Federal Program Review Assistance

Federal Program Review Assistance

Third Coast uses extensive expertise to ensure effective management of an audit or program review. As a school partner, Third Coast approaches Federal Program Review Assistance using a three phase process: Pre-Review Assessment, Program Review Support, and Program Review Response

Pre-Review Assessment

Successful preparation for a program review requires a review of policies, processes and associated responsibilities within the financial aid office. Therefore, the assessment by Third Coast Higher Education employs a student aid cycle and risk mitigation approach. Through interviews, consultants analyze key business processes in order to make recommendations to maximize use of available technology, resources/personnel to the goal of complete compliance in administration of federal financial aid. The assessment focuses on evaluation and identification of compliance issues and audit risk in the institution’ s control environment.

The assessment review also provides recommendations for improvements on existing financial aid practices and procedures and recommends procedural and policy changes to include financial aid best practices and procedures necessary to be in compliance with federal financial aid programs (e.g. , standard operating procedures, terminology, federal policies, etc.) Consultants provide potential solutions to the identified risk areas and re-design financial aid processes according to best utilization of the current environment. The goal of the redesigned processes is to facilitate a high level of automated processes while maintaining full compliance with federal regulations.

The project follows a financial aid lifecycle approach, so that the entire financial aid operation receives attention. Areas of focus include, but are not limited to:

  • Loading of ISIRs, Missing Information Communications and Requirement Tracking Routines
  • Document handling and Verification of financial aid application
  • Automated and Online Financial Aid Packaging
  • Federal Work Study Employment Processes
  • Disbursement Controls
  • Federal Grant and Loan Reporting and Processes
  • Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy and evaluation
  • Complete Withdrawals and Return of Title IV Funds

The Pre-Review Assessment  also discusses and reviews other typical areas of focus in Program Reviews:

  • Enrollment Reporting to NSLDS (Clearinghouse)
  • Consumer Information
  • Clery Act Reporting and Notifications
  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Policy (DAAPP) and Notifications

Program Review Support

During the period of the Program Review itself, Third Coast Higher Education consultants are either on-site, or available remotely to provide guidance and direction with the goal of effective conclusion of the review.  Consultants provide assistance with the organization and review of items prepared for submission to the Department of Education Program Review Team.

Program Review Response

An institution’s response to the report issued following the Program Review must contain a) corrective actions for the identified deficiencies b) revised policies and procedures and c) rebuilt and corrected student data and federal reporting. where appropriate for identified areas. If the Program Review Report identifies findings, all must be resolved and included in the institution’s response.

Specializing in Federal Financial Aid compliance with significant prior experience supporting schools in development of effective Federal Program Review Responses, Third Coast Higher Education provides expert guidance and recommendations to the formal response to the Department of Education. Third Coast Higher Education also provides suggestions and revisions, as appropriate, to the policy and procedures prepared by the institution’s staff, to address the deficiencies identified in the Program Review Report.  Third Coast Higher Education reviews the specific responses to each finding area to ensure the responses adequately address the issue and inform the US Department of Education Program Review Team of corrective action or procedures taken by the institution. Third Coast Higher Education draws upon significant Financial Aid systems experience while reviewing the institution’s revised procedures and improvement plans.

Third Coast Higher Education performs the following activities, associated with the Federal Program Review Findings:

  • Review Federal Program Review Report
  • Review and provide guidance on corrective actions for identified students/findings
  • Review and provide guidance on revised University policy and procedures
  • Provide guidance to the institution in writing the response to the Program
  • Review Report findings prior to submission

Throughout the engagement, Third Coast Higher Education consultants will communicate with the project manager assigned by the institution to determine strategic actions or changes needed to effectively complete and submit the Program Review Report Response

Once the Program Review Report Response has been submitted to the US Department of Education, Third Coast Higher Education  provides an Executive Summary of the activities, required actions and submission process.

Third Coast Higher Education consultants are available to provide a presentation to the University Board of Trustees or other stakeholder meetings, as needed

The Third Coast Approach

Activities during the engagement can be performed as a combination of remote and on-site. Third Coast Higher Education consultant(s) will be on-site at the institution, as permitted by local and state health guidelines, for a kick-off day, to review work performed to date and to map out activities to be completed prior to the submission of the Program Review Report Response. Third Coast Higher Education provides support for the Program Review Report Response while not on campus each week through a combination of email, conference calls, webinars and Zoom sessions.

Third Coast Higher Education consultants have both participated in audits and have directed institutional response plans. Like any large project, the institution benefits from having experts guiding the activities and anticipating the appropriate next steps to ensure a successful and low-stress response.