Course Program of Study (CPOS)

What is Course Program of Study (CPOS) and why is it important to me as a student?

CPOS can impact your eligibility for federal financial aid.

The U.S. Department of Education requires that SMC, like all institutions, ensure financial aid funds are only used to pay for courses that apply to a student’s program of study (major/curriculum). CPOS is a federal regulation that requires that only courses that count directly toward your program of study (major/curriculum) can be counted toward your enrollment level, which is used to determine your federal financial aid eligibility.

  • How do I know what courses count directly toward my program of study (major/curriculum)?

    A student can refer to either the DegreeWorks graduation audit or the college catalog to see the courses that count directly toward a program of study. All students are required to have a defined curriculum. Students who are unsure what their curriculum should be or what courses align with their curriculum are encouraged to speak with an advisor.

  • Are general education and MTA courses covered under CPOS rules?

    For A.A. and A.S. degree programs, all general education and MTA courses would be eligible for financial aid. However, caution should be exercised. If a student’s program of study requires only two humanities courses and the student enrolls in a third humanities course after completing the first two successfully, the student may not be eligible for federal financial aid for the third humanities course. For A.A.S. degree programs, only specific general education courses defined as a part of the program and higher-level math courses are eligible for federal aid.

  • When does CPOS take effect?

    CPOS will officially take effect for all students when registration begins in October 2021 for the Spring 2022 semester, but all students should prepare immediately to ensure that their course registration aligns with their curriculum choice.

  • How will I know if I am impacted by CPOS?

    If you are impacted by CPOS, you will receive notification from the Financial Aid Office that you may have enrolled in a course that is not financial aid eligible. A student’s financial aid awards are visible in the Financial Aid section of the Student Dashboard.

  • What should I do if I receive notification saying that my financial aid has been impacted by CPOS?

    You should review your course registration for the semester and contact your advisor with your questions.

  • Does CPOS impact all types of financial aid?

    No. CPOS affects state aid and federal financial aid including the Pell Grant, Direct Loans, PLUS loans, and Federal Work Study.

  • What are some examples of how CPOS works?

    Example 1:  A student is enrolled in 12 credits, but 6 of those credits do not apply to their program of study. In this case, federal financial aid will be based on a 6-credit enrollment level (half-time). Federal Pell Grant will be awarded at half-time instead of full-time. Neither Federal Direct Loans nor Federal Work-Study will be impacted.

    Example 2:  A student is enrolled in 6 credits, but 3 of them do not apply to the student’s degree or certificate program of study. In this case, the federal Pell grant will be awarded at less than half-time instead of half-time.  Federal Direct Loans will be impacted. Students will not be eligible for Federal Direct Loans at a less than half-time enrollment level. Federal Work-Study may also be impacted.

  • What are the definitions of enrollment levels?
    • Full-time student = 12 or more enrolled credits in a semester after CPOS is applied.
    • Three-quarter time student = 9 to 11 enrolled credits in a semester after CPOS is applied.
    • Half-time student = 6 to 8 enrolled credits in a semester after CPOS is applied.
    • Less than half-time student = 1 to 5 enrolled credits in a semester after CPOS is applied.
    • Please note that students who withdraw from a course are no longer considered enrolled in the course for that semester, and therefore, their enrollment level may change.  Changes to enrollment level can have an impact on financial aid availability and eligibility.
  • What should I do to prevent the impact of CPOS on my financial aid?

    First, check your curriculum of study (major) on Wired to ensure that it is up-to-date and accurate.  If not, contact your advisor to have your curriculum changed.

    Second, before registering each semester, contact your advisor to ensure that the courses you select to enroll in are a part of your academic plan.

    Third, review your graduation audit through DegreeWorks to ensure that you are taking courses in your program of study that lead to a degree or certificate.

  • What about transitional/developmental courses that are not a part of my program of study, according to the catalog, but I am still required to take?

    Depending on a student’s test scores, some students are required to take “transitional” courses. When passed, these transitional courses satisfy the prerequisite for other courses in a student’s program of study. Examples of transitional courses may be MATH 101, MATH 102, or ENGL 115 to name a few. No more than 12 credits of transitional courses can be used in a student’s program toward graduation requirements, even though up to 30 allowable credits of transitional or developmental courses may be permitted by financial aid regulations. Courses below 100 level (e.g., MATH 098) are not countable credits toward graduation requirements but are still eligible for federal financial aid within the 30 credit limit.

  • What should I do if I find out that one or more of the courses I’m registered for doesn’t count in my program of study (major)?

    Students are responsible to work with their advisor and to use the catalog and DegreeWorks to ensure that courses count toward their program of study. If certain courses do not apply to your program of study, and you think that they should, contact your advisor at

  • How can I find out what SMC has listed as my current program of study (major)?

    Login to Wired. Click on Student Dashboard. Find your name in the upper left corner and read what is listed under the section titled “Major.”

  • When is the last day to change my program of study (major) for the semester and potentially impact CPOS?

    All program/curriculum changes for a semester should be made by the first day of the semester. On rare occasions, curriculum changes may be permitted through the semester’s first-week add and drop period. Any change of major/curriculum forms received after this point must be applied to the next semester.

  • When is the last day to change my course schedule to conform to CPOS?

    All enrollment changes for a semester should be made before the end of the first full week of the semester. The Records Office will email all enrolled students during the first full week of the semester to inform them of the deadline for the last day to add and drop credits. This is also the last day to change your schedule and potentially impact CPOS. View the academic calendar in Wired for this date.

  • Can I still take a course that doesn’t count toward my program of study?

    Yes, absolutely. You may take a course that does not apply toward your program of study, however because of CPOS, it will not count toward your financial aid enrollment level which is used to determine your financial aid eligibility.

  • Can I repeat a course and still get federal financial aid?

    The course must count toward your program of study and meet the federal and institutional requirements for repeating a course. A student may receive financial aid for only one repetition of a previously passed course, even if a higher grade is needed as a prerequisite for the next-level course. If a student enrolls for a third time in a course for which he/she previously received a passing grade, there will be a recalculation of aid to exclude the credits for the repeated course.

  • Is there an appeal process to override CPOS?

    No, there is no appeal process to override CPOS regulations. CPOS is not a SMC rule, but a federal one. If a course is found to not apply toward your program of study, it is not eligible for federal financial aid.

  • I’m a guest college student. How does CPOS impact me at SMC?

    Guest college students are not eligible for financial aid at SMC. Guest college students are not deemed to be in a degree or certificate-seeking program of study, but are taking courses through SMC to transfer back to their home institution. The student should ensure that their program of study is accurate with the home institution.

  • What if I have more questions about CPOS and how it may impact me?

    Please email questions about CPOS to a financial aid counselor at or to your advisor at