Certificate Program Requirements

Understanding Certificate Programs at GVSU

Certificates can be awarded to degree-seeking students only (an “embedded” certificate), or awarded as stand-alone certificates. In “embedded” certificate programs, the student completes the certificate while pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in any field and need not complete any special application to the certificate program. The certificate and the student’s major may be in very different fields. If available as a stand-alone certificate, students can apply directly into only the certificate program and need not enroll as degree-seeking students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree.

Currently, all graduate certificates and many undergraduate certificates are offered as stand-alone programs. This means that a student can apply specifically to the certificate program--regardless of whether they are already pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree at Grand Valley, or are a community member wishing to come back to school just for the certificate program. Students who are already pursuing an undergraduate degree can add a certificate to their record by filling out a form on Self-Service Banner.

Additional information regarding each kind of certificate program is included in the chart below.

Please contact Ellen Schendel in the Provost’s Office (331-2400, [email protected]) before entering any stand-alone/graduate certificate programs in Sail in order to work through the Gainful Employment implications of such a program.


Stand-alone certificate program

Embedded certificate program

What does it mean for students?

  • Students can earn the certificate without earning any other GVSU credential, or they can be simultaneously enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program.
  • Students apply directly to the certificate program; there is a specific admissions decision for the certificate, and the certificate is awarded when coursework for it is complete.
  • Students are degree-seeking and complete the certificate while taking other courses towards the degree.
  • Students are awarded the certificate when they complete the coursework for it. This may be before or concurrent with the completion of coursework for their degree.

Are there special regulations governing the certificate?

Per federal requirements, all stand-alone certificate programs are Gainful Employment Programs, requiring individualized student reporting each year.

Embedded certificate programs are not considered to be Gainful Employment Programs and thus do not require special oversight by the DOE.

What needs to be reported to the Department of Education (DOE) in order to allow students to receive federal financial aid?

Annually, Financial Aid must report to the Dept of Education all of the following data:

  • Program Name (as approved by UCC)
  • Number of Credit Hours to complete the program (as approved by UCC)
  • Average Number of Weeks to complete the program
  • CIP code
  • First date the program will be provided
  • Individual student data including loan debt, completion rate, if they withdraw from the program, and placement of student in a gainfully employed occupation (the program is responsible for collecting only this last item).

Nothing, because students completing an embedded certificate program are already pursuing a degree and thus are eligible for financial aid on that basis.

What special work must the unit/program offering the certificate do?  

Offering this certificate will require that you:

  • Track placement rates for the students that have graduated with the certificate each year. 
  • Put a disclosure statement on promotional materials and the homepage of the certificate program’s website. Any updates to this statement will be communicated to you by Financial Aid or the Provost’s Office

Nothing, because the certificate is not a Gainful Employment program and thus is not subject to regulatory requirements of the DOE.


Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership:  https://www.gvsu.edu/spnha/graduate-certificate-in-nonprofit-leadership-12.htm

Latino/a Studies Certificate:  https://www.gvsu.edu/lsc/

Certificate of International Teaching Experience (CITE): https://www.gvsu.edu/coe/undergraduate/certificate-of-international-teaching-experience-24.htm 

Page last modified June 7, 2021