Today’s post is a continuation from last week’s topic from the WCET/State Authorization Network (SAN) Special Interest Team. The Special Interest Teams are workgroups on a designated topic area. This particular special interest team worked on contributions for the network on the issue of professional licensure research and disclosures. Today’s post focuses on the best ways to set up and prepare for meetings with stakeholders at your institution. These practices will help you be successful when working with other individuals and units.
Thank you to the team who collaborated on this great post!
Enjoy the read and enjoy your day,
Lindsey Downs, WCET
In a previous Frontiers blog post, the WCET/State Authorization Network (SAN) Special Interest Team shared tips on how to initiate and prepare for stakeholder meetings to discuss licensure program disclosures. In this post, we dive deeper into meeting resources and recommended follow-up, including how to:
- Create a meeting agenda and resources.
- Develop licensure research and disclosure processes.
- Follow up with regular stakeholder communications.
Remember that sharing licensure disclosures is required under current federal regulations in order to participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Effective July 1, 2020, new U.S. Department of Education regulations require disclosures for all licensure programs, regardless of whether the program is offered on-campus or online.
Sharing licensure disclosure information with students builds trust and demonstrates an institution’s commitment to integrity and student success. Reviewing state licensure requirements will help students to make an informed decision before enrolling in a program and prevent them from investing time and tuition dollars in a program that ultimately doesn’t meet their licensure or career goals. As students become increasingly mobile, it’s important to provide relevant licensure information for all states.
Stakeholder Meeting Resources and Tips
After a stakeholder meeting is scheduled and you have researched the relevant program information, it is helpful to develop a meeting agenda to define the scope of the discussion. Possible agenda topics could be:
- Overview of relevant state, federal and NC-SARA disclosure requirements.
- Verification of the program research you completed prior to the meeting.
- Connection between professional licensure disclosure requirements, student success, and the institution’s mission.
- Discussion of research processes, roles, and responsibilities.
- Confirmation of program contacts for future questions.
- Timeline development to complete state licensure research and draft disclosures.
- Next steps and action items.
In addition to setting an agenda, it is helpful to intentionally share resources that will lend support and credibility to your message. We recommend sharing resources before the meeting to allow stakeholders time to review. However, other resources may be more meaningful after you have discussed them at the meeting. If a document is lengthy, consider sharing only the relevant portion, rather than the entire document. Depending on the scope of the agenda, meeting resources could include:
- Federal regulations.
- State regulations.
- Examples of state licensing board requirements.
- Relevant university policies or process documents.
- Relevant SAN articles or white papers.
- A glossary of state authorization terms.
- A document summarizing your program research.
- A link to the institution’s state authorization website.
- Licensure research templates to focus state licensure research.
- Template documents to share with licensing boards.
During the meeting, remember that professional licensure disclosure regulations were put in place to protect students and to promote student success, and compliance is directly linked to your institution’s mission. The purpose of the meeting is to share information, verify program information, learn about current processes, and identify next steps. Remind stakeholders that you are a compliance partner, and you are seeking their input to inform the development of compliance processes.
Developing Licensure Research Processes
After you have verified licensure program information and discussed disclosure requirements with stakeholders, the next step is to develop processes to complete and maintain state licensure research and disclosures. Institutional research strategies and processes vary widely and may be informed by an institution’s size and structure, number of licensure programs, risk assessments, and available resources.
At some institutions, a central state authorization team may complete and maintain all required state licensure research and disclosures. At other institutions, staff in each unit may be responsible for completing and maintaining licensure research and disclosures for the unit’s licensure programs. Another strategy may call for collaboration between central compliance staff and licensure program contacts. Regardless of who is responsible for completing this work, we recommend developing a research guide to document research policies and processes. The guide should include the following information:
- Research roles and responsibilities.
- Research tracking spreadsheet templates.
- Licensing board correspondence templates.
- Processes to share and store research and correspondence.
- Timelines, deadlines, and regulatory review schedules.
- Disclosure checklists.
- Disclosure review and approval processes.
- Location of general disclosures.
- Processes for sharing direct disclosures.
Institutional processes for completing state licensure research and drafting disclosures can vary widely depending on many factors. Regardless of whether responsibilities are centralized, distributed, or shared, it’s essential to implement a process that is applied consistently across all licensure programs. Documenting research steps and creating checklists and templates will help to ensure that all licensure programs are compliant with disclosure regulations and NC-SARA requirements.
Follow-up and Regular Communications
After an initial stakeholder meeting, it’s critical to maintain regular communications with key stakeholders. As state authorization staff, we are immersed in state authorization topics every day. However, stakeholders are focused on many other important topics, and the compliance issues you discussed will naturally fade to the background. Establishing regular communications will continuously remind stakeholders about state authorization compliance issues.
We recommend sending a follow-up email after the initial meeting to summarize your conversation and document next steps and action items. This message may also include links to resources you discussed and a proposed date for a follow-up meeting. Remember to thank your contact for partnering on these student protection issues and offer to answer any questions.
In addition to the follow-up email, regular updates and check-ins will serve as reminders about state authorization topics and prompt stakeholders to contact your office with questions or feedback. We gathered some ideas on how to maintain regular communications with key stakeholders:
- Send monthly or quarterly state authorization newsletters to a stakeholder listserv.
- Schedule regular in person check-in meetings to discuss program or process changes, or regulatory updates.
- Submit updates about reporting deadlines or regulatory changes for publication in campus-wide newsletters or emails.
- Create an advisory committee or stakeholder group to regularly meet and discuss state authorization topics.
- Share updates with stakeholders at institutional leadership or committee meetings.
Maintaining a regular communication schedule using a variety of channels will help stakeholders to remember state authorization requirements and that state authorization staff are there to help with their compliance needs.
It can be challenging to build stakeholder relationships, communicate complex disclosure requirements, and implement compliance strategies. Here are some important items to remember when you embark on this journey:
- Set and share a meeting agenda in order to focus your meeting time.
- Intentionally share meeting resources in order to focus stakeholder conversations appropriately.
- Documenting research processes and responsibilities to help to consistently maintain compliance across your institution.
- Establishing a regular schedule of follow-up communications to continuously remind stakeholders about these important topics.
These suggestions are a collection of strategies and tips from compliance staff at six institutions and aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Regardless of the compliance strategy you develop at your institution, we have found that strong partnerships and open communication with university leaders and staff are the keys to moving state authorization compliance work forward. We would welcome a conversation around other strategies or compliance tips that were successful at your institutions.
The WCET/State Authorization Network (SAN) Special Interest Team:
- Emily Woods, Distance Learning Compliance Coordinator, University of Kentucky
- Matthew Gidley, Graduate Program Coordinator, Northern Arizona University
- Lisa Siefker, State Authorization Program Manager, The Ohio State University
- Leeann Fields, Executive Director, Office of Educational Compliance, UNLV
- Ashley Stettler, Program Coordinator, Eastern Washington University
- Cairesse Grimes, Office of the Provost Coordinator, Mount Saint Mary’s University
- Jacqueline Hodges, Program Manager, University of Alabama