Consumer Information: Not Just a Job for Financial Aid

By Sarah Austin, NASFAA Standards of Excellence (SOE) Program Manager

Student consumer information is a regulatory issue that involves many different areas on campus, so it can be difficult to identify any one person who should be responsible for complying with  requirements. Often, the responsibility of ensuring compliance with consumer information requirements falls on the financial aid office, but the reality is there are numerous campus departments responsible for compliance. 

NASFAA's Standards of Excellence (SOE) peer review program offers a specialized Consumer Information Assessment, a fully remote review of an institution's compliance with the consumer information regulations and requirements. The assessment is performed by a trained assessment leader who is currently a practicing financial aid administrator who has earned the Consumer Information NASFAA Credential

Brad Barnett, an assessment leader for the SOE peer review program, has heard from more than one financial aid office that other parts of their campus don't seem to take [consumer information] rules as seriously as the aid office does. "In fact, one financial aid director told me she requested the SOE Consumer Information Assessment so she could get outside help in showing her campus how seriously other parts of her school should be paying attention to these rules," Barnett said. 

A common recommendation from the assessment leader is for the institution to create a consumer information team. Barnett adds, "It's important that schools consider creating a cross-divisional team to oversee consumer information, ensuring that each area of campus is complying with the requirements. Understanding this is a campus-wide requirement, and getting the right people around the table to oversee [it], is a great way to ensure the school is staying on top of everything that needs to be done when it comes to consumer information."

Here are a few departments that might need to be on a cross-divisional consumer information team and areas they might oversee:

Department

Areas of Consumer Information

Financial Aid

Direct Loan counseling materials, disbursement notifications, Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, Net Price Calculator, preferred lender list and disclosures 

Campus Security

Crime log, annual security report 

Registrar's Office

Official withdrawal procedures, Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), completion and graduation rates, voter registration forms

Billing and Student Accounts

Tier 1 (T1) and Tier 2 (T2) arrangement disclosures, refund policies

Human Resources

Drug and alcohol abuse prevent program, Drug-Free Workplace statement


Lack of compliance with student consumer information is a common finding in the U.S. Department of Education (ED) program reviews. In January 2020, ED announced its annual increase of maximum fines, which include a fine of up to $58,328 for each student consumer information violation. Therefore, a lack of compliance on several issues can add up to a costly financial liability to the institution. Compliance with student consumer information need not be cumbersome if a team works together on this federal requirement. 

If you want help ensuring you are in compliance with consumer information requirements, complete our no-obligation information request form to learn more about NASFAA's Consumer Information Assessment review. Read more about the experiences of Foothill College and University of Western States regarding their Consumer Information Assessment reviews. 

 

Publication Date: 10/5/2020


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