Common Compliance Issues A NASFAA Standards Of Excellence Review Can Help Correct

By Katy Hopkins, Communications Staff, and Susan Luhman, Membership & Program Services Staff

Whether you’re wondering if your institution is in compliance or you’re looking for affirmation that all your office processes are efficient, a Standards of Excellence (SOE) review can help. 

Since 1999, the SOE peer review program has helped NASFAA member institutions across the country achieve the highest standards in the administration of student financial aid, which has, in turn, enhanced service to students and families. An SOE review can offer your school the added assurance that you have correctly interpreted and implemented new policies and procedures to address new regulations.

During the 2013-14 school year, SOE peer reviewers uncovered six common compliance issue areas. (All schools reviewed will be kept confidential.)

  1. Student Consumer Information: Every school reviewed had issues with student consumer information, which may have included having an outdated net price calculator or missing an annual student consumer information notification, a sample loan repayment schedule, or gainful employment information, among many other requirements.
  2. Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP): Seventy-eight percent of institutions reviewed had at least one issue related to SAP. Examples include missing information about how to reestablish Title IV eligibility if a student fails to meet the SAP standards and has not appealed, and calculating SAP status only for students who had received financial aid during the term.
  3. Verification: Fifty-six percent of institutions had incomplete verification policies and procedures, including omitting procedures for referring suspected fraud to the Office of the Inspector General, or missing information about waivers and modifications under the HEROES Act.
  4. Eligibility and Certification Approval Report (ECAR) Information: Fifty-six percent of institutions were missing ECAR information, such as information on third party servicers or certificate programs. 
  5. Drug-free Workplace: Fifty-six percent of institutions reviewed were missing components necessary for a drug-free workplace, such as an annual drug-free statement or drug-free program for employees. 
  6. Consortium Agreements: Fifty-six percent of institutions reviewed had consortium agreement issues, such as determining which institution is responsible for disbursing aid, monitoring student eligibility, procedures for calculating awards, and monitoring SAP. 

An SOE review can assess whether your institution is falling short of compliance on any of these common issues, among many others, and can get your office on the right track. 

“Given the number of rules and regulations a financial aid office has to follow, and the university has to follow to retain its Title IV [eligibility], I doubt there is any office that is 100 percent compliant, no matter how hard we try,” one SOE participant said. “A Standards of Excellence review was one way to help us understand where to concentrate our energy and to prepare us for a more in-depth review. With Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act looming in the near future, we want to know we are ready to meet these new challenges in terms of staff and technology.”

The peer reviews also highlight what your office is doing well, both for internal office use and to provide to institutional leadership. 

“Our administration was able to see the work the financial aid does is very important to our school,” one participant told NASFAA after participating in a review. “I was always saying we were understaffed, so having the peer review showed that we were understaffed. We ended up getting three positions added.” 

Are you ready for your own peer review? Fill out a brief information request form and get ready for a positive experience that will likely increase your office’s productivity and efficiency!

 

Publication Date: 3/24/2015


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