“Compliance” -The unofficial theme at last week’s MASFAA Conference

admin ., Compliance

Posted:  November 13, 2013

The theme of this year’s annual MASFAA Conference was compliance, best practices and planning. From keynote speaker James Allen Fox’s discussion of campus safety and emergency planning to Wentworth Institute of Technology’s (WIT) Anne-Marie Caruso and Kimberly Tibbetts’s presentation on “Building an Effective Compliance Program at Your Institution,” the message was clear: colleges and universities need to proactively manage their campus-wide compliance and regulatory responsibilities.

During her session, Kimberly provided institutions with reasons they should review best practices for building a compliance review team. Kimberly and Anne-Marie emphasized the need for institutions to map out a campus-wide review of policies and procedures to ensure they align not only with Federal Student Aid guidelines but with considerations for the protection of student privacy, safety and other higher education regulations.

Kimberly also stressed the need for objectivity for the individuals charged with compliance programs. “It is important that the person or team involved in this compliance program either work for an outside entity or report only to the Board of Directors,” she said. “This will ensure that compliance is the focus and the results won’t be skewed by hierarchical relationships.”

What constitutes a good compliance review?

• The development of a detailed list of regulatory requirements:  Are you meeting these requirements? How do requirements relate to/overlap with other offices on your campus? How can you implement a team dedicated to regularly reviewing compliance objectives? Is this team objective enough to provide an outside perspective to ensure best practices?

• Communicating the need for compliance reviews to president and board members:  They share a fiduciary duty and should understand the risks faced by the institution for lack of compliance.  Other risks for colleges include regulatory matters (fines, audits, loss of programs) and market risk (public relations issues can damage your institution’s brand)

• Implementing best practices procedures for staff:  Regular staff training; Tying performance goals to compliance requirements

When asked how many institutions had implemented compliance review teams at their institutions, astonishingly, only one school representative (out of about 50 session attendees) raised her hand. The rest agreed they needed such a review, and welcomed it, but didn’t have the resources available to implement one. Many schools were interested in finding out ways they could begin implementing compliance programs and were open to having outside consultants work with them to ensure they followed best practices.

Here at HEAG, this is one of our specialties. By providing a complete Title IV compliance review, we can assist you with developing a strong compliance program in your office and using the technology available to you to ensure that your institution is using best practices when administering Federal Student Aid.

For more information on how HEAG can assist your campus with implementing a strong compliance program, please contact Colleen King at cking@heag.us.

Prepared by:  Jennifer J. Roberts, Financial Aid Consultant/Systems Analyst, HEAG