Around October 1st each year the U. S. Department of Education begins notifying the schools they selected for this year’s program reviews, equipped with a new budget and this year, new rules to enforce.

Over the last two years, ED has implemented wider measures to ensure compliant behavior and has increased the number of program reviews they perform annually. They hired additional staff to take on the increased workload.

This year, they also created several new teams tasked with compliance oversight and enforcement and have already begun to visit schools. The likelihood of your institution being selected for a program review is now higher than at any point in the past because of increased regulatory scrutiny. ED is simply conducting more reviews with greater frequency.

Consequences of non-compliance with Federal Student Aid Regulations are very costly for colleges.

In 2014 and 2015 ED reported findings at more than half of the institutions it reviewed. These findings resulted in assessed fines and liabilities. Liabilities (aid funds that were deemed ineligible and thus ordered to be returned to ED) were severe and ranged between $1-3 million and the average fine per institution was just under $200,000.00.

 In most cases, the institution leaders simply weren’t aware of their school’s systemic problems until they were discovered by ED.

The good news is that compliance can be achieved.

We help colleges achieve and maintain compliance with the standards of administrative capability required under the Higher Education Act. The best way to meet compliance requirements is to follow industry best practices that adhere to structured business methodologies and then back them up with strong internal controls and well trained administrative staff. And the best time to do it is now!

An investment in assessment now will identify and help you understand the nature of risks and potential exposures for your institution. It will also help you understand where improvements are needed and how to manage risks. And best of all, it can be done for a fraction of the cost compared to fines and liabilities imposed for just one finding from ED.

In the end, you can have peace of mind, knowing that your institution is prepared with compliant policies, and procedures are compliant and are being followed.

Contact Us Today

Institutions with questions pertaining to this blog post or other matters of compliance with Accreditation and Federal Student Aid standards are welcome to contact our office for additional assistance.

Peter Terebesi is the President and founder of Higher Ed Executives. You can find Peter on Twitter (@higheredpete), and reach him through the Higher Ed Executives website. You may also email

As stated in our disclaimers, blog posts by Higher Ed Executives, shared on Twitter, LinkedIn, or elsewhere, should not be considered legal advice. Please consult a qualified advisor.