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FSA Consumer Information Review Is Heating Up Amid Growing Campus Unrest
If a political protest turns violent at your college or university campus, not only will student safety and your school’s reputation be compromised, you might also find your institution in violation of Federal Student Aid (FSA) consumer information requirements — and owe a hefty $30,000 fine per offense.
Consumer information rules call for higher education administrations to disclose information to their students about their schools’ security, financial assistance, drug and alcohol abuse prevention, housing, and other right-to-know matters. Were a violent crime, riot, or drug-related event to occur on your campus, you’d likely find yourself host to a team of program reviewers from the Department of Education (ED) on the heels of the incident. But even in the course of a routine review, the ED is cracking down on consumer information compliance.
In fact, in the ED’s most recent list of the year’s top 10 program review findings, four run afoul of consumer information requirements:
- Crime awareness requirements not met
- Drug abuse prevention programs requirements not met
- Entrance/exit counseling deficiencies
- Consumer information requirements not met
With campus political activity heating up, drug abuse escalating, and regulatory review intensifying, consumer information requirements are something you should sit up and pay attention to.
Program reviews are narrowing in on consumer information requirements
The Uniform Guidance (UG) doesn’t oblige auditors to check your institution for compliance with the consumer information requirements. But, this is one area the ED has been focusing on during program reviews, and it is becoming more active in investigating incidents on campuses and quicker to assess fines.
Violent demonstrations like those like that occurred at University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the University of Washington, and UC Berkeley (just to name a few) are on the rise. Plus, the opioid crisis has seeped into campus grounds, and student financial aid debt is climbing beyond sustainability. Your administration should take a closer look at consumer information requirements, both to help protect the physical and financial health of your students and avoid findings and penalties.
Strengthen compliance with an FSA self-assessment
The Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) website has an FSA assessments tool, which includes compliance checklists and is a great way to determine if your institution has all the required policies and disclosures in place. The FSA assessments include a checklist specifically addressing the consumer information provisions, with breakouts for drug and alcohol prevention, Campus Security/Clery Act, loan disclosures, and others. If your school hasn’t already completed the assessment, consider it another component of school safety and undertake a self-review.
How we can help
Many institutions don’t have the resources to complete the FSA assessments. CLA’s higher education professionals can take them on for you and help you zero in on the areas that need the most attention. We can work with your administration to implement procedural changes, train your staff, and prepare for a program review.