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by Brad Smith

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If you are a Financial Aid Director, Enrollment Manager, Administrator, or School Leader, ensuring your institution’s compliance policies and procedures are up to date is a key factor to remaining in compliance.

As such, our team at Educational Compliance Management has come up with 5 effective ways to assist you in maintaining your policies and procedures.

  1. Include representatives across the school community.
  2. Write your policies in a clear and concise manner.
  3. Explain the “why”.
  4. Utilize your resources.
  5. Pay attention to ALL requirements; federal, state, accreditor, and school-specific processes.

Include representatives across the school community.

Understanding, creating, editing, and maintaining financial aid policies and procedures is not just the responsibility of the Financial Aid Office, these responsibilities reside across the entire school community. It is imperative to include constituents from various offices on campus not only in the process of writing the schools policies and procedures, but also in the process of maintaining them.

Some of the offices that we recommend including are Admissions, Registrar Services, Student Accounts/Bursar and members of the academic community. Financial Aid policies and procedures are impacted by the practices of all of these offices. It is important to meet on an ongoing basis to review the document to ensure that it is both up to date and being adhered to across the school.

Keep things clear and concise.

When writing your policies and procedures, write in a clear and concise fashion. Always remember to write in a way in which the school members can both easily interpret, reference, and adhere the document. It is also important to ensure the various policies are well organized and cited.

Writers and reviewers should remember that the primary purpose is to document policies for reference and to enforce consistency in work performance.

Explain the why.

The more people understand why a compliance policy and/or procedure is in place, the more invested they will be in terms of communicating and being consistent with that statement or guideline. People are naturally questioning creatures, so a good recommendation is to state why the policy or procedure is required.

The why reduces the risk of ambiguity and supports consistency in operations, communication, and messaging. Going through explanations can also help determine if you need to include step-by-step procedures or if links to them will suffice.

Utilize your resources.

Remember that you are not alone when it comes to understanding the financial aid regulations applicable to your institution. Using resources from places such as FSA Partners, for example, can go a long way and prevent you from feeling like you are reinventing the wheel.

Pay attention to ALL requirements. That means federal, state, accreditor and school-specific policies.

When it comes to financial aid, it’s not just federal regulations and compliance guidelines that need to be taken into consideration. Remember that each state has its own set of rules as does each accrediting body, and sometimes even a specific institution has additional requirements.

Do your homework and have a robust understanding of everything that is applicable.

Also, remember that a Financial Aid Department’s policies and procedures document is a LIVING document. We suggest having a recurring reminder for ongoing review as documents should be revisited to ensure they are up to date.

We Are Your Financial Aid Office

At Educational Compliance Management, we help organizations and institutions around the country maintain a fully compliant Financial Aid Office. Our team is specially trained in and knowledgeable about the ongoing and rigorous regulations released and maintained by the Department of Education (including Title IV regulations).

We’ve been in this industry now for over four decades and our services are designed to support post-secondary institutions big and small. Give us a call or fill out our online form to learn more about how Educational Compliance Management can support financial aid processing and compliance training.

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