ISAC Audit Demonstrates DePaul’s Excellence in Financial Aid Compliance
For the first time in DePaul’s history, the university earned a no-findings result on the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) audit that took place January through March of 2017. ISAC is the agency that facilitates the Monetary Award Program (MAP). The purpose of the audit, which occurs every few years, is to assess DePaul’s compliance with financial aid rules and regulations, so that the university can continue to award state funding. The last ISAC audit took place in 2009.
EMM’s Office of Financial Aid (OFA) is responsible for managing the extensive process. This year, the audit examined two-year’s worth of data for the following programs: MAP, Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois, Grant Programs for Dependents of Police/Fire/Correctional Officers, and Minority Teachers of Illinois. Past audits only assessed a one-year period.
Given the additional scrutiny universities have been facing under the U.S. Department of Education, a perfect audit on financial aid compliance is commendable. In previous years, DePaul would typically receive one to two findings per audit.
“Having no findings speaks to the strength of the policies and procedures that we have in place,” says Agnes Roche, director of Compliance in OFA. “It also shows that we’re accurately following ISAC’s rules and regulations.”
A “finding” indicates a discrepancy or violation in a financial aid policy or procedure. OFA must take corrective action on findings immediately; repeat findings could trigger a Federal Program Review and threaten the university’s eligibility to receive state and federal funding. Findings in an ISAC audit or a Federal Program Review could also result in liabilities being assessed, which could mean returning thousands—or hundreds of thousands—of dollars in funding to the state or the federal government.
Some examples of findings include overbilling (when credit hours billed are greater than what enrollment records justify), Illinois residency not being verified on students, or ISAC-approved language not being used in MAP award letters.
ISAC can either recommend or require a corrective action, and a university must explain and carefully document every response and action taken to fix an issue. Once findings are resolved, ISAC closes the audit and notifies the U.S. Department of Education, as well as the president of the university. An audit will remain open until all corrective actions are completed.
“We’ve developed a solid foundation of systems and best practices in OFA over the years,” shares Roche. “The outcome of this audit affirms that we’re doing what we are supposed to be doing, and that we’re being vigilant to any changes in state requirements to keep DePaul up-to-date on compliance.”
“Having no findings also shines a light on the OFA staff’s high-quality work,” continues Roche. “It shows the precision and efficiency with which our staff operates on a daily basis. We have a very strong staff. This accomplishment was truly a team effort.”