Powers employs a practical, creative and collaborative approach to helping colleges and universities, vocational schools, investment firms, lenders, servicers, and others active in postsecondary education design and implement strategies to achieve their educational and operational goals in a compliant manner within a highly complex regulatory framework.
Education has emerged as a major area of national attention and public policy debate. Throughout the last decade, the federal government has significantly increased federal funding for the education and training of America's workforce. Increasingly, federal and state governments and consumers have called for higher levels of accountability from educational institutions for this significant investment. There is probably no more heavily reviewed and audited area of the education sector than the federal student financial aid programs.
This increased federal and state scrutiny has resulted in a complex regulatory framework affecting all sectors of postsecondary education which significantly impacts the administration of every college and university, from long-term strategic planning to day-to-day operations. Such a highly-regulated environment demands careful assessment and monitoring of internal risks and compliance. These changes also highlight the need for close monitoring of legislative and regulatory actions at the federal and state levels and a positive working relationship with the relevant regulatory agencies.
The education lawyers and professionals at Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville work closely with educational institutions across the United States and abroad. Our clients include private nonprofit colleges and universities, public institutions of higher education, privately owned and publicly traded schools and school systems, secondary school systems, private equity firms, lenders, service providers and others active in postsecondary education. We advise our clients on matters pertaining to student financial aid and other areas of federal regulatory compliance, program review and audit resolution, accreditation compliance and proceedings, state licensure and approval requirements and proceedings, institutional substantive changes, financial responsibility concerns, mergers and acquisitions, administrative and judicial litigation, including False Claims Act and consumer protection matters, risk assessment and government relations.
Powers has extensive, successful and recent experience advising clients in connection with:
- Defense and resolution of U.S. Department of Education program reviews and Office of the Inspector General audits
- Establishing and maintaining institutional and programmatic eligibility to participate in the Title IV federal student assistance programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education under the Higher Education Act
- Obtaining and maintaining accreditation from institutional and programmatic accrediting bodies
- Addressing and resolving regulatory compliance issues, including with respect to the Higher Education Act, the Workforce Investment Act, veterans and other federal education funding programs, state educational licensing, institutional and programmatic accreditation, the Clery Act, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other federal and state laws on student privacy.
- Preventive and routine compliance reviews
- Defense and resolution of claims before the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights
- Defense and resolution of federal and state False Claims Act and consumer protection investigations and litigation, including any resulting administrative litigation
- Obtaining regulatory and accrediting approvals for changes of ownership, new locations, new programs, and other substantive changes
- Financial responsibility noncompliance concerns caused by enrollment decreases, revenue reductions, and debt service problems
- Structuring growth and consolidation transactions to avoid or minimize growth restrictions and disruption of access to student financial aid caused by changes of ownership or control
- Mergers, acquisitions, public and private securities offerings, and credit agreements involving institutions of higher education
- Joint ventures involving shared educational resources
- Contracts with domestic and foreign institutions
- Distance learning ventures
- Contracts with private student lenders, student loan servicers, and other vendors to educational institutions
- Working with government officials to address policy concerns and ensure that clients are not negatively impacted by new policies, and
- Developing legislative proposals designed to improve educational results and provide greater benefits for students