FEDERAL STUDENT AID TRAINING CONFERENCE SESSION INFORMATION POSTED

ICYMI – FEDERAL STUDENT AID TRAINING CONFERENCE SESSION INFORMATION POSTED

The Session Titles, Descriptions, and Agenda have been posted for this year’s Federal Student Aid Training Conference for Financial Aid Professionals.

On the FSA Conferences website, you can now access updated session titles and descriptions, as well as an agenda and updated resource center descriptions. https://fsaconferences.ed.gov/

The FSA Training Conference will be held Nov. 27-Nov. 30, 2018

Conference sessions will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC)

285 Andrew Young International Blvd

Atlanta, GA 30313

FUNDAMENTALS OF FEDERAL STUDENT AID ADMINISTRATION WORKSHOPS

Federal Student Aid just announced the Fundamentals of Federal Student Aid Administration training workshops schedule for November 2018 through September 2019. These four and a half day, in-person workshops are conducted at ten different locations around the country throughout the year at one of the Department of Education’s regional training facilities.

If a school undergoes a change in ownership or control, or if your school is applying for Title IV participation for the first time, the school’s chief financial aid administrator and its chief administrator (typically school President, CEO or another high-level school official designated by the President or CEO) must attend training. For new schools, attendance at this workshop is required to complete your institution’s certification and is one of the prerequisites for coming off “provisional status”, which usually occurs 12-24 months after your school is initially approved for Title IV funding. When your school applies for recertification, the Department will check to make sure that both required people have attended the workshop, and for the appropriate number of days. The Department may also request that you send a copy of the certificate that you received, to prove your attendance. If your school is undergoing a Change of Ownership, you must also attend this workshop within 12 months.

Anyone who plans to attend must also complete online prerequisite courses for FSA Coach Fundamentals which is approximately 20-30 hours to complete. After passing the course, participants will be sent a link to register for the in-person session.

Participants who wish to register for and attend a Fundamentals of Federal Student Aid Administration workshop must first successfully complete an online, prerequisite course titled FSA Coach Fundamentals (formerly known as Introduction to Federal Student Aid). The online course may take 20 to 30 hours to complete, so please plan accordingly. Together, these two courses comprise the Fundamentals Training Series.

FSA is offering two workshops that are exclusively for schools with clock-hour programs. These clock-hour-only workshops are scheduled for May 6-10, 2019 in Dallas, Texas and May 13-17, 2019 in Washington, DC. Only schools with clock-hour programs will be allowed to attend these workshops. Clock-hour schools may, however, enroll in any workshop that is listed in this announcement and are not limited to the two listed above. All workshops cover material applicable to clock-hour schools.

For more information including the 2018-2019 schedule of trainings, a brief Q&A, and information about registering check out this electronic announcement from FSA.

FUNDAMENTALS OF FEDERAL STUDENT AID ADMINISTRATION

If your school is applying to participate in the Title IV federal student aid programs for the first time, or is undergoing a change of ownership your school Owner/President/CEO and Financial Aid Administrator must attend one of the Department’s “Fundamentals of Federal Student Aid” training workshops.

For new schools, attendance at this workshop is required to complete your institution’s certification and is one of the prerequisites for coming off of “provisional status”, which usually occurs 12-24 months after your school is initially approved for Title IV funding. When your school applies for recertification, the Department will check to make sure that both of the required people have attended the workshop, and for the appropriate number of days. The Department may also request that you send a copy of the certificate that you received, to prove your attendance.

If your school is undergoing a change Change of Ownership, you must also attend this workshop within 12 months.

The Department recently announced the dates and locations of each workshop that will be offered from July 2017 through June 2018. Each in-person workshop is four and one-half days in length and is conducted at one of the Department of Education’s regional training facilities. Fundamentals trainings events fill up very quickly. So if you need to attend, be sure to register as soon as possible in order to secure your seat for a time and location that is convenient.

Anyone wishing to attend the in-person, four and one-half day workshop, Fundamentals of Federal Student Aid Administration, must first successfully complete the online, self-paced tutorial, Introduction to Federal Student Aid. The online tutorial may take up to 20 hours to complete, so plan ahead so that you can register for the in-person workshop you want to attend.

For more information refer to DCL ID: ANN-17-03.

How can custom training benefit your college financial aid office?

Custom training for schools and colleges

There is no doubt that training employees on current and emerging requirements can greatly result in increased productivity. Any organization that seeks to leverage market competition should capitalize on employees’ training to enhance their on-the-job skills and knowledge on best practices. And colleges aren’t exempt from this concept by any means. In fact, in higher education, more so than in other verticals operations and processes must constantly evolve to remain aligned to today’s complex compliance and regulatory requirements and employee skills need to keep pace.

Custom Training Programs

Today the need for custom training has never been more necessary. Organizations are not only interested in flexible and affordable training solutions, but also training programs that inherently align to their organizational strategic goals and objectives. At Higher Ed Executives, we provide a wide range of custom training programs for college administrators and business officers. We understand the needs of the college offices and our custom training programs are designed to suit the specific needs of each organization.

Features of Custom Training Programs

Our custom training programs are specifically developed to help colleges and universities achieve increased productivity in their business operations. In addition, the training programs are designed to enhance strategic goals based on each specific organization while keeping regulatory compliance and standards set by the Higher Education Act at the forefront. We provide custom training programs ranging from Compliance Officer Training to Financial Aid Office Training, Business Office Training, Default Management Training, among others.

Benefits of Custom Training Programs

Like other organizations, colleges and universities can strengthen their business capability by enhancing their resources and day-to-day operations. The prime benefit of custom training programs from Higher Ed Executives is to empower your staff and achieve unprecedented levels of administrative capability. Simply put we help colleges and universities keep up with the rules and regulations while enhancing the job skills and knowledge of their employees. Rather than a generic course with a wide range of topics, our custom training programs are designed to focus in on the specific needs of each learner.
With our custom training programs, organizations no longer need to spend hours or days away from the office because we can come to you. Our programs are highly flexible and available for both on-site and remote training. The training can be personalized to help employees develop skills and knowledge in their relevant areas of operation. With custom training programs, colleges and universities can save more on time and cost while still improving employee performance and productivity. Whether you need help in hiring new staff, training in financial aid or regulatory guidance, let Higher Ed Executives be your business partner today!

ON BUREAUCRACY AND COLLEGE ADMINISTRTATION

Financial Aid Consultants

I often go back to Max Weber’s 1922 essay on Bureaucracy. Weber, a sociologist, described how an administrator should run a bureau, referring to an actual desk, or, as the Germans called it, a “Bureau” (see picture here http://bit.ly/2ou5e8P ). As an aid administrator, I used to think about how old Max missed his calling. He would have made a great Financial Aid Director. In my mind, I could see him sitting at his desk verifying ISIRs or signing his approval to disbursements and forwarding them to the business office. Time stamped and archived for the sake of keeping sound records. In fact, he could easily fit in in any number of campus administrative departments, because college administration is synonymous with bureaucracy.

According to Weber, an ideal bureaucracy has five characteristics:
1. Division of Labor by functional specialization
2. Hierarchal structure of authority
3. Clear rules of rights and responsibilities of employees
4. Written policies, rules, regulations that guide behavior
5. Competence based career progression, career longevity, education and training determine qualifications of employees etc.

It sounds a lot like a typical college administrative structure doesn’t it? That’s because bureaucracy is actually quite efficient. Even though it’s a term often used pejoratively, when we discuss bureaucracy in terms of its impact on risk, internal controls and compliance, we are speaking about it as a means of efficiently organizing our business operations to ensure consistency not only for ensuring compliance, but also for keeping cash flow consistent.

Whether I’m doing an operational review or consulting on a compliance matter, I’ll often first ask, “What is your school’s policy”?

All too often, school officials don’t know.

When we dig in, we find polices either don’t exist or haven’t been updated since Max Weber wrote his famous essay. Sure, keeping up with the regs can be a full-time job in itself, but if your policy still refers to the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant (BEOG), it’s time to update them. Even the most talented bureaucrat can’t function without clear expectations.

Experience shows us that schools with well documented, up-to-date policies and procedures tend to adhere to adhere to them. And if the procedures are any good, the school has few compliance problems and processes aid efficiently resulting in strong cash flow. The benefits to having good policies and procedures are numerous beyond allowing a school to be a good steward of Federal Financial Aid dollars. For example they help streamline audits and program reviews. They can be a great tool to help bring new employees on board faster and ensure continuity in processes when turnover occurs. Conversely, non-existent or out of date polices simply invite chaos. https://youtu.be/5ilGGP9BDZs

Having written policies and procedures isn’t just a good idea, it’s a requirement. Federal regulations require schools to have written policies and procedures for the administration of the Title IV programs. During a program review, ED typically asks for policies describing the institution’s Satisfactory Academic Progress, Admissions, Refunds, Return to Title IV, Consumer Information, Verification, Campus Based selection and awarding (FWS, FSEOG, Perkins), but there are dozens of other policies that are necessary.

Written policies are essential for maintaining compliance because they provide structure for rules and guidelines and describe key internal control activities. ED also recommends that schools conduct internal compliance reviews at least twice a year. One of those reviews should be focused on keeping policies up to date.


This is an excerpt from our April 2017 Newsletter.  Sign up here.


Our Policies and Procedures Assessment and Development services can help you draft new policy statements and procedural documentation or help you review and update existing ones to comply with best practices and current regulations.

ED DEFINES THIRD PARTY SERVICER ACTIVITIES IN RECENT Q & A

In January 2015, the U.S. Department of Education published Dear Colleague Letter GEN 15-01 which provided guidance for institutions which contract with “Third-Party Servicers” to provide outsourced services such as Default Management and Financial Aid Disbursement processing. At the time, the Department was concerned that a number of third party servicers were telling institutions that they were not in fact a third party servicer so as to avoid oversight and audit requirements. Recently, the Department published a FAQ which provides much needed clarity in defining what exactly a third-party servicer is and examples of the type of functions and services they perform.

A third-party servicer is an entity or individual that administers any aspect of an institution’s participation in the Title IV programs, including, but not limited to, services and functions necessary:

  • For the institution to remain eligible to participate in the Title IV programs,
  • To determine a student’s eligibility for Title IV funds,
  • To account for Title IV funds,
  • To deliver Title IV funds to students, or
  • To perform any other aspect of the administration of the Title IV programs.

If your institution uses a consultant to do any of the following, you should review the Q & A to determine if it is necessary to report your contracted relationship to ED:

  • Processing FAFSA Applications, Providing Financial Aid Counseling
  • Determining Student Eligibility; Verification, SAP Evaluation, Calculating Awards, Packaging, R2T4, Reconciliation
  • Processing, Certifying, Originating FSA Awards, Including Advanced or Reimbursement Funding Preparation
  • Preparing or submitting E-App, FISAP, IPEDS or Enrollment Reporting to NSLDS
  • Preparing consumer information disclosures, Security Reports, Biennial review of drug & alcohol abuse prevention programs, graduation and transfer rates, job placement rates, gainful employment disclosures, entrance / exit loan counseling, preferred lender lists
  • Default prevention, default aversion
  • Cash Management
  • Perkins loan servicing or collection.

 

For more details you can read the full Q&A here: http://bit.ly/2bskhLM

ACHIEVING ADMINISTRATIVE CAPABILITY REQUIRES A SYSTEM OF CHECKS AND BALANCES

Regulations require schools and colleges to meet standards of administrative capability. There are a number of important requirements written into the Code of Federal Regulations which require schools to have strong internal controls such as having a well-organized financial aid office staffed by qualified personnel. This system of checks and balances is fundamental. At a minimum, it requires institutions to separate the functions of authorizing payment and disbursing or delivering funds, so that no single person or office exercises control of both functions for any student receiving FSA funds.

 For example, the FA office which generally authorizes payment of FSA funds, may not also post those funds to the students account or ledger. Instead these functions must be done by someone in a separate office like the business office or bursar.

 Meeting this component of administrative capability is a requirement of all institutions participating in Title IV programs, regardless of their size or number of employees.  Individuals working in either authorization or disbursement may perform other functions as well but not both authorization and disbursement. Keep in mind, these two functions must be performed by individuals who are not members of the same family and who do not together exercise substantial control over the school.

 If a school performs any aspect of these functions via computer, no one person may have the ability to change data that affect both authorization and disbursement. Schools must set up controls that prevent an individual or an office from having the authority or the ability to perform both functions.

 In addition, schools should also have controls that prevent cross-functional tampering. For example, financial aid office employees should not be able to change data elements that are entered by the registrar’s office. Finally, your system should only allow individuals with special security classifications to make changes to the programs that determine student need and awards, and it should be able to identify the individuals who make such changes.

What you should know about the IRS and Tax Scams

There are three (unavoidable) truths in the world. Everyone knows the first two; death and taxes, but the third shouldn’t really be a surprise. When dealing with the IRS, they ALWAYS initiate contact with taxpayers by mail. 

There are a many, completely routine reasons why they might do so. For example, they may send a letter or notice to request payment, notify you of account changes, or request additional information. Continue reading What you should know about the IRS and Tax Scams