Higher Education Clery Act

Clery Act Changes: Challenges Facing Higher Education

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


Higher Education Clery ActThe primary role of an institution of higher learning is to educate, and their greatest asset is their reputation. Government entities and donors generate a significant portion of an institution’s revenue. Non-compliance jeopardizes this revenue. How can it be reasonable that Clery Act and Title IX compliance is so lacking in resources and emphasis?

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. 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.

Staying relevant in a constantly changing world requires leadership, vision, and the ability to capitalize on luck. However, unlike most for-profit businesses, colleges and universities are heavily dependent on government support – including Title IV programs. Universities and colleges are also heavily dependent on their reputation and relationships with alums, faculty research and innovation, and business. These relationships 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 want to attract people who believe what they believe and will become a foundation for the future. Above all, this requires great leadership. 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. Congress amended the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 and renamed it 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, ED published an updated version of the Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting. ED published this new guide just over a year ago. For many institutions – and especially for the professionals who have responsibilities without resources – compliance with the Clery Act remains elusive.

ED and ED/OIG have already put into place a series of changes. These changes have the potential to make an impact across the board and also get the attention of administrators and trustees. ED has adjusted the civil fines for noncompliance to account for inflation rates. In addition, they have built in a Clery Act audit component into every annual financial compliance audit. ED/OIG requires this audit 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. It can really be good for business.

How can the Clery Act be good for business?

Firstly, security is everyone’s responsibility. Part of that responsibility is to know what the organization expects of each individual. Organizations communicate their expectations 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). This allows organizations to deploy adequate resources in a cost effective and efficient manner. Finally, knowing the geography and the crimes committed within the geography provides valuable insight into concerning trends and needed resources.

The Clery Act creates a template for colleges and universities to use as a roadmap in creating a program that is compliant with the requirements. 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 well-being are second in the hierarchy of needs, just above food, water and air. Therefore, a comprehensive security program can help to fulfill that need.


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