The Dallas CPAs at Salmon Sims Thomas explain Clery Act violations and why the number of resulting fines is rising.
The Clery Act
The Clery Act requires all colleges and universities that receive federal financial aid to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information.
In order to enforce this Act, there are certain situations that warrant a compliance review from the Department of Education (DOE). The DOE can only issue a review if and when a complaint is received, a media event raises awareness, an independent audit identifies serious non-compliance, or an audit goes through a review selection process.
After the review, the DOE gives a Final Program Review Determination, known simply as the Determination. If the Determination is not rendered acceptable, it is referred to the appeals division for possible administrative action, which may include one or more fines. Fines are assessed in a separate letter that follows between one and 36 months after the Determination.
The amount of Determinations and fines has increased in recent years. In the eleven years spanning from 1997 to 2008, the DOE only issued 25 Determinations in total. Of those 25 Determinations, only six were fined. From 2009 to 2012, 34 Determinations were issued and 13 schools have been fined, which was greater than all the Determinations from the last 12 years combined.
This rising trend is expected to continue in the 2013 and 2014 Department data once it has been published. The DOE received 76 sexual assault complaints between October 2008 and September 2013, and is currently (How current is this?) investigating 26 cases. When considering these pending complaints and ongoing investigations, it is foreseeable that the DOE will issue more Determinations, and therefore more fines than ever before.
Student safety is a primary concern for colleges and universities. Meeting compliance requirements not only ensures the utmost safety of students, but also helps to avoid the unwanted media attention that accompanies complaints and negative findings.
It is important to monitor the DOE’s upcoming rulemaking sessions when addressing changes to campus safety and security reporting requirements. In the meantime, higher education institutions should be proactive in their efforts to ward off potential violations from a significantly more active DOE.
For more information about the Clery Act, please contact the Dallas CPA firm, Salmon Sims Thomas
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