Why Proprietary Schools Need To Protect Themselves With Data Yesterday

To remain in compliance, proprietary schools must prepare for an increasing level of scrutiny by tracking and documenting data more thoroughly than ever before.

  

Proprietary schools have recently begun facing increased government scrutiny in what Career Colleges and Universities president Jason Altmire calls a “coordinated effort” by multiple government entities. 

 

The Federal Trade Commission recently sent a letter to 70 proprietary schools threatening fines as high as $43,792 for every instance of unfair or deceptive practices. The FTC seemingly selected these schools, many of which are in good compliance standing, without considering the reputational impact. Shortly after, the Department of Education revived an enforcement division responsible for investigating potential federal financial aid violations that threaten students and taxpayers. 

 

At the same time, ED is going through a negotiated rulemaking session to create new regulations impacting Title IV schools, including changes to borrower defense to repayment and the 90/10 rule. On top of everything, in a recent proposal to increase Pell Grant funds by $550, ED specifically stated that students attending proprietary schools would not be eligible for the additional funds, but this could change. ED is even putting accreditors under compliance review.

 

The signal is clear; Proprietary schools are facing increased scrutiny, and it’s critical to be prepared.

How Proprietary Schools Can Remain Protected and in Compliance with Data

If a claim or violation arises, schools are seemingly presumed guilty until proven innocent, and it’s on the school to provide the burden of proof. In fact, regulators will eliminate the burden of proof on students claiming fraud if ED-proposed changes to borrower defense pass. Tracking school-wide data and storing it in a cloud-based solution will protect your school with a strong audit trail and verifiable records.

 

Student Data

Tracking student attendance data is critical to combating fraudulent identity theft complaints and borrower defense claims. Unfortunately, schools have already seen increased fraudulent identity theft complaints, and it’s likely to worsen when student loan repayments begin. To stop these complaints, some schools are using a combination of student identification and attendance records. When schools take attendance using software and store data in the cloud, it’s easy to quickly pull accurate, down-to-the-second student records as proof of student attendance. 

 

Learn how Concorde Career College combated fraudulent identity theft complaints, sometimes with a single email, using CourseKey. 

 

Software also helps schools substantiate attendance online. When COVID-19 first shook up the world, accreditors and the Department of Education were generous with online learning regulations, but they are less forgiving after well over a year. As a result, schools must be able to substantiate asynchronous online attendance and engagement to prove that students received the education they were promised. Many schools have already mentioned that auditors are examining online attendance data with far more scrutiny than ever before. 

 

Instructor and Course Data

If you’re relying on instructors to enter attendance data or hand off an attendance sheet at the end of the day, your school is open to instructor fraud. Instructors may start class early or end class late without flagging the schedule deviation to administrators. Instructor fraud is rarely ill-intentioned, but it can greatly impact compliance and borrower defense should a student raise a concern. With mobile attendance software, administrators have an immediate, accurate view of when class starts and ends. As a result, administrators can quickly catch instructor and course trends and intervene before it becomes a compliance concern. 

 

With cloud storage, schools can keep this data on file well after a cohort graduates. Should a former student claim that an instructor short-changed their education, schools can easily pull course-level data, proving that class started and ended on time.

A Good Defense is the Best Offense

Career education schools, often proprietary schools, are preparing students for some of the most in-demand jobs in the country. Trades, nursing, and allied health professionals are vital for our country to build back better. 

 

Every sector has bad actors, including many nonprofit higher education institutions that leave students and parents drowning in debt without immediate earning potential. So while it isn’t right that proprietary career education programs, which provide students with job prospects and immediate earning potential, are facing this level of scrutiny, they must still be prepared for the storm ahead.  

 

Request a demo if you’d like to learn more about how CourseKey’s detailed records can protect your school in the face of increased regulatory oversight.

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