Take These Steps to Ease the Program Review Process

By Chris Bolles, USA Funds Compliance Specialist

So your school is in line for a federal program review. You already may have received notification that the U.S. Department of Education will conduct the review. Or you may know that your school is likely to be reviewed because it meets criteria — such as high default rate — that would trigger a review of your school’s compliance with Federal Direct Loan Program requirements.

Now what?

Take steps that will make that review process go more smoothly. In nearly nine years of conducting Federal Family Education Loan Program reviews, and in working with schools to assist them in preparing for Direct Loan program reviews, I’ve found that schools can ease the process by:

1. Documenting.

Regardless of whether you’re preparing for a specific program review, keeping impeccable documentation is a must. Keep detailed information about each borrower’s loans as required, until three years after that borrower leaves your institution. Then when you get that notification of an upcoming program review, you’ll be ready.

2. Gathering records.

The Department of Education will inform you which borrowers’ information will be the focus of the review. Then get a head start by taking a look at those cases yourself. Do you have the financial aid, business office and student academics information that the Department will require? If you’re missing any pieces of the puzzle, now’s the time to collect those pieces from your own office and other campus departments — and save yourself from scrambling once the review begins.

3. Making accommodations.

Reserve a location, such as a conference room, where the reviewers can work while on site. Contact your information technology staff, if necessary, to ensure that the reviewers will have Internet access. Select someone from your financial aid staff to be your liaison with Department representatives. Make sure that liaison will be accessible to help as needed throughout the review, and will be able to check in with reviewers at the start of each day and again later in the day. 

4. Staying positive.

Approach the review with a positive attitude that carries through the exit meeting and beyond. Be ready to request clarification and ask questions about the reviewers’ findings if appropriate, but also realize that there are likely to be issues that you’ll need to resolve. Remember: This is an opportunity to find out what your school is doing well in administering Direct Loans, and where it can improve to serve students better.

Do you need more help preparing for any aspect of a federal program review, or do you just want to be proactive to ensure you’re ready if your school is selected for a review? Contact USA Funds® to learn more about USA Funds Compliance AdviserSM. With USA Funds Compliance Adviser, you can assess your level of compliance with the administration of Direct Loan Program requirements.

A recent USA Funds webcast featured tips for handling program reviews from the perspective of Greg Wallis of Harrison College. Access a recording of that webcast from the USA Funds Compliance Adviser information page.