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Update--Governmental Failure to Enforce Failure to Enforce Federal Law to Protect Students-Confirmed-see IG Report-3/14/12


Colleges that do not comply with Federal law

The amendments to the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act  which relate to college campuses was first enacted in 1989.  In its 1998 reauthorization, Congress added a section called the "Sense of the Congress" (the Biden Resolution") which further clarified what Congress anticipated to be the effect of the statutory requirements.

Demonstrating that Congress deemed this effort of significant importance, the potential sanctions under the law are severe:  possible loss of federal funding including subsidized student financial aid.  However, the US Department of Education regulations calls for a range of possible sanction ranging from loss of federal funding to "technical assistance".  Therefore, the law could be effectively enforced without closing down an institution, which would be the likely result of loss of federal funding.

How many sanctions were applied in the seventeen years since passage: NONE.  Given the lack of sanctions, parents can justly assumed that colleges and universities are universally in full compliance with the act.  Unfortunately, most parents realize that is not the case. 

Our recent experience with a compliance referral to the Education Department revealed that:

1) No process within the Education Department exists to evaluate a referral of possible noncompliance,

2) The Education Department has never previously conducted an on-site compliance review to determine whether the information in the documents prepared to comply is consistent with the realities on campus, and

3) There is a general lack of awareness and confusion with the statute by many of the individuals at the Education Department assigned to our compliance inquiry.

To learn more, these efforts and findings where recently published in the June1, 2007 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education in  "The Importance of Enforcing Alcohol Rules" 

Why should a parent be concerned with a college's noncompliance:

  • Campus safety issues, which too often revolves around alcohol use

  • Long-term effects of binge drinking

  • Possible negative effects on the college that your child attends if it is eventually found in serious noncompliance, including lack of financial stability with lost (or reduced federal funding) and the effect on the institution reputation resulting from the application of sanctions.

The president of all institutions of higher education receiving federal funding must repeatedly certify to the federal government that they are in compliance with Drug Free Schools and Campuses Regulations.  The certification is not only required with the Biennial Review process, but is included in the "Certifications and Representations" section of every federal contract.  You would think that an individual in such an esteemed position as college president would take such certifications and representations very seriously.  Read this op-ed article from the New York Times by a former president of Middlebury College and this transcript of a radio interview of  the current president of Paul Smith's College to form your own judgment as to how seriously college presidents take their compliance obligation, given the ineffective enforcement by the education department.

"The institution should provide maximum opportunities for students to live in an alcohol-free environment and to engage in stimulating, alcohol-free recreational and leisure activities." (From the Sense of the Congress included in the 1998 reauthorization)

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In loving Memory of Kristine Guest