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COLLEGE FINANCING PLAN FOR 2020-2021 RELEASED

In January, the U.S. Department of Education’ s (ED) Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) released a new beta-version of the 2019-2020 Financial Aid Shopping Sheet that was first introduced in 2012. After soliciting feedback from schools and stakeholders on the template earlier this year, the Office of Postsecondary Education has released a finalized form template which incorporates improvements based on the recommendations and feedback they received.

According to the OPE announcement, the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet was redubbed the “College Financing Plan” to “more accurately reflect that loans may be a significant part of the student’s investment, and to emphasize to students that they are making a financial transaction when enrolling in an institution.”

The College Financing Plan looks very similar to the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet institutions have been using for many years, but some of the information has changed a bit. For example, the new form template includes additional information about interest rates on each loan as well as new information about need-based and merit based scholarships, on campus versus off campus housing, and even additional clarity on the difference between grants, which don’t have to be repaid and loans, which do. The form has also been decluttered and simplified to make it easier to read and understand. Section headings have also been restructured to better illustrate a rather simple formula its predecessor didn’t do so well; Total Cost of Attendance – Grants and Scholarships = Net Cost.

Schools that signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to comply with the Principles of Excellence (POE) in Executive Order 13607 will be required to begin using the new format for the 2020-2021 award year once it is released however ED has not provided clarification as to when, and whether or not schools currently using the FA Shopping sheet need to adopt the College Financing Plan.

NACAC VOTES TO OVERHAUL ETHICAL CODE 

NACAC VOTES TO REMOVE PARTS OF ETHICAL CODE

It’s already old news but over the weekend, NACAC delegates and members voted almost unanimously to remove several key sections from the association’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practices bringing sweeping changes to the admissions and enrollment management landscape in higher ed. The vote was called to attempt to bring NACAC’s SPGP/CEPP into compliance with United States antitrust laws following a two-year investigation by the United Stated Department of Justice. NACAC hopes the changes, eliminating parts of their ethics code and made effective immediately will help bring the investigation to a conclusion and stem the threat of possible litigation in the future.

Competition is typically good for consumers because it gives them choices, options and keeps prices in check. Not to mention that it incentivizes businesses and institutions to offer higher quality products and services. The gist of the NACAC problem lies not only in the coordination undertaken by its members, but also in the ways that they prevented competition.

NACAC required its members to agree to use only certain prescribed application plans such as Early Decision, Regular Decision, Early Action and Rolling Admissions, and prevented them from circumventing those plans by recruiting out of the prescribed cycles. Their rationale was that this would ensure that high school students would benefit from a closely coordinated process that might be otherwise complex or confusing to prospective students and their families and colleges would be afforded some simple protection through a common admissions cycle and procedure.

NACAC built in protections for students so that they wouldn’t be coerced or pressured from other colleges to enroll or pay a deposit before the agreed upon deadline for each application plan, and colleges couldn’t offer special incentives to students to secure enrollment. According to NACAC, that gave students a reasonable amount of time to identify their college choices, complete applications of admission, compare financial aid offers and then make an informed decision.

Although NACAC’s primary concern is for students in the high school to college pipeline, they also prescribed rules for members related to transfer student recruitment. Given that it would be impractical to establish universal dates and deadlines for transfer students, NACAC members agreed not to solicit transfer students from each other and to keep their hands off previous years applicant and prospective student pools unless a student initiated contact first. As a result of the vote, all of these provisions have been removed.

Although NACAC voted to eliminate these rules from their CEPP, the Department of Justice is still expected to file a formal complaint and issue a consent decree which will ultimately require a federal court to decide how to proceed. Although this is a step in the right direction, there’s no guarantee that this situation is completely resolved. NACAC was keen to point out to its members that “Any agreement or understanding among separate institutions to continue the conduct prohibited by the consent decree may result in an antitrust investigation of those institutions.”

The last few days have left many who work in college admissions reeling as they began coming to grips with the gravity of the changes and the new landscape before them. Many expressed feelings of anger at the DOJ, while some expressed outright denial that anything will change on their campus. Still others have already begun to accept the changes and are actively seeking ways to realign their recruiting philosophies and strategies with the new rules of the game. While it’s natural to fear and even resist change, it’s important to recognize when a change has already occurred and to adjust accordingly. As Ken Blanchard wrote in “Who Moved My Cheese”, You can hem and haw, or sniff and scurry.

For context, here are the sections of NACAC’s CEPP which are expected to be deleted. *Note this is from the most recent CEPP dated September 2018 which does not include the revisions. NACAC has not yet published an updated CEPP since voting on September 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.nacacnet.org/globalassets/documents/advocacy-and-ethics/statement-of-principles-of-good-practice/nacacs-code-of-ethics–professional-practices.pdf

Section II. The Responsible Practice of College Admission
A – Application Plans for First Time Undergraduates
vi – Early Decision
“Colleges must not offer incentives exclusive to students applying or admitted under an Early Decision application plan. Examples of incentives include the promise of special housing, enhanced financial aid packages, and special scholarships for Early Decision admits. Colleges may, however, disclose how admission rates for Early Decision differ from those for other admission plans.”

Section II. The Responsible Practice of College Admission
B – Admissions Cycle Dates, Deadlines and Procedures
“Once students have committed themselves to a college, other colleges must respect that choice and cease recruiting them. Similarly, colleges need protection when other institutions pressure students to submit applications or enrollment deposits before established deadlines or when they continue to solicit applications or enrollments after students have finalized their college decisions”.

Section II. The Responsible Practice of College Admission
B – Professional Conduct
5: “Colleges will not knowingly recruit or offer enrollment incentives to students who have already enrolled, registered, have declared their intent, or submitted contractual deposits to other institutions. May 1 is the point at which commitments to enroll become final, and colleges must respect that. The recognized exceptions are when students are admitted from a wait list, students initiate inquiries themselves, or cooperation is sought by institutions that provide transfer programs. These statements capture the spirit and intent of this requirement.
a. Whether before or after May 1, colleges may at any time respond to a student-initiated request to reconsider an offer or reinstate an application.
b. Once students have declined an offer of admission, colleges may no longer offer them incentives to change or revisit their college decision. Before May 1, however, colleges may ask whether candidates would like a review of their financial aid package or other incentives before their admission is canceled, so long as the question is asked at the time that the admitted students first notify them of their intent to cancel their admission.
c. After May 1, colleges may contact students who have neither deposited nor withdrawn their applications to let them know that they have not received a response from them. Colleges may neither offer nor imply additional financial aid or other incentives unless student have affirmed that they have not deposited elsewhere and are still interested in discussing fall enrollment.”

Section II. The Responsible Practice of College Admission
D Transfer Admission
5: “Colleges must not solicit transfer applications from a previous year’s applicant or prospect pool unless the students themselves initiated a transfer inquiry or the college has verified prior to contacting the student that they are either enrolled at a college that allows transfer recruitment from other colleges or are not currently enrolled in college.”

DIRECT LOAN ORIGINATION FEES EFFECTIVE OCTOBER 1, 2019

Did you update your loan origination fees yet?

Before you send your next batch of disbursements, make sure your financial aid management system is up to date with the new loan origination fees that went into effect on October 1st or they’ll bomb out on the Common Origination and Disbursement website. Because of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was enacted to prevent the United States from breaching the “debt-ceiling” sequestered funds from federal agencies to keep the budget in balance. When the federal government begins their federal fiscal year each October 1st, origination fees on direct loans change as a result. The sequestration law isn’t set to expire until 2021.

Beginning on October 1, 2019 the loan origination fees have gone down slightly. For Federal Direct Loans where the first disbursement is made on or after October 1, 2019, and before October 1, 2020 the origination fees are as follows:
• The loan fee for Direct Subsidized Loans and for Direct Unsubsidized Loans is 1.059%. For example, the fee on a $5,500 loan will be $58.24.
• The loan fee for Direct PLUS Loans (for both parent borrowers and graduate and professional student borrowers) is 4.236%. For example, the fee on a $10,000 PLUS Loan will be $423.60.

Sequestration doesn’t just impact Federal Direct Loans, it impacts other aid programs such as the Iraq – Afghanistan Service Grant Program and TEACH Grant Program.

The Iraq-Afghanistan Service Grant was reduced by 5.9% for FY 20 resulting in a reduced award of $5829.50, a slight increase from last year. The TEACH Grant was also reduced by 5.9% resulting in a maximum award of $3764.00, also a slight increase from last year.

For more information about these programs, check out this electronic announcement from Federal Student Aid.

2018-2019 GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT REPORTING DEADLINE

If you were one of the institutions that chose not to implement the rescinded Gainful Employment rules early, you must still comply with the 2014 GE rules. As such, these institutions must report GE data to NSLDS by October 1, 2019. Everyone else, can relax. For more info about the 2018-2019 Gainful Employment Reporting Deadline, check out Gainful Employment Electronic Announcement 123.

FY 2016 OFFICIAL COHORT DEFAULT RATES RELEASED

On September 23, 2019, the Official Cohort Default Rates were released for the 2016 Fiscal Year.

The national default rate has fallen since last year after it rose to more than 11.5%. Since 2013, the National Student Loan Cohort Default Rate is trending down again. The official 2016 rate is now 10.1%, down 6.5% from the Official FY 2015 rate of 10.8%

According to Federal Student Aid’s National Default Briefing, the highest Defaults are still coming from the proprietary school sector which has an average of 15.2% for the 2016 CDR. Public institutions fared much better at 9.6%, followed by private institutions with just 6.6% of students defaulting on their loans.

The Fiscal Year 2016 Three-Year CDR is calculated by dividing the number of borrowers who entered repayment in 2016 by the number of borrowers who entered repayment in 2016 and defaulted in 2016, 2017 or 2018. A school with a high default rate will face sanctions and may lose its eligibility to participate in Federal Student Aid Programs or expand their scope of participation with ED. Schools with Three-year CDRs of 30% or greater for three consecutive years or with CDRs greater than 40% for one year are subject to federal sanctions.

The official Three-Year rates were sent to all schools via their Student Aid Internet Gateway (SAIG) mailbox. Federal Student Aid’s Operations Performance Management Services calculates the rates which measure the ratio of students who enter repayment during a cohort year and who later default on those loans. Since the data isn’t always right, schools can challenge and appeal their CDR calculation to have their rates adjusted. Schools may begin submitting challenges and appeals on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 through the eCDR appeals website.

UPDATED FISAP RESOURCES

It’s FISAP Time.

The Fiscal Operations Report for 2018-2019 and Application to Participate for 2020-2021 (FISAP) is now available on the Common Origination and Disbursement (COD) Web Site.

If your school had Campus-Based expenditures for the 2018-2019 Award Year and schools that wish to request funding under the Campus-Based programs for the 2020-2021 Award Year are required to electronically submit a FISAP via the COD Web Site.

The deadline for the electronic submission of the FISAP is 11:59 p.m. Eastern time (ET) on October 1, 2019. Transmission must be completed by midnight.

You have lots of resources to help you with the FISAP including updated FISAP Instructions, Desk Reference and the 2019-20 Technical Reference.

FISCAL YEAR 2016 OFFICIAL COHORT DEFAULT RATES COMING SOON

ED will release FY 2016 Official Cohort Default Rates (CDR) to all eligible institutions in mid-September. Schools will receive their CDR electronically via their SAIG mailbox.
The Cohort Rates are an important metric used to determine school or program quality. Schools with 3-year CDRs of 30% or greater for three consecutive years or with CDRs greater than 40% for one year may face federal sanctions. Institutions may challenge, appeal, or have their rate adjusted in certain circumstances. Be on the lookout for more information such as an Electronic Announcement announcing the official release dates of the 2016 CDR package from FSA’s Operations Performance Division in the forthcoming days. In the meantime, check out the Default Management Web site which contains resources for Financial Aid Professionals, Data Managers and Students here.

NEW INSTITUTIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY CHANGES

As part of the “Borrower Defense to Repayment Final Rules (dubbed institutional accountability final rules), The U.S. Department of Education amended the Student Assistance General Provisions regulations. New rules were added establishing conditions and events that could have an adverse, material effect on an institution’s financial condition, thus warranting protections for students and taxpayers. These are broken up into two categories; mandatory and discretionary financial responsibility triggering events.

Unlike the Borrower Defense to Repayment regulations included in this package which will go into effect on July 1, 2020, the amendments below are scheduled for immediate implementation.

Financial Responsibility – Mandatory and Discretionary Triggering Events

The Final Regulations establish mandatory and discretionary triggering events that have, or could have, a materially adverse impact on an institution’s financial condition that warrant financial protection. 

The mandatory triggering events are: 

1) Liabilities arising from a settlement, final judgment from a court, or final determination arising from an administrative action or proceeding initiated by a Federal or State entity; 

2) Withdrawal of owner’s equity from the institution, unless the withdrawal is a transfer to an entity included in the affiliated entity group upon whose basis the institution’s composite score was calculated;

3) For publicly traded institutions, the Securities and Exchange Commission issues an order suspending or revoking the registration of the institution’s securities or suspends trading of the institution’s securities on any national securities exchange, the national securities exchange notifies the institution that it is not in compliance with the exchange’s listing requirements and the institution’s securities are delisted, or the SEC is not in timely receipt of a required report and did not issue an extension to file the report; and 

4) For the fiscal year reported, when an institution is subject to two or more discretionary triggering events, those events become mandatory triggering events, unless a triggering event is resolved before any subsequent event(s) occurs.  

Discretionary triggering events in the Final Regulations include:

1) The institution’s accrediting agency issues an order, such as a show-cause order or similar action, that if not satisfied could result in the loss of institutional accreditation; 

2) The institution violated a provision or requirement in a security or loan agreement with a creditor; 

3) The institution’s State licensing or authorizing agency notified the institution that it has violated a State licensing or authorizing agency requirement and that the agency intends to withdraw or terminate the institution’s licensure or authorization, if the institution does not take the steps necessary to come into compliance; 

4) The institution’s failure to meet the 90/10 requirement; 

5) As calculated by the Secretary, the institution has high annual dropout rates; and

6) The institution’s two most recent official cohort default rates are thirty percent or greater, unless the institution files a challenge, which results in reducing below thirty percent the official cohort default rate for either of or both of those years or precludes the rates from either or both years from resulting in a loss of eligibility or provisional certification.

Finally, the Final Regulations also update the definitions and terms used to calculate an institution’s composite score and the composite score methodology to align with changes in FASB accounting standards. Existing leases will be grandfathered, and the new regulations only apply to new leases.  Existing long-term debt rules are also being grandfathered, but the new rules require tie-ins to plant, property, and equipment new long-term debt.  In addition, the Final Regulations revise Appendices A and B of the financial responsibility regulations to conform with the updates and changes in accounting standards.

BORROWER DEFENSE FINAL REGULATIONS RELEASED

The United States Department of Education released final regulations for institutional accountability related to Borrower Defense to Repayment loan discharges for Federal Direct Loans. The new regulations revise the standards the Department will use to adjudicate borrower defense to repayment claims and will take effect for all new loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2020, while preserving the standards for loans that were issued under prior regulations. The Final Regulations preserve three borrower defense periods: 1) Loans first disbursed prior to July 1, 2017, which are subject to pre-2016 regulations; 2) Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2017 and before July 1, 2020, which are subject to final regulations published on November 1, 2016, and 3) Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2020, which are subject to the 2019 regulations.

Under the new regulations, borrowers who are misled and can demonstrate financial harm caused by their institution can file a claim to have their loan discharged. The Department’s new rules give borrowers up to three years from the time they leave school to file a claim. Claims will be reviewed by ED staff using the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Both borrowers filing claims and institutions that the borrower attended will be required to provide supporting evidence to ED which will determine if a discharge is warranted.

In the Final Regulation, the Department defines a “misrepresentation” as: a statement, act, or omission by an eligible school to a borrower that is (a) false, misleading, or deceptive, (b) that was made with knowledge of its false, misleading, or deceptive nature or with a reckless disregard for the truth, and (c) that directly and clearly relates to either 1) enrollment or continuing enrollment at the institution; or 2) the provision of educational services for which the loan was made.

According to ED, some examples of misrepresentation include:

  • actual licensure passage rates that are different from those in marketing materials, website, and communications;
  • actual employment rates materially different from those in the institution’s marketing materials, website, and communications;
  • institutional selectivity or rankings, student admission profiles, or institutional rankings that are materially different from those in marketing materials, websites, and communications;
  • the institution does not possess certifications, accreditation, or approvals for programs that it represents that it possesses; representations regarding the educational resources provided;
  • representations regarding the transferability of credits that, in fact, do not transfer to other institutions;
  • representations regarding the employability or specific earnings of graduates without evidence;
  • representations regarding the availability, amount, or nature of financial assistance provided;
  • representations regarding the amount, method, or timing of payment of tuition and fees that is materially different from the amount, method, or timing of actual tuition and fees;
  • representations regarding whether an institution’s courses or programs are endorsed by employment agencies, industry members, government officials, former students, US armed forces, or others without permission; and
  • representations regarding the prerequisites for enrollment in a course or program.

Within these “Institutional Accountability” regulations, the Department also amended several other regulations including regulations for class action waivers, pre-dispute arbitration agreements, and rules for closed-school and false certification discharges.

The new regulations will permit institutions to use class-action waivers and arbitration agreements if an institution discloses information about their internal dispute resolution and arbitration processes to students as part of in the borrower’s entrance counseling.

The Final Regulations also allow for the borrower to choose whether to apply for a closed school loan discharge or accept a teach-out opportunity. In addition, the closed school discharge window is expanded from 120 days to 180 days prior to the school’s closure. For borrowers claiming a false certification by their school they can also apply and must complete an application.


This information is for informational and educational purposes only.

To learn more about how your institution can adjust its processes and reporting to minimize its risk of these federal student aid compliance issues, please contact us.

COMING COMPETITION IN COLLEGE ADMISSIONS

National Association for College Admission Counseling’s NACAC Code of Ethics.

It’s been almost two years since the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division began an inquiry into the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s (NACAC) Code of Ethics. The Statement of Principles of Good Practice: Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (SPGP – CEPP) is followed by nearly 8000 NACAC members from colleges and universities. Among enrollment management professionals, the SPGP isn’t just a code of ethics. Instead, it’s a matrix upon which all of admissions operates, and there’s the rub. Is a system that’s arranged with as much pomp and circumstance as college admissions rigged to be anti-competitive? The Department of Justice seems to think so.

Earlier this week, NACAC’s Board of Directors recommended changing course to help the association avoid litigation and trial and to show good-faith and compliance with the DOJ investigation. In a memo to their Assembly leadership and delegates who will be meeting next month, NACAC’s Board and legal counsel recommended that delegates “seriously consider deleting statements within the Code of Ethics and Professional Practices assumed to violate antitrust laws.”

NACAC’s board is recommending that their leadership approve a motion to suspend procedural rules of the Assembly prohibiting amendments to the CEPP, except those recommended by their legal counsel.

Additionally, they’ve proposed a moratorium on enforcing the rules outlined in the of the Code of Ethics and Professional Practices which govern everything from admissions cycle dates, deadlines and procedures to transfer admission and of course early and regular decision. According to NACAC, these are the four main areas that Department of Justice considers to be potentially anti-competitive under anti-trust laws .

Early Decision

NACAC’s guidelines have long prohibited colleges from offering special incentives to students applying or admitted for Early Decision. NACAC proposes removing language that would prohibit colleges from doing so, which in theory will allow colleges to lure students to their campus with offers of preferential housing, better financial aid packages and even special scholarships.

Responsible Practice of College Admission

NACAC member institutions have an agreement that they won’t poach each other’s students. Once a student has committed themselves to a college, institutions simply stop trying to recruit them. This has insulated colleges from competition by members. By striking this language from the CEPP, it seems that colleges may be able to recruit whomever they want , whenever they want, even before or after NACAC’s deadlines.

Admission Cycle Dates, Deadlines and Procedures for First-Time Fall Entry Undergraduates

May 1st is a big day in admissions. That’s when students are expected to commit to a college under regular decision and that’s also when college admission offices have to stop trying to recruit students who have committed to other institutions. NACAC is proposing to remove the language preventing colleges from trying to get students to change their college decision.

Transfer Admission

Under existing NACAC rules, colleges can’t contact applicants or prospective students from prior years unless that contact was initiated by the student themselves. This prevents colleges from recruiting transfer students. If the Assembly indeed votes to remove this provision, colleges will be able to contact students at other colleges and offer incentives for them to transfer.

It’s quite likely that NACAC’s Assembly leadership and delegates will adopt these changes when they meet next month and that means that college admissions is about to change.

Absent the protections provided by NACAC SPGP-CEPP institutions are going to have to work smarter, harder and most of all compete to attract students to their campus. What remains to be seen is whether these changes if adopted will appease the Department of Justice and what repercussions if any will be felt by individual institutions (or even individuals at institutions) who have operated under NACAC’s admissions principals.