Summary of the PA State Grant Program Eligibility Requirements for Institutions

PA State Grant eligibility starts at an institutional level. Institutions and their programs must be in compliance with 22 Pa. Code § 121.32, Code § 121.33, and Chapter 1 of the PA State Grant Program Handbook in order to participate in the PA State Grant Program.

This article summarizes institutional requirements and provides instructions for institution eligibility requests.

Summary of Institutional Requirements

All PA State Grant eligible institutions must be currently approved by the state and accredited in accordance with the regulation specific to the type of institution. PHEAA recognizes the following three types of schools for participation in the PA State Grant Program:

  1. College or University
  2. Hospital School of Nursing
  3. Business, Trade, or Technical (BTT) School

PA State Grants can only be awarded to students attending schools in states that permit reciprocity of awards with Pennsylvania. The current list of reciprocal states can be found in Chapter 1 of the PA State Grant Program Handbook.

All PA State Grant eligible schools must have on file a current Master Program Participation Agreement along with Schedule A and an Institutional Headquartered and Domiciled Certification. These documents are provided to the school as part of the PA State Grant institutional application. Schools must also be in compliance with 22 Pa. Code § 121.3, which references that discrimination is prohibited.

Summary of Program Requirements

Programs must be in compliance with PHEAA regulations and policies. Eligible programs may include diploma, associate degree and bachelor degree programs. Master degree programs and theology degree programs are not eligible.

Programs must meet PHEAA's minimum length requirement as specified below.

MINIMUM LENGTH – The program must be at least 2 academic years in duration and offered over a period of at least 15 months (no less than 60 weeks of instruction). Two academic years is defined as the equivalent of a minimum of 60 semester credits (90 quarter credits) for a degree program. Required clock hours of instruction are 1,500 clock hours for programs leading to the Associate in Specialized Technology or the Associate in Specialized Business degrees. For non-degree programs, a minimum of at least 1,800 clock hours is required (900 minimum per academic year and 450 minimum per summer term). Requests for approvals of specialized degree programs must indicate whether clock hours OR credit hours will be used to evaluate student eligibility.

Programs must also be in compliance with PHEAA's term start dates and terms length as indicated in the PA State Grant Program Handbook.

Distance education programs can be considered for PA State Grant approval if the institution is headquartered and domiciled in Pennsylvania. Schools that are not headquartered and domiciled in PA can only apply for program approval if at least 50% of the program is structured to be completed through classroom instruction.

Summary of New School and/or New Program applications

Schools wanting to apply for student participation in the PA State Grant Program will be held to the following deadlines. Requests for student participation starting with the summer term must be fully completed and submitted to PHEAA Institution Eligibility staff by May 1. Requests for student participation starting with the fall term must be fully completed and submitted to PHEAA Institution Eligibility staff by August 1. Applications received after August 1 will be considered for the following summer term. Institutions may turn in applications at any time.

PA State Grant institution program approvals are specific to the institution type. Schools that do not fall into one of the three types of institutions below may contact Institution Eligibility staff for assistance.

College or University:

A first time college or university wanting to apply for participation in the PA State Grant Program should send a letter of interest to PHEAA including the programs offered and degrees awarded along with the following items:

  • Approval letter from the PA Department of Education or appropriate state agency
  • Approval letter from accrediting agency
  • School catalog

Colleges and universities do not need to submit for program approvals; however, programs still have to meet the Agency requirements. A college or university’s PA State Grant eligibility does not necessarily extend to all its programs. The college or university is responsible for ensuring that a program is eligible before awarding PA State Grant funds to the student.

The regulation specific to colleges and universities is below:

As specified in 22 Pa. Code § 121.32 Approved Institutions in Higher Education Grant Program, "If the institution is a college or university located within this Commonwealth, the institution shall be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and shall be accredited or a recognized candidate for accreditation with an accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and its successors."

"If the college or university is located outside this Commonwealth, the institution shall be degree-granting, shall be operated not-for-profit, shall be legally authorized to do business by the appropriate state licensing or approval authority in the state in which it is doing business, and shall be fully accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education or the regional institutional accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and its successors responsible for accreditation in the state where the college or university is conducting its educational program."

Hospital School of Nursing:

A first time hospital school of nursing wanting to apply for student participation in the PA State Grant Program should send a letter of interest to PHEAA. The letter should include a brief description of how the program is structured, what is awarded following completion of the program, include the approval letter from the PA State Board of Nursing, and approval letter from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

The regulation specific to hospital school of nursing is below:

As specified in 22 Pa. Code § 121.32 Approved Institutions in Higher Education Grant Program, "If the institution is a hospital school of nursing located within this Commonwealth, the institution shall be initially, provisionally, or fully approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing and shall be accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC), the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), or any other accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education for the accreditation of nursing schools; if located outside this Commonwealth, the institution shall be legally authorized to do business by the appropriate state licensing or approval authority in the state in which it is doing business and shall be accredited by the *National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC), the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), or any other accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education for the accreditation of nursing schools."

*In 2013, the name of the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) was changed to the Accrediting Commission for Nursing Education (ACEN).

Business, Trade or Technical (BTT) School):

BTT schools must submit for PA State Grant approval of their institution and programs.

First time, BTT schools wanting to apply for participation in the PA State Grant Program will need to apply for PA State Grant approval of their institution and programs. BTT schools should send a letter of interest to PHEAA including the programs for which they are applying for PA State Grant approval. The letter should include the length of each program, degree awarded and the following items:

  • Approval letter from the PA Department of Education or appropriate state agency approving their campus and programs
  • Approval letter from accrediting agency approving their campus and programs
  • School catalog
  • Enrollment agreement for each program

BTT schools that are already approved for PA State Grant awards that want to apply for additional new program approvals should send a letter of interest to PHEAA including the name of the program, program length, and degree awarded along with the following items:

  • Enrollment agreement
  • Approval letter from the PA Department of Education or appropriate state agency
  • Program approval letter from their accrediting agency

PA State Grant BTT School institutional requests are prescreened for general eligibility. If PHEAA Institution Compliance and Eligibility determines that the school might be a valid PA State Grant candidate, an institution eligibility staff member will respond with an Application for Approval of Institution and Program of Study for the school to complete.

The regulation specific to BTT schools is below:

As specified in 22 Pa. Code § 121.32 Approved Institutions in Higher Education Grant Program, "If the institution is a trade, technical or business school located within this Commonwealth, the institution shall be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education or shall currently be, and shall have been throughout the preceding 24 months, licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Licensed Schools and shall be accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and its successors."

"If the institution is located outside this Commonwealth, it shall be degree-granting, shall be operated not-for-profit, and shall be fully accredited by the United States Department of Education or the regional institutional accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and its successors responsible for accreditation in the state where the institution is conducting its educational program."

Contact Information

Requests for institutional approval for participation in the PA State Grant Program can be emailed to SGInstitutionEligibility@pheaa.org or mailed to PHEAA’s Institution Compliance and Eligibility department.

Institution Compliance & Eligibility
PA State Grant and Special Programs
1200 North 7th Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102-1444

As an alternative, schools may call PHEAA Institution Eligibility and leave a message at (717) 720-2740, option 2.