BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 6/26/18
After the U.S. Department of Education performed an on-site program review, Adams State University (ASU) was found to have multiple compliance violations of the federal Clery Act and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. The university also failed to return $84,351 in improperly-allocated federal student aid over a ten year period. These funds are covered under Title IV Federal Student Aid.
MULTIPLE FINDINGS OF NON-COMPLIANCE CONSTITUTE SERIOUS VIOLATIONS
After being announced in August 2017, the program review was conducted September 25-29th, 2017. The June 20th, 2018 Department of Education Title IV Report found [emphasis added]:
– ASU retained Title IV credit balance funds that were not negotiated by recipients after the Title IV credit balance checks had been issued. Upon discovering the noncompliance, the institution self-reported the issue to the Department. The Title IV credit balance checks had not been negotiated during the period from January 1, 2007 through the date of the program review report (PRR).
– ASU violated several requirements of the Clery Act. Specifically, ASU’s 2016 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report did not contain certain required disclosures concerning campus safety policy, procedures, and crime statistics. As a result of these violations, ASU failed to actively distribute an accurate and complete ASR to its current students and employees in accordance with Federal regulations.
– In addition, ASU failed to compile and publish accurate and complete crime and fire statistics in its 2016 Annual Security Report (ASR), and/or submitted inaccurate and incomplete data to the Department’s online Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool (CSSDACT). This finding is, in part, based on the fact that the crime and fire statistics that ASU submitted to the Department did not match those that were published in its 2016 ASR, meaning that one or both data sets were flawed. Additionally, ASU omitted any reporting of disciplinary referrals in its ASR for reporting year 2013.
– Failure to publish an accurate and complete 2016 ASR, in accordance with Federal regulations, deprives the campus community of important campus crime information that can empower its members to be informed and to play active roles in their own safety and security.
– As a result of these violations, ASU was required to review and improve its existing internal policies, procedures, internal controls, and training programs to ensure that all crime statistics are disclosed accurately and completely, both in its ASR, AFSR, and in its data submission to the Department’s CSSDACT. ASU was also required to develop and implement the new policies and procedures that were needed to ensure that all of the university’s campus security operations would be carried out in accordance with the Clery Act.
– The exceptions identified in this finding constitute serious violations of the Clery Act that, by their nature, cannot be cured. There is no way to truly “correct” a violation of this type once it occurs.
– Finally, ASU is reminded that the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VA WA) (Pub. Law 113-4), among other provisions, amended the Clery Act to require institutions to compile statistics for incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking and to include certain policies, procedures, and programs pertaining to these incidents in its ASRs. The statute requires institutions to include this new information in the 2015 ASR.
– Specifically, the review team found that the college failed to include all or part of the required statistical and informational disclosures regarding the University’s campus safety and crime prevention policies, procedures, and programs in its 2016 ASR. Since the site visit, ASU has developed and implemented internal controls to ensure that the collection and reporting of said statistics and information disclosures are accurate.
– ASU’s directors and officials are advised that they must take any additional action that may be needed to address the deficiencies identified by the Department, as well as any other deficiencies or weaknesses that were detected during the preparation of the its response, and/or as may be otherwise needed to ensure that these violations do not recur.
– Due to the consequences of a serious compliance failure, the Department strongly recommends that ASU re-examine its campus safety and general Title IV policies and procedures on an annual basis to ensure that they continue to reflect current institutional practices, and are compliant with Federal requirements.
– ASU violated multiple provisions of the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (DFSCA) and the Department’s Part 86 regulations. Specifically, ASU failed to develop and implement a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Program (DAAPP). As a result of this failure, ASU also violated DFSCA’s annual distribution requirement by failing to deliver a materially-complete DAAPP disclosure to all employees and students who are enrolled for any academic credit. Specifically, the review team was told that ASU did not develop, implement, or distribute a comprehensive 2015 and 2016 DAAP.
– ASU also failed to conduct a biennial review of the effectiveness of its DAAPP and of the consistency of sanctions imposed for violations of its disciplinary standards and codes of conduct, and, by logical extension therefore, also failed to produce a biennial review report of findings and recommendations for improvement.
– These separate and distinct violations unavoidably follow from each other because the biennial review is primarily a study of the DAAPP’s effectiveness. Therefore, an institution cannot conduct proper biennial review until it has a fully-functional DAAPP in place and program requirements are adequately and consistently communicated to members of the campus community.
– In its April 11, 2018 Response, ASU concurred with the finding and indicated that it has implemented a DAAPP that will improve its efforts to comply with the regulation. ASU also asserted that it has taken the necessary steps to ensure that its DAAPP is prepared, reviewed, and distributed according to guidelines. The University further explained that review of DAAPP plans, programs and policies has been added to the agenda of ASU’s compliance committee meetings held on a quarterly basis.
– In light of this violation, ASU must ensure that responsible officials conduct substantive biennial reviews going forward, and complete them on the required schedule. University officials must also ensure that each review is, in fact, a probative inquiry into the program’s effectiveness and not merely a conclusory ratification of existing policy. Finally, ASU must produce detailed reports that clearly state the methods used and outcomes reached during each review. Each report must also be approved by the Chief Executive and/or its Board.
– ASU is reminded, yet again, that the violations pertaining to campus safety and substance abuse prevention identified during this program review constitute serious and persistent violations of the DFSCA that, by their nature, cannot be cured. There is no way to truly “correct” violations of this type once they occur. University officials must understand that the Department deems compliance with the DFSCA to be essential to maintaining a safe and healthy learning environment.
– Finally, the Department strongly recommends that ASU re-examine its DAAPP policies and procedures on at least an annual basis and revise them as needed to ensure that they continue to reflect current institutional policy and are in full compliance with the DFSCA.
REACTIONS TO THE PROGRAM REVIEW FINDINGS
In a press release on the ASU website, Director of Financial Aid Phil Schroeder said, “Adams State takes seriously how it administers federal student aid. We work diligently to ensure full compliance with all federal and state regulations and have addressed the issues identified in the program review.”
One former ASU employee said, “given multiple systemic failures across a number of administrative areas, the total liability of $84,351 seems quite charitable. At this point, ASU has been put on notice that its non-compliance and ongoing incompetence won’t be tolerated… and the Department of Education may not be so lenient next time.”
Another former ASU employee familiar with institutional reporting and student services spoke at length about the DOE program report’s critical findings:
“Adams State is like an onion: each time you peel back a layer you find yet another violation, non-compliant or unethical practice, or illegality.
We may look at the bill of $84K and think it’s minimal but the fact of the matter is, these violations are longstanding and egregious. Even something as basic at any other institution, like reporting for the Clery Act, was violated over and over again. This is no small thing; weapons possession, assault, and drug violations are enough to deter a student from even enrolling at an institution. It’s downright deceptive to not report such activity. While their audit is only cross-checking what was reported, there’s no way to know what was not reported.
In addition, Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Programs have been developed and implemented at institutions all over the country – why not at ASU? This demonstrates not only the ignorance and inexperience of current and past leadership, it fully displays the lack of regard ASU leadership has had for ethical and compliant practices.”