US Diploma

Program Integrity Questions and Answers

Questions on this topic are divided into the following categories:

In addition to the Q&As listed below, please see the following resources for guidance related to High School Diploma:

Recognized Equivalent of a High School Diploma (RED)

RED-Q1. The regulations at 34 CFR 600.2 include the definition of a “recognized equivalent of a high school diploma.” One of those equivalents is “an academic transcript of a student who has successfully completed at least a two-year program that is acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor’s degree.” Does this mean that any coursework that is at least two years or more is an acceptable equivalent of a high school diploma?

RED-A1. No. To be a “recognized equivalent of a high school diploma, ” the two years of coursework must be acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor’s degree. The following are considered the equivalent of completing a "two-year program, " regardless of the time it takes a student to complete the coursework (e.g., on an accelerated schedule):

  1. Successful completion of an associate’s degree program;
  2. Successful completion of at least 60 semester or trimester credit hours or 72 quarter credit hours that does not result in the awarding of an associate’s degree, but that is acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor’s degree at any institution; or
  3. Enrollment in a bachelor’s degree program where at least 60 semester or trimester credit hours or 72 quarter credit hours have been successfully completed, including credit hours transferred into the bachelor’s degree program.
    [Guidance issued 1/24/2014; revised 7/7/2015]

RED-Q2. How can an institution verify whether an online GED program is valid?

RED-A2. The regulatory provision that allows a GED certificate to be considered the “equivalent of a high school diploma” requires obtaining the certificate. The requirement is not satisfied by completing a “GED program.” For Title IV purposes, there is no concept of a valid GED program, online or not. The student must take and pass the GED test in person at a designated GED Testing Center. Once the student has completed all sections of the GED test and passed by satisfactorily meeting minimum scores, the State will issue a certificate of high school equivalency.

The student may also be issued an official GED transcript by the test publisher or the jurisdiction where the test was taken which will provide the test scores for each academic content area of the GED test. Institutions often use the GED transcript to make academic placement determinations. The GED transcript meets the definition of a recognized equivalent of a high school diploma if, in addition to the content scores, the official GED transcript indicates that the student passed the GED test. [Guidance issued 1/24/2014]

RED-Q3. Please advise if a certificate of high school completion is sufficient for a student to be eligible for Title IV funding.

RED-A3. No. Generally a certificate of high school completion (as opposed to a high school diploma) is issued to students who have completed high school coursework, but who have not met all the academic high school graduation requirements, including passing any required examinations.

We rely on a State's determination as to what constitutes a high school diploma including whether a certificate of high school completion is equivalent to a high school diploma in that State. Therefore, institutions should check with the State in which the certificate of high school completion was awarded to see if that State considers the certificate of high school completion to be a high school diploma or its equivalent. [Guidance issued 1/24/2014]

Checking the Validity of a High School Diploma (CVD)

CVD-Q1. Do high schools have to be accredited for their graduates to be eligible for Title IV aid?

CVD-A1. For Title IV student aid purposes, there is no requirement that a high school be accredited. In determining whether a student’s high school diploma is valid, the Federal Student Aid Handbook suggests that institutions check with the appropriate state agency in the State in which the high school is located to determine if a diploma issued from that school is recognized by that State as a high school diploma. [Guidance issued 1/24/2014]

CVD-Q2. How can an institution determine whether a student’s high school diploma is valid for purposes of establishing Title IV eligibility?

CVD-A2. Final regulations published on October 29, 2010, require postsecondary institutions to develop and apply procedures to evaluate the validity of a student’s high school diploma if the institution or the Department has reason to believe that the diploma is not valid or was not obtained from an entity that provides secondary school education (34 CFR §668.16(p)).

Because we rely on a State's determination as to what constitutes a high school diploma in that State, we encourage institutions to check with the relevant department or agency in the State in which the high school is located to determine if a diploma from the high school (which does not have to be accredited) is recognized by that State (see Volume 1 of the Federal Student Aid Handbook). Another resource within the State that an institution may want to consult with is the State attorney General’s office. For example, one State attorney General’s office has taken enforcement actions against entities that issue diplomas or other certificates of completion of secondary education without providing a legitimate secondary school education.

Another publication that may be helpful to institutions is the “State Regulation of Private and Home Schools” which provides a brief description for each state’s legal requirements that apply to K–12 private schools in the United States. See . [Guidance issued 2/23/2016] New

Documenting High School Completion Status (DHC)


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