By Mychael Holt
More than eight years ago, the federal government published a policy to all colleges that receive federal aid requiring those colleges to complete student attendance verification. This verification, and how it was handled, was left to the schools themselves, but the information was to be passed back to the government once completed.
KU registrar Ted Witryk admitted that for many years, KU did not follow the regulation set forth to create a policy to spot check or verify attendance and received a fine of more than $400,000.
With the possibility of the fine doubling, KU generated a policy and had it in place during the spring 2017 semester. Over the summer prior to the fall 2017 semester, faculty were given initial instructions on how to complete this verification process.
These spot checks are what the government wants to see to verify there are students using the aid and attending class. Witryk said, “I’m thankful for the cooperation of the staff.”
Without the willingness of the staff to follow these new regulations we would not have had a 99 percent completion rate by the final due date. For a first-time run of new policy in many years, all but four faculty members had everything done correctly and on time.
Communication with students on all this was in short supply, but everyone can expect to see a few more emails this semester regarding the spring 2018 semester so there is no confusion on disbursement dates. The financial aid office hopes there are no mixed dates and is trying to get the message out early that federal aid cannot be dispersed until the verification is done.
It is important to understand that this is not an attendance policy. KU still gives each faculty member the ability to write his or her own attendance policy.
Dr. Warren Hilton, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs said, “I applaud our efforts for having 99 percent of faculty members getting their verifications in on time.” Hilton believes that class attendance is “vital to the success of our students,” because ultimately that’s what helps get students across the stage “and that’s what we all want,” he said.
This stems from the administration of federal student aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 stating that any student awarded aid will attend school for the entire period for which the assistance was awarded.
It is left to the university to develop a mechanism to determine whether or not the Title IV recipient has attended 60 percent points in the payment period to clear them for 100 percent of the payment. Any student who fails to attend to that point must return unearned portions unless the student has officially withdrawn.