Once criticized for failing to provide oversight in the area of drug and alcohol regulations, and perhaps riding the wave of attention to campus safety concerns tied to drug and alcohol abuse, the U.S. Department of Education has stepped up enforcement. The Department recently announced that failure to comply with drug and alcohol abuse education and program requirements has made its list of Top 10 Program Review Findings. What can you do to ensure compliance? Here’s a quick checklist:

Drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs

Colleges and universities participating in Title IV Federal Student Aid programs must implement programs designed to prevent drug and alcohol abuse on campus and at institutional events and activities. The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act’s (DFSCA) requirements for these programs are fairly straightforward, if not terribly detailed. Programs must include, at a minimum, annual notice and a biennial review.

Provide a notice

  • To
    • Each employee and
    • Each student taking any class for any type of academic credit (except continuing education)
  • “Annually”
    • Note that despite the regulatory language calling for “annual” notices, the Federal Student Aid Handbook states that schools need to have distribution plans or policies providing for separate distribution to students and employees who start on dates throughout the year following an institution’s primary distribution
  • Distributed in writing
    • The method of distribution must be designed to reach each student and each employee personally. The Federal Student Aid Handbookclarifies that placing the notice in student and employee handbooks is acceptable, provided that schools—as opposed to simply posting the handbooks online—distribute the handbooks to individual students and employees.
  • Including
    • Standards of conduct that clearly prohibit the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol
      • By students and employees
      • On institutional property or as part of any institutional activities
    • A statement that the institution will impose disciplinary sanctions on students and employees for violation of the prohibition
      • A description of those sanctions (consistent with relevant law), up to and including expulsion/termination and referral for prosecution
    • A description of local, state, and federal legal sanctions for unlawful possession or distribution
    • A description of illicit drug and alcohol abuse health risks
    • A description of any drug or alcohol counseling, treatment, or rehabilitation programs available to students and employees
  •  Biennial Review

Include a review every two years to

  •  Determine the effectiveness of the institution’s programs
  • Implement needed changes
  • Ensure consistent enforcement of disciplinary sanctions

The results of the biennial review must be provided upon request to the public. In its Complying with the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Regulations, the Department provides a useful checklist for meeting biennial review requirements.

Drug violation penalty notices

The Department also expects compliance with Higher Education Opportunity Act, Section 485(k) (HEOA) requirements concerning notices of penalties for drug violations.

  • Enrollment Drug Violation Penalty Notice
    •  Schools must provide this notice
      • To students
      • Upon enrollment
    • In a “separate, clear, and conspicuous” written format
    • Advising students
      • That a conviction
      • For any state or federal law regarding possession or sale of illegal drugs
      • During a period for which the student receives Title IV Federal Student Aid funds
      • Will result in the student losing eligibility for any Title IV grant, loan, or work-study assistance.
  • Notice to Students Who Lose Eligibility
    • Where students lose eligibility due to drug convictions, institutions must provide:
      • Timely notice of the loss of eligibility
      • Information about how to regain eligibility

Workplace programs

Colleges and universities that participate in “campus-based” Title IV Federal Student Aid programs (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Federal Work-Study, and Federal Perkins Loan programs) must also meet Drug-Free Workplace Act requirements as follows:

  • Implement employee programs that provide drug-free awareness information to employees
  • Distribute a notice to employees of prohibited unlawful activities and institutional sanctions for violations
  • When learning of an employee’s conviction under any criminal drug statute, notify the Department

What this means to you

Ensuring that your institution is meeting these requirements will smooth the way toward improved drug and alcohol regulation compliance. Documenting your efforts allows you to demonstrate this compliance. Weaving effective programming into your drug and alcohol prevention compliance initiatives can mitigate drug- and alcohol-related safety risks on your campuses and improve overall student and employee well-being.