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Reporting Requirements Abound in HEOA

September 24, 2008

This third installment detailing key provisions for business officers in the Higher Education Opportunity Act covers changes to the Pell Grant and Federal Work Study programs, and numerous new reporting and information sharing requirements including student outcomes, campus security, fire safety, and missing persons.

Title I

Section 107 (HEA Section 120), Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention

Institutions are currently required under this section to annually distribute to students and employees certain information about campus policies, services, and consequences of drug and alcohol abuse, and to review the effectiveness of the institution’s program every two years and implement changes as necessary. The review needs to be shared with the Secretary of Education and the public upon request.

HEOA adds a requirement to include in the biennial review specific statistics on drug- and alcohol-related violations and fatalities that occur on campus, or as part of the institution’s activities, and are reported to campus officials. In addition, the institution must also report on the number and type of sanctions it imposed in response to such violations.

Section 114 (HEA Section 135), In-State Tuition for Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty, Spouses, and Dependent Children

Effective for periods of enrollment beginning after July 1, 2009, public institutions must charge in-state tuition rates for a member of the armed services on active duty for more than 30 days whose domicile or permanent duty station is in the state. The same benefit is also extended to the service member’s spouse and dependent children, and must be continued for as long as the student maintains continual enrollment at the institution, even if the duty station changes.

Section 119, Certification Regarding the Use of Certain Federal Funds

Institutions receiving federal funds under the HEA will have to certify annually that no HEA funds have been used to pay for any lobbying activities to Congress or any federal agency. This includes attempting to influence the awarding of grants, loans, contracts, cooperative agreements, or earmarks. Most, if not all, federal funds already come with such constraints, so this is primarily a certification requirement.

Title IV, Part A -- Grants to Students

Section 401, Federal Pell Grants

Maximums and Minimums.  HEOA raises the authorized maximum Pell Grant award from $6,000 to $8,000 by 2014. This does not mean that sufficient funds will be appropriated each year to actually fund awards at those levels, but it is the first step in allowing such increases. The minimum Pell Grant award will also change from the current $400 to ten percent of the maximum grant award set by the appropriations process for the year. Students who are eligible for an amount equal to or greater than five percent but less than ten percent of the maximum will receive ten percent.

Year-Round Grants.  In order to enable students to accelerate their progress, a student may now receive two Pell Grants during one award year. To be eligible, the student needs to be enrolled in a degree- or certificate-granting program and attending at least half-time for a period of more than one academic year, or two semesters or equivalent, during a single award year.

Children of Deceased Service Members.  In determining Pell Grant eligibility, the expected family contribution is deemed to be zero for a student whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Title IV, Part C -- Federal Work Study

Section 443, Grants for Federal Work-Study Programs

Civic Education and Participation Activities.  HEOA adds a new category of FWS employment in projects that teach civics in schools, raise awareness of government functions or resources, or increase civic participation. Students may also be compensated for training and travel time related to such employment. To the extent practicable, institutions should give priority to projects that educate the public about emergency response, evacuation, and injury prevention. The federal share of compensation for jobs under this section may exceed the usual 75 percent.

Section 444 (HEA Section 445), Flexible Use of Funds

Major Disasters.  HEOA allows institutions in areas affected by major disasters to continue to pay students what they would have earned through a FWS position if they were unable to meet their obligation due to a disaster and could not be reassigned. Unless waived by the Secretary, the normal matching requirements continue to apply.

Section 446 (HEA Section 447), Additional Funds for Off-Campus Community Service

New grants to institutions are authorized to further support recruitment and compensation for off-campus community service employment. Funding priority is to be given to projects addressing early childhood education and emergency preparedness.

Title IV, Part G -- General Provisions

Section 482, Master Calendar

The Secretary of Education is directed to provide institutions, prior to the start of each award year, a compliance calendar noting all reports and disclosures required under the HEA. The listing will include applicable dates, recipients, method of transmittal or dissemination, and a description of the content.

Section 484, Model Institutional Financial Aid Offer Form

Within six months of enactment, ED is required to convene a group of stakeholders, including students, school guidance counselors, financial aid administrators, and business officers, to make recommendations for a model format for financial aid offer forms. The group will have six months to submit the recommendations to the Congressional authorizing committees and make the model format widely available.

Section 487 (HEA Section 484C), Readmission Requirements for Service members

HEOA requires institutions to readmit students whose absence is due to active duty service in the armed services if certain conditions are met. In general, the length of the absence due to active duty cannot exceed five years and the service member or official of the Armed Services or Department of Defense must generally provide advance notice to the institution.

Section 488 (HEA Section 485), Institutional and Financial Assistance Information for Students

This section requires institutions to publish and disseminate information on numerous topics, and seems to get longer every time the HEA is reauthorized. There are a number of new information sharing requirements, some of which actually require institutions to take certain actions or develop policies.

Peer-to-Peer File Sharing.  Colleges and universities must disclose their policies and sanctions related to copyright infringement, including an explicit warning that unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing may subject students to civil and criminal liabilities. EDUCAUSE, with several other associations, has prepared an excellent summary of this provision.

Student Body.  Disclosure of data on characteristics of the student body, including gender, ethnicity, and receipt of Pell Grants, is required.

Student Outcomes.  Institutions are going to have to begin collecting and reporting much more data on student outcomes. Graduation rate data is already required, but now will need to be broken out into additional categories including gender, ethnicity, and receipt of student aid. Community colleges will have until 2011 to comply with the graduation rate disclosures to allow an advisory group to develop recommendations for appropriate measures for that sector.

For the first time, colleges and universities will need to disclose employment and graduate school placement of its graduates, gathered from sources such as alumni surveys, the National Survey of Student Engagement, state data systems, or other relevant sources.

Fire Safety. Institutions with dormitories will need to publish an annual fire safety report on campus fire safety practices and standards. The report must detail:

  • for each on-campus student housing facility, statistics for the most recent years on:
    • number and cause of any fires
    • number of injuries requiring medical care
    • number of deaths
    • the value of property damaged
  • a description of each housing facilities fire safety system, including sprinklers
  • the number of regular mandatory fire drills
  • the institution’s policies and rules on portable electrical appliances, smoking, and open flames, evacuation procedures, and fire safety education and training
  • plan for improving fire safety, if determined necessary

In addition, campuses must keep a log to record all fires in student housing facilities including nature, date, time, and general location of each fire.

HEOA also charges the Secretary of Education with coordinating with national associations and experts in fire safety to identify and disseminate exemplary fire safety policies and practices for campuses, and to develop a protocol for institutions to review the status of their fire safety systems.

Retention Rate. Institutions will need to disclose the retention rate of first-time, full-time, degree- or certificate-seeking students entering the institution.

Vaccinations. Institutional policies on vaccinations must also be disclosed to students.

Campus Security. The section also includes some changes to the campus security provisions, known as the Clery Act. The most notable addition requires colleges and universities to include in their annual campus security report the following:

A statement of current campus policies regarding immediate emergency response and evacuation procedures, including the use of electronic and cellular communication (if appropriate), which policies shall include procedures to—
(i) immediately notify the campus community upon the confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or staff occurring on the campus, as defined in paragraph (6), unless issuing a notification will compromise efforts to contain the emergency;
(ii) publicize emergency response and evacuation procedures on an annual basis in a manner designed to reach students and staff; and
(iii) test emergency response and evacuation procedures on an annual basis.

The proposed thirty-minute time frame for providing emergency notifications was not incorporated in the final bill.

Other changes include exempting foreign institutions from the Clery Act requirements, adding additional offenses to those for which hate crimes must be reported, and prompting for more detail on memorandums of understanding with other law enforcement agencies.

Missing Persons. A new paragraph requires institutions to establish a missing student notification policy for students living on-campus. This policy must:

  • give students the option of identifying an individual to be contacted within 24 hours after the time the student is determined to be missing
  • advises students who are under 18 that the institution is required to notify a parent or guardian if the student is missing
  • informs students that the appropriate law enforcement agencies will be notified not later than 24 hours after a student is determined to be missing
  • requires the institution to initiate such contact procedures if campus security personnel determine that a student has been missing for more than 24 hours.

Institutions must also establish policies and procedures to ensure that missing person reports are referred immediately to the campus security or police department. If the institution does not have a contact person to notify about a missing student, the institution must inform the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Transfer of Credit.  Each institution must publicly disclose its transfer of credit policies, including any established criteria used and a list of institutions with which the institution has established an articulation agreement.