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Course Program of Study

What is Course Program of Study as a requirement?

The Course Program of Study (CPoS) is a fairly recent federal law required for all colleges and universities. The scope is to define approved programs of study in the academic degree path and guide, advise and monitor students on that specific course path toward a degree. Eligibility for federal/state aid is directly tied to taking courses that apply specifically to that program/degree path. New software integrations now enable Belmont to actively and accurately monitor the CPoS requirements for every degree-seeking student, undergraduate and graduate, beginning at the start of the Fall 2021 semester.

What is a course program of study as defined for financial aid purposes?

A course program of study consists of courses required to complete a degree, inclusive of required coursework within the general education (BELL Core), major, concentration, minor and catalog. The specific courses for a student are identified through a degree evaluation tool (DegreeWorks). 


Frequently Asked Questions

Cost of Attendance is an estimate of the cost for students to go to school for a specific amount of time (semester or year) and is based on the student’s enrollment status. It includes allocations for tuition and fees, room and board, personal expenses, transportation, and other direct and indirect costs and establishes the amount of financial aid students can receive in a specific term.

Enrollment status for financial aid is based on outstanding coursework that applies toward the officially declared program of study.  If you are an undergraduate student enrolled in 12 hours that count towards your program of study, you will be considered a full-time student for cost of attendance purposes.  However, if only 9 of the 12 hours are required for your officially declared program of study, the tuition and book components of your COA will be reduced to a three-quarter time amount and the total amount of aid you can receive will also be reduced.

Enrollment Status Undergraduate Graduate
Full Time 12+ credits/semester 6+ credits/semester
Three Quarter Time 9-11 credits/semester 4-5 credits/semester
Half Time 6-8 credits/semester 3 credits/semester
Less Than Half Time 1-5 credits/semester 1-2 credits/semester

Disbursement of federal aid (Ex: Pell Grant, SEOG, Teach Grant, Work Study, Direct Loans, etc.) and state aid (Ex. TN State Grant and Lottery Scholarships) are based on eligible coursework.  Other State programs, Institutional and Departmental Scholarships are not subject to the same regulatory restrictions.  However, because your Cost of Attendance (COA) will be reduced for ineligible coursework, these sources of aid may be reduced given that your total aid cannot exceed your COA.

Students sometimes choose an undeclared major when entering college. Students who are “undeclared” default to a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. Courses that can be counted in the B.S. BELL Core are all eligible courses under CPoS. Students are encouraged to declare a major as soon as possible (and must be declared by the time they reach 64 credit hours). Federal regulations stipulate that a student must be in a degree-seeking program to be eligible for any Title IV (federal) aid.  While students are eligible to receive federal aid for these programs for up to a total of 63 earned hours, they must meet with their advisor to choose their major once they are nearing 64 earned hours.

It depends. PELL grants and student loans are the only refundable types of financial aid and could both be reduced if you take courses outside of your program of study. Additionally, because your COA will be reduced to the hours that are in your program of study, your overall financial aid may be reduced. Institutional financial aid will pay for any academic related charges; however, the financial aid you receive may not be sufficient to cover all tuition costs, leaving you responsible for paying the remaining balance or reducing your expected refund from financial aid.

Study abroad courses may count for financial aid if they count towards outstanding coursework in your officially declared program of study, which could be in the major, minor, BELL Core or open free electives. Check with your advisor on how study abroad may count toward the program of study.

Prior to registration, students should carefully review the catalog and speak to their academic advisor to ensure they are pursuing classes that count toward their Course Program of Study, i.e. the stated requirements for their major(s), minor(s) and/or BELL Core needs, toward the degree sought.

After you register or drop/add courses and personnel in the offices of the Registrar and Student Financial Services have reviewed the audit of your courses, you can identify whether your coursework is eligible / ineligible for aid purposes within the portal.

In a few cases where a course or courses might fit into a Course Plan of Study or a possible resolution might be available after review from the Registrar’s Office and/or Student Financial Aid they will reach out through the student’s Belmont E-mail.

The rules and regulations for institutional aid are not affected by CPoS. This means that CPoS guidelines do not change a student’s eligibility for receiving institutional aid. However, institutional aid has always been held to a student’s total Cost of Attendance (COA) assigned each academic year. This means that on a very rare occasion, a student who has a total financial aid package that is up to their COA could be impacted if a student takes a course that is not included in their program of study (declared major/minor) and the cost of attendance has to be adjusted.

Example: An undergraduate student who takes 12 hours fall/spring could have a COA of $58,555 for the academic year. If 3 of the 12 hours did not count in their program each term, this could reduce their total COA for the year to $46,745 due to CPoS guidelines for federal/state aid. The only time institutional aid might be affected would be if it was necessary to reduce those funds to stay within the new COA.

No. To receive a TN Lottery Scholarship and/ or a TN State Grant you must be enrolled at least half-time in credit hours that apply toward your officially declared program of study. Half-time enrollment is considered to be 6 hours, but because only 4 credits apply to your program of study, you are not considered enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for aid.

No. To receive a federal student loan, you must be enrolled at least half-time in 6 credit hours that apply toward your officially declared program of study. Because only 4 credits apply to your program of study, you are not enrolled at least half-time to be eligible.

It depends. Financial aid will disburse based on full-time enrollment status. If you have other institutional aid that can be applied to the additional hour of tuition, the full balance may be covered. If you only have federal/state financial aid that cannot be used to cover that additional hour of tuition, you may be responsible for paying for the additional credit hour not covered by financial aid.

A course substitution is the approval for one course not in the program of study to be approved to count as a substitute. For the current term, the Academic Advisor must approve and process a Belmont course substitution for another Belmont requirement that is part of the degree’s program of study by the drop/add period (first week of classes) for it to be included as eligible coursework for financial aid.

An undergraduate minor must be officially declared and reflected in Degree Works no later than the end of a drop and add period (first week of classes) to be included as eligible coursework for federal/state financial aid. If a major does not require a minor one may be added. If a major requires a minor a second may be added, with students focused on using available general free electives for the added minor.

Undergraduate double majors must be officially declared and reflected in Degree Works no later than the end of a drop and add period (first week of classes) to be included as eligible coursework for federal/state financial aid. Note that double majors have the minor waived. Under CPoS because by university policy the minor is waived, in cases of a double major, a minor is not eligible under financial aid.

Additionally, once students meet the degree requirements to complete one of the majors, they are considered to have earned a degree if the student elects to graduate, even if they are still completing the requirements for their other major.

Example: A student is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science with majors in Mathematics and Environmental Science. At the end of spring semester, the student meets the requirements to complete the Mathematics degree but will not finish the Environmental Science major until after the end of summer semester. If the student elects to graduate before also finishing the second major, then the student is not eligible for any federal or state of Tennessee financial aid for the summer semester, including the HOPE and TSAA Scholarships, because the student has already earned a first Bachelor’s degree. Student should consider graduation when both majors are completed.

Some programs of study at Belmont may have major or minor elective requirements. Most programs have general free elective requirements. Only those electives that count in the student’s program of study will be eligible.

Courses such as internships, licensure requirements and pre-requisites are covered for financial aid only if they are required and listed in the student’s course plan of study.

This answer is a bit more complicated as the answer depends upon both the type of aid and the timing of the program change:

  • Typically, except for student loans, aid that is disbursed by the census date (14th calendar day of a full-term fall or spring semester) is based on your program of study as of the census date.
  • For Federal Direct Loan purposes, your eligibility is based on your program of study as of the date of disbursement. 
  • Aid disbursed after the census date (14th calendar day of a full-term fall or spring semester) is based on your program of study as of the date of disbursement.
  • If you change your program of study beyond the census date and the current semester coursework no longer applies toward your new program of study, your previously disbursed aid will not be reduced since you were eligible at the time of disbursement or census date, as applicable.   However, if you decide to make application for a Federal Direct Loan beyond the census date and you are not enrolled at least half-time in eligible coursework that applies toward your new program of study, you will not be eligible for the Federal Direct Loan.

There may be an impulse to simply change your course of study (e.g. declare a new major or minor) for a class(es) you really want or think you need. However, given the federal/state guidelines, this action tests the ethical boundaries designed to accommodate your financial aid needs. Further, if you are wanting move in a different direction with your course of study it may be indicative that you are not in the program that best fits your educational goal. Changing your program of study should be done with caution. Always consult with an academic advisor when you are changing from one program to another as it can cause you to lose financial aid eligibility by reaching the maximum timeframe for completion of degree (i.e., the 150% rule which declares that financial aid recipients will be terminated upon reaching 150 percent of the number of credits needed to complete their degree program).

Only courses that are part of the program of study as documented in the degree evaluation tool (DegreeWorks) are eligible for financial aid.  For example, if you only need 3 hours to graduate but you choose to register for 6 hours to qualify for a Federal Direct Loan, you will not be eligible for the Direct Loan.

Check MyBelmont and/or Degree Works to see if your major(s) and minor(s) are officially declared and your catalog year is correct. Email or make an appointment with your academic advisor if you need to make adjustments to your officially declared program or courses.

Your aid is based on coursework that applies toward outstanding requirements in your program of study. Therefore, your aid may be reduced. You have two options:

1) Meet with your Academic Advisor to discuss your academic options. If the semester has not started, it may be in your best interest to drop the ineligible course(s) and enroll only in courses in your officially declared program that will be eligible for financial aid.


2) If the semester has already begun and your financial aid does not cover all of your tuition costs, you will be responsible for the outstanding balance owed. In some instances, your financial aid may still be enough to pay for course(s) that are not in your program. If not, the ineligible courses can be paid for out of pocket or through the Monthly Payment Plan.

Because you are not enrolled in any CPoS eligible coursework, you are not eligible for financial aid programs that follow CPoS rules.  If you are not receiving sufficient aid from sources that do not follow CPoS rules, BELMONT offers an Monthly Payment Plan during fall and spring semesters for students to help ease the burden of paying for college. However, if you plan on receiving financial aid in the future, then it is imperative that you maintain financial aid satisfactory academic progress.

During open registration students should check to be sure courses are part of the Course Plan of Study as indicated in their DegreeWorks / catalog.

In some instances, a course can be eligible to count depending on the particular circumstance. For example, an advisor may have directed the student to take a special studies or study abroad course that is not listed in the catalog or DegreeWorks as part of the plan of study. However, if the faculty advisor is planning on the course counting in the major or minor, students can ask about a “course substitution” form. In other situations, a student might be taking courses in a major of interest but has not officially declared the major. Declaring the major might be a resolution to courses being eligible after an audit review. In all cases, consult with a faculty advisor before making significant changes to your Course Plan of Study.

Still have questions?

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