You know the benefits of a peer review: enhanced efficiency, meeting enrollment management goals, and increased student satisfaction, to name a few. But how do you know if your school really needs one? Take the quiz below to find out. Jot down your answers as you go and tally up how many "yeses" you had to determine your score.
1. Does your school have a new president/chancellor/CEO?
Schools must report a change in the top executive position at the institution, which may trigger the Department of Education (ED) to take a closer look at the school’s operations. Schools under new leadership have an opportunity to make significant changes to policies, procedures, and the use of technology. An unbiased peer review of the federal financial aid operations may help support the new leadership’s enrollment management objectives, while also helping the office to avoid fines and liabilities during a future federal program review.
2. Does your financial aid office have a new director?
Schools also must report modifications to the primary financial aid administrator. Again, changes reported to ED may generate interest in the form of a program review. Additionally, many new directors spend the first six to 12 months on the job evaluating the operations and identifying key issues to resolve. In some cases, new directors experience resistance to changes they want to implement. But, having an outside peer review do that work instead 1) frees up time for the new director to establish rapport and credibility with the staff and 2) provides an unbiased action plan for the entire office, under the new director’s leadership, to make effective changes in the office while keeping the school in compliance with rules and regulations.
3. Has your financial aid office staff experienced high turnover recently?
If you have experienced turnover, new staff members may not be up to speed on the federal and institutional policies regarding financial aid. Receiving a strong action plan through an objective peer review can help set your new staff members up for success in their positions.
4. Is your financial aid office understaffed?
The law mandates that schools maintain a sufficient number of staff members to administer financial aid programs. Through a peer review, we can identify whether your staff could benefit from additional efficiencies in operations and use of technology versus a true insufficient number of staff members.
5. Is your financial aid office staff primarily made up of employees who have been in the office for five years or more?
Many schools with long-time directors or employees already know some of the compliance issues, but have not been able to effectively change long-standing policies. Having an objective peer reviewer identify those known issues and make suggestions to fix them can be a catalyst for real changes to occur.
6. Does your school have repeat audit findings?
Did you know that auditors must provide copies of your annual audits to the Department? If ED sees that your school has the same documented issues year after year, it may want to come evaluate the situation for itself in the form of a program review. Peer reviews will identify the same issues, but also give you an action plan to make effective changes to resolve the problem areas.
7. Has it been more than ten years since your last federal program review?
By law, the ED must review all schools on a systemic basis. This does not necessarily mean ED will review your school every 10, 15, or 20 years, but the chances are good that if your school has not been reviewed in a while, you are at a higher risk ED coming for a visit.
If you answered "yes" to 1-2 questions: While a peer review is always a good idea, you may have some additional time to plan and budget for a review in the next 3-5 years.
If you answered "yes" to 3-4 questions: Your operations could use an evaluation in the next 1-3 budget years to ensure your school is able to resolve any issues before the ED finds them.
If you answered "yes" to 5 or more questions: Your school may be putting itself at risk for increased findings during a program review that could result in fines and/or liabilities from ED. Contact NASFAA today to get more information about our peer review services.
Publication Date: 1/12/2018