized rigorous secondary school programs of study for each state for the 2006-2007 Award Year. This resource, "Quick Reference to the ACG Recognized State Rigorous Secondary School Programs of Study," is attached to this announcement and combines recognized state rigorous secondary school programs of study for all states and applicable system codes into one document.

The resource is a comprehensive table in Excel format. The table includes a summary of the recognized rigorous secondary school programs of study for each state identified on the Department's Web page. When accessed electronically, each state name in the table links to that state's information posted on the Department's Web page. Having comprehensive information for all states in summary table format should be particularly helpful to schools that draw students from multiple states.

In addition to summarizing each state's recognized rigorous secondary school programs of study, the comprehensive table identifies applicable Student Aid Report (SAR) comment codes and Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) Extensible Markup Language (XML) Common Record valid values.

SAR Comment Codes

As we explained in the June 30th announcement, after a participating student responds to the rigorous secondary school program of study questions through the self-identification process, we will notify a school of the student's responses to the questions through new SAR comment codes on an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR), 268-271 (ISIR positions 1677 to 1736), and in an ACG Data file sent to the school via the Student Aid Internet Gateway (SAIG).

In the comprehensive table, we include the SAR comment code that applies to each type of recognized rigorous secondary school program of study. The applicable code appears under the heading for each type of recognized program of study. The types of recognized programs of study and the applicable SAR comment codes are as follows:

  • SAR Code 270-Set of Courses Similar to the State Scholars Initiative
  • SAR Code 269-Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate
  • SAR Code 268-Advanced or Honors Diploma
  • SAR Code 268-State Scholars Initiative Requirements
  • SAR Code 268-State Recognized Plan

Note: Additional information about the new SAR comment codes, including the comment code text and message class information, is available in the June 30th announcement and in the updated "2006-2007 SAR Comment Codes and Text Guide" posted on the IFAP Web site. Additional information about the ACG Data file, including its record layout, is available in the June 30th announcement and in the updated "2006-2007 EDE Technical Reference" posted on the IFAP Web site.

COD XML Common Record Valid Values

As we explained in the June 30th announcement, beginning December 16, 2006, a school will send origination and disbursement information about ACG awards using the new COD XML Common Record Academic Competitiveness Grant Block or by submitting individual records to the COD System via the Web. The Academic Competitiveness Grant Block will include basic award data, an element for Eligibility/Payment Reason Code in all cases, and an element for Rigorous High School Program Code in the case of a state-specific program.

Eligibility/Payment Reason Code

In the comprehensive table, we include the two-digit, numeric Eligibility/Payment Reason Code that applies to each type of recognized rigorous secondary school program of study. The applicable code appears under the heading for each type of recognized program of study. The types of recognized programs of study and the applicable Eligibility/Payment Reason Codes are as follows:

  • Eligibility/Payment Reason Code - Set of Courses Similar to the State Scholars Initiative
  • Eligibility/Payment Reason Code 02 - Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate
  • Eligibility/Payment Reason Code 01 - Advanced or Honors Diploma
  • Eligibility/Payment Reason Code 01 - State Scholars Initiative Requirements
  • Eligibility/Payment Reason Code 01 - State Recognized Plan

Note: Eligibility/Payment Reason Code 01 applies to all three state-specific programs.

Rigorous High School Program Code

In the comprehensive table, we include the six-digit, alphanumeric Rigorous High School Program Code assigned to each state-specific recognized rigorous secondary school program of study. The state-specific programs are as follows:

  • Advanced or Honors Diploma
  • State Scholars Initiative Requirements
  • State Recognized Plan

The applicable Rigorous High School Program Code appears in the cell of each listing of the above state-specific programs.

Note: The updated 2006-2007 COD Technical Reference currently reflects complete information about the COD XML Common Record Academic Competitiveness Grant Block. All ACG implementation information will be reflected in the 2006-2007 COD Technical Reference upon posting of the last installment of HERA-related technical reference updates in late July 2006. We will post the technical reference updates to the IFAP Web site and announce the availability of the updates in the "COD Processing Update" and via a COD Web Message.

Updates to ACG Self-Identification Process Web Screen Effective July 16, 2006

As we explained in the June 30th announcement, we implemented an ACG self-identification process that collects from participating students and provides to schools preliminary information about completion of a recognized rigorous secondary school program of study by students who appear to be potentially eligible for an ACG award. With the July 1, 2006 implementation of this self-identification process, participating students respond to questions online or by calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 800/4-FED-AID (800/433-3243).

To better assist a student who responds to the questions online, effective July 16, 2006, we will update and improve the online option as follows:

  • We will update the dropdown menu that lists the State Recognized Plans for the 2006-2007 Award Year for a student's state. This update will add State Recognized Plans that have been recognized by the Secretary since the July 1, 2006 implementation of the self-identification process.
  • We will add a link to the Department's Web page to the section in which a student selects the State Recognized Plan that he or she completed (if applicable). We will also add this link to the section's help text. The addition of this link will assist a student who is unaware of the State Recognized Plans in his or her state. After clicking on the link, the student will be able to open and read the information for his or her state and then return to the online self-identification process and complete his or her responses.

For a school's information, screen shots that illustrate the online self-identification process effective July 16, 2006, are attached to this announcement in one document, "ACG Self-Identification Process Web Screen Shots." This document includes the log in screen and the three data collection screens that a student completes. In addition, the document includes the confirmation page that is automatically generated from the Corrections on the Web functionality after the student submits his or her ACG information.

Note: We will make these same updates to the Web screens in FAA Access to CPS Online that a Financial Aid Administrator (FAA) who completes a FAFSA or Renewal FAFSA for a student has the option to complete for a potentially ACG-eligible student.

Contact Information

We appreciate your partnership in serving ACG recipients and hope this information is helpful to you.If you have questions about the information in this announcement, e-mail us at HERAQuestions@ed.gov.

Last Modified: 07/12/2006