The Challenges of Continuing Education: NYU School of Professional Studies

Going back to school offers many potential rewards. It can help you get ahead at work; it can give you the tools you need to get a brand-new job; it can remind you that old dogs can still learn new tricks. Nothing that's truly rewarding, though, is ever easy. Continuing education (CE) programs can be challenging. That's especially true for a school attached to NYU. New York University has an international reputation for serious education, and even if you're not trying to obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree, you can still expect to be held to high standards.

So, here's the big question: What do you need to worry about this time around? What sorts of challenges will you face? What strategies can you put in place to overcome these challenges?

Generally speaking, there are two main areas of concern for NYU School of Professional Studies (SPS) CE students. First, there are academics. That involves anything related to completing your coursework, from due dates for homework assignments to avoiding plagiarism. In addition, though, NYU has a set of non-academic disciplinary standards. Generally speaking, these include all the many activities that don't, strictly speaking, relate to classes, from how you behave in the lunch room to how you treat people in online forums.

Below, you'll find information on both of these topics, including descriptions of just what can go wrong. You'll also find information on getting help when you run into problems, because even as a CE student, dealing with your university can be a complicated matter.


Let's start our discussion with academics. After all, learning is the primary reason why you've decided to go back to school in the first place.

NYU's continuing education courses are offered as part of the SPS. The program offers some 1500 separate courses in 30 different areas of study. This includes a wide range of topics, from hospitality and public relations, to accounting and the humanities. You can take individual courses or apply them to obtaining certification in subjects like Art and Preservation, Real Estate Construction, and Global Affairs and Fundraising.

Whatever you're studying, though, and whatever specific courses you might be taking, you'll face some rigid requirements. Keep in mind that you're attending NYU.

Certificate Requirements

While you have the option to take any course in its “Non-Evaluative” (NE) or Pass/Fail form, NE and Pass/Fail grades do not count towards the completion of a certificate. If you're going to obtain credit for your work, you're going to need to deal with real grades.

Grades and grade points are similar to those you'd find in any undergraduate or graduate university program: A, B, C, D, and F. However, NYU uses a plus/ minus system, so an A minus does not count as much as an A in figuring grade point averages. The former is worth 4 points, while the latter is worth just 3.667 points. The same applies to Bs, Cs, and Ds.

In addition to these general aspects of the CE program, each certificate program maintains its own specific set of requirements. So, for example, the Certificate in TV and Film Producing requires students complete six courses: five core courses and an elective. A certificate in Data Analytics, on the other hand, requires five courses, but only one of these is a required course. A certificate in Python programming requires just four courses, but all of them must be completed within three years.

Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy

If you receive financial aid to pursue your continuing education degree or certificate, you also need to be aware of NYU's Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP, Policy.

SAP reviews happen at the end of each academic term to determine whether you are making proper progress toward your degree or certification. These reviews were instituted by the federal government as a way to cap education expenditures. Essentially, they ensure that students are actually completing the courses for which they're given aid, so no one can game the system. Bottom line: you must prove each semester that you deserve continued financial support.

Failing to meet SAP standards means risking grant and loan money, even if you are otherwise meeting the expectations of your certificate program.

NYU's SAP standards are quantitative. Basically, they require you to complete at least two-thirds, or 67 percent, of the courses you attempt. Completion, of course, means passing, since you earn no credit for courses you fail or courses from which you withdraw.

Should you fail to meet SAP requirements in any given semester, NYU will place you on “financial aid suspension” until such time as you meet the requirements again.

However, you may appeal an SAP suspension once during your academic career, and ask instead to be placed on “financial aid probation.” Of course, if you fail to meet that two-thirds completion threshold after that semester, you wind up in financial aid suspension.

SAP programs can make it difficult to hold on to your financial aid. It can be even more difficult to get aid back once you've lost it. The right attorney can help you gather evidence and draft documents to make sure your financial support is safe.

Attendance Policies

NYU's Continuing Education program does not require class attendance as such. However, many instructors do write such requirements into their syllabuses, and the program will honor those requirements. Should you miss too many classes, you could find yourself with a lower grade or dismissed from the course altogether. This kind of dismissal also counts against your SAP.

Again, if you find yourself in trouble over absences, an experienced education attorney may be able to help. An attorney who's worked with continuing education students and who understands the NYU system may be able to negotiate with your instructor to make sure you aren't unfairly penalized.

Issues of Academic Honesty

Schools take academic integrity very seriously these days. That includes CE programs. Cheating is on the rise at every educational level, and many faculty have responded by adopting increasingly restrictive policies. Simply put, instructors are far more likely to accuse you of dishonesty and far more likely to give you a harsh penalty if they decide you are guilty of an infraction. Multiple infractions, of course, can get you suspended or expelled from the program. Even a far less extreme sanction, though, could put your progress in jeopardy. Many businesses won't honor a certificate if there's any sort of notation about cheating on it. All your money and time could be wasted.

NYU has a process for handling grade complaints and appeals.

The official policy states that once they have been recorded, “grades cannot be changed” unless your instructor made an error in the grading process. However, you can initiate a grade review process by submitting a letter to your program director outlining your specific objections to your grade and offering supporting documentation. The program director's decision is final, though, so it's important you draft your appeal carefully. This, too, is something an attorney can help with.

Disciplinary Misconduct

In addition to its policies prohibiting academic misconduct, NYU's CE program also has rules prohibiting disciplinary misconduct. Schools are communities, after all, and they must have some standards of behavior if students and faculty are going to get along with one another.