Higher Education Clery Act

Challenges Facing Higher Education: Changes to Clery Act

Christine L. Peterson, CPP, ISP Clery Act, Compliance, News, SaVE Act, VAWA

If the primary role of an institution of higher learning is to educate and their greatest asset is their reputation, how can it be reasonable that compliance with the Higher Education Clery Actrequirements under the Clery Act and Title IX be so lacking in resources and emphasis? This is all the more dumbfounding when one considers that a significant portion of an institution’s revenue is generated from government entities and donors and that this revenue is jeopardized by non-compliance.

Some of the answers, if not at least clues, to where college and university administrators and Trustees are focusing their energies can be found in Richard Vedder’s article published last week by Forbes. Vedder discussed seven challenges facing higher education to include:

  • The huge increase in costs … are starting to seriously turn off potential customers and alienate the public, whose support of colleges is waning,
  • The role of increased federal student financial aid and federal regulation on tuition inflation and diversity,
  • New, much cheaper approaches to certify vocational competence are on the horizon,
  • Their role as an oasis where widely divergent ideas are discussed and peacefully argued – is increasingly under attack,
  • The combination of anemic economic growth and an aging population putting pressure on governments and budgets looking for ROI facing other pressing public funding needs including health care,
  • A change in the perceived value proposition – earning advantage of a college graduate vs. a high school graduate, and
  • The damage cause by the scandals and treatment of students in intercollegiate athletics

Institutions of higher learning are businesses, and just like any other business, leadership’s primary focus is to develop products and services to attract and retain current and prospective customers, talent, and investments.

As all businesses have learned, staying relevant in a constantly changing world requires leadership, vision, and the ability to capitalize on both good and bad luck. However, unlike most “for-profit” businesses, colleges and universities are heavily dependent on government support in its many forms – including Title IV programs. Universities and colleges are also heavily dependent on their ability to capitalize on their reputation and relationships with alums, faculty research and innovation, and business relationships to attract support, investment, and other resources to further their objectives and mission.

Additionally, institutions of higher learning depend on their reputation to attract the “right” students, faculty and staff. They’re wanting to attract people who believe what they believe and will become a part of the foundation for the future. All of this requires great leadership and, as Vedder’s article demonstrates, the landscape is complicated. There is a vital necessity for universities to develop a robust compliance program that includes a comprehensive Clery Act component.

Compliance requirements under the Clery Act are not new. The Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 was amended in 1998 and renamed the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act in 1998. The additional VAWA requirements were added to the Clery Act in 2014 after the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 was signed into law by President Obama. After the new requirements were enacted, ED published an updated version of the Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting. This new guide was published just over a year ago, and for many institutions – and especially for the professionals who have been handed the responsibilities without the resources – compliance with the Clery Act remains elusive.

ED and ED/OIG have already put into place a series of changes that have the potential to make an impact across the board and get the attention of administrators and Trustees alike. Not only has ED adjusted the civil fines for noncompliance to account for inflation rates, they have built in a Clery Act audit component into every annual financial compliance audit. This audit is required for institutions receiving Title IV funding.

The details of are available in the ED/OIG guide published in 2016, Guide for Audits of Proprietary Schools and for Compliance Attestation Engagements of Third-Party Servicers Administering Title IV Programs.

It’s hard to believe that institutions haven’t come to realize that compliance under the Clery Act is not going away and it can really be good for business.

How can the Clery Act be good for business?

For one, security is everyone’s responsibility. Part of that responsibility is to know what is expected of each individual through policies, procedures, awareness campaigns, training, and emergency plans. Secondly, good business practices require the ability to measure effectiveness and identify trends (good or bad) so that adequate resources can be deployed in a cost effective and efficient manner. Knowing the geography and the crimes committed within the geography provides valuable insight into what resources are needed and what trends to be concerned with.

The Clery Act creates a template to be utilized as a roadmap in creating a program that is compliant with the requirements and, in doing so, it supports collaboration, communication, and the brand of the institution in a highly competitive marketplace. Compliance with the Clery act also shows a commitment to constituents (students, faculty, staff, parents, partners, alumni, funders, etc.) that things like health, welfare, equity, parity, and the protection of assets (especially human and reputational) are a priority for the institution.

Maslow tells us that safety and security and a sense of wellbeing are second in the hierarchy of needs, just above food, water and air. A comprehensive security program can help to fulfill that need.

Protus3 is available to you. If you have concerns about your institution’s Clery Act compliance or want to put in place a comprehensive security program, please call (919) 834-8584 or visit our contact us page.