Course Program of Study

Title IV federal financial aid requirement that limits awarding of financial aid to courses that meet students’ degree requirements. Federal student financial assistance programs are authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and are administered by the U.S. Department of Education. These programs provide our students with access to federal grants, loans, and work study funds.


What is CPOS?

It's an acronym that stands for Course Program of Study. It is a mechanism by which we can determine which courses are required for your degree and by using this mechanism, the College meets the expectations from the Department of Education for the awarding and release of federal financial aid.

When is it going into effect?

Fall 2023. However, most students will need to start planning ahead now.

Why are we doing this now?

This is not a new federal financial aid requirement, but now that our student information system (Banner) has a way to determine course eligibility for financial aid, we are expected to use it to meet the requirement. The policy has been that since typically it requires 8 semesters to complete a bachelor degree, students had to appeal for an extension of financial aid eligibility in their ninth or tenth semester. What is new today is that we now have the technology and software available to implement a systematic Course Program of Study monitoring program that the Department of Education expects of all colleges that disburse Title IV funds.

Who is this for?

CPOS is for both undergraduate and graduate students who receive federal financial aid. While only students who receive federal financial aid will be affected by a CPOS evaluation, the CPOS functionality in Degree Works will apply to all students. Faculty and staff academic advisors will not know which students receive federal financial aid (and need to follow CPOS-related guidelines) and which do not. Therefore, academic advisors will advise all students to follow CPOS-related guidelines. If you are not a federal financial aid recipient, you do not need to follow the CPOS-related guidelines. While faculty and staff academic advisors have a role to help answer questions and guide students, students will ultimately be responsible for making sure they are taking courses that apply to their Program of Study for the receipt of federal financial aid.

What is a Program of Study?

Undergraduate Definition: A student's undergraduate program of study includes the graduation requirements for a bachelor's degree, which are comprised of the following curriculum blocks:

  • Christ at the Core - including the Shared Core, Thematic Core, and Core Competencies
  • One or more majors (which may have concentrations or emphases) declared by the student and 
  • Any minors, certificates, fellowship programs, or endorsements declared by the student. 
  • The graduation requirements for a bachelor's degree may include general electives, if they are needed for a student to complete 124 semester hours.  
  • A minimum of 124 successfully completed semester hours are required for a bachelor's degree. The credit requirements for some undergraduate programs of study exceed 124 hours.

Graduate Definition: The course and credit requirements in a Graduate School program are listed in the catalog under the "Requirements" tab that is associated with each program.

What is the most important takeaway that students need to know?

Students are eligible for federal financial aid for courses that are meeting their Program of Study requirements.

  • For Undergraduate student:
Number of credits that apply to your Program of StudyYour federal financial aid enrollment status
12 credits or more Full-time
9.0-11.9 credits  Three-quarter-time 
6.0-8.9 credits  Half-time 
0-5.9 credits  Less-than-half-time 
  •  For Graduate student:
Number of credits that apply to your Program of StudyYour federal financial aid enrollment status
8 credits or more Full-time
6.0-7.9 credits Three-quarter-time
4.0-5.9 credits Half-time
0-3.9 credits Less-than-half-time

There are some exceptions for courses like thesis and dissertation continuation.

What additional key points do undergraduate students need to know?

You can take courses that do not apply to your program of study, but you must be sure to take 12 credits that do apply (in order to get full-time federal financial aid).

CPOS chart

The undergraduate tutition is a flat rate for 12-18 credits. Students pay the same tution if they take 12 credits as if they take 18 credits. 

  • Once a student is enrolled in 12 credits of courses that apply to their Program of Study, they will still receive full-time federal financial aid for up to 18 credits. Those additional 6 hours do not need to be CPOS-eligible courses. When students exceed 18 credits, they will pay additional tuition for those extra hours, and that additional tuition is not eligible for federal financial aid.

What counts in your degree program?

Undergraduate Students: Anything that Degree Works identifies as a requirement (that you have not already met) is eligible for CPOS. Any courses that meet Christ at the Core, major, minor, concentration, emphasis, endorsement, certificate, or fellowship program requirements, as well as any general electives that are required for a student to complete 124 credits for the bachelor's degree.

  • Ideally, all curriculum blocks need to be declared prior to registration, but they must be declared prior to the start of the term in order for their courses to be eligible for financial aid or scholarships. 
  • Students who have an approved substitution for a major, minor or certificate (not CATC) requirement should work with their faculty advisor to initiate the process to have these substitutions recorded on their records prior to the start of the term.

Graduate Students: Any courses that meet catalog requirements for your program, including any of the following that might apply:

  • The Biblical and Theological Studies Requirement (TSR)
  • Core courses
  • Concentration or track courses
  • Thesis or dissertation courses 
  • Program elective courses that are needed to meet the minimum required credits for the degree  

Since Graduate School programs are typically designed for a prescribed sequence of required courses, we anticipate that most degree-seeking Graduate School students will only be taking CPOS-eligible courses. However, if you are taking courses that will substitute for specific requirements in your program, you’ll need to have those substitutions approved and processed in order for CPOS to count them as eligible for your degree. You should work with your faculty advisor to initiate the approval process so the substitution can be applied to your records prior to the start of the term. Substitutions not processed prior to the start of the term could result in the courses not being eligible for financial aid.

How will Degree Works know which courses are part of your degree program?

Degree Works does the following calculation for undergraduate students:

CPOS degree works does math

For all students, Degree Works has been updated so each student’s general electives are organized into two "buckets": Those credits that are required for the degree (CPOS-eligible) and those credits that are excessive and not required for the degree (CPOS-ineligible).

How can you know which credits apply to CPOS and which don’t?

Degree Works has been updated so that you are able to look at the general elective section in Degree Works, which has two "buckets" (CPOS-eligible and CPOS-ineligible).  Those credits in the “CPOS-ineligible” bucket do not apply to CPOS. The rest do.  

This is important: Prior to registration, you can tell which credits will and won’t apply to CPOS by using the "What-If" and "Future Classes" features in the New Degree Works Dashboard. Here’s how:

  1. Underneath the header, you’ll see two options: "Academic" and "What-If."  Select “What-If.”  
  2. Then check the “Use current curriculum” box.  
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and enter the courses you’re planning to register for in the next semester under “Future Classes.”  
  4. Select “Process,” and you’ll see a Degree Works evaluation that puts your future courses into their appropriate places.  
  5. Scroll to the General Electives. If you are planning to take any courses that are not required for your Program of Study, they’ll appear in the “CPOS-ineligible” section.

After registration, any courses in the current or future semesters that do not apply to CPOS will also appear in your Degree Works header.

Remember: As long as you have 12 (undergraduate) or 8 (graduate) credits that are applying to your degree requirements and therefore CPOS-eligible in the term, you will be eligible for full-time financial aid and can take CPOS-ineligible courses in that semester.

What does CPOS mean for you?

Plan ahead. If you are wanting to be full-time for federal financial aid, plan out your courses in advance to make sure to take at least 12 (undergraduate) or 8 (graduate) credits of required classes each semester. Do not save non-required courses for your final one or two semesters! Space them out! When you need a course substitution, such as for your major, work with your faculty advisor or department chair to have the Departmental Recommendation processed prior to registration. That way, if you register for a course that will substitute and meet a requirement in your major, Degree Works will know that and the course will count as a major requirement for the CPOS calculation.

What else can you expect?

You can expect that there will be some curriculum changes starting in Fall 2023.  For example: Music ensembles will have 0-credit and .5 credit sections; prerequisites for required courses in a curriculum block may appear as eligible for CPOS upon registration; supporting courses will be included as requirements in the majors; and, there may be new certificates that represent non-major groups of courses that undergraduate students were previously advised to take in order to prepare for Graduate School or their professions. 

Last but not least, check out the FAQs on this website.

We will be continuing to build out the FAQs as we receive your questions and as implementation continues. Please ask us your questions! You can best direct your inquiry using the contact information below.