Funding the Dream: Title IV Student Aid Eligibility Issues
Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) provides for the authorization of loans and grant programs to students pursuing post-secondary education. In order for students to receive this federal student aid, the institution they attend must be an “eligible” institution under Title IV. The rules and regulations governing eligibility under Title IV are broad and complex and the failure to fully understand federal government requirements can place the institution and its students at risk of losing federal funding.
The attorneys at HMBR have deep experience helping colleges and universities secure regulatory approvals from federal and state agencies and accrediting bodies necessary to maintain eligibility for federal student financial aid funding. Our lawyers take a proactive approach in these matters, working with institutions to evaluate and revise their policies, procedures and operations to ensure they are following Title IV requirements. In doing so, we aim to uncover and resolve potential problems long before federal and state regulators take action and impose penalties against the institution.
U.S. Department of Education Program Reviews
Under Section 498A of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as amended, the Secretary of Education is responsible for conducting program reviews of higher education institutions participating in Title IV HEA programs. Program reviews are generally triggered when the Department of Education (DOE) uncovers information that may indicate systematic problems or issues within the institution.
Many of the lawyers and professional staff at our firm have extensive prior experience working in various capacities at the DOE and are familiar with how officials initiate and conduct program reviews. Recognizing that reviews can be burdensome on higher education institutions, our attorneys frequently conduct mock program reviews for our education clients. Mimicking the review process, these efforts aim to identify and correct issues that if left unresolved, could result in an actual program review. In these mock scenarios, we undertake a thorough assessment of our client’s operations and ensure that the institution is fully prepared for and knows how to handle the demands of federal officials.
Despite an institution’s best efforts at compliance, the government may still identify potential problems that lead to a program review. In such cases, we help institutions prepare for their onsite reviews and guide them throughout the course of the process to ensure they are responding appropriately. Our lawyers also advise education clients on the actions they should take while awaiting a written report. Once the report is received, we work with clients to make certain they are taking all steps necessary to comply with requirements.
Office of Inspector General Actions
In some situations, the Department of Education may determine that a school’s conduct warrants an audit, investigation, or inspection by the Office of Inspector General (OIG). When an OIG complaint is filed against a school for alleged fraud, waste or abuse, our attorneys provide ongoing consultation and support to the school at every point in the process. We understand the difficult situation our clients may be in and work closely with them to resolve the matter expeditiously while minimizing their exposure to liability.
Regardless of whether a client is working to address a potential problem related to Title IV requirements, undergoing a program review, or facing an OIG investigation, we view our role as one of letting clients know what is possible and helping them develop policies and procedures that put them in the best position to attain their institutional goals and objectives.