Transitioning to the New York State Pension Plan Reporting Requirements by Year End

Transitioning to the New York State Pension Plan Reporting Requirements by Year End

After December 31 of this year, New York State & Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) legacy reporting will be phased out and replaced by Retirement Online for enhanced reporting. Over 900 employers have already made the switch. Since initial discussions about the change started over four years ago, we figured it’s a good time to review everything and remind you of the many resources available to help ensure a smooth transition for your office and your employees.

As noted on the Office of New York State Comptroller, Thomas P Dinapoli’s website, “When it comes to using Retirement Online, state agencies will primarily use it to enroll optional employees in the Retirement System. However, Retirement Online offers you much more than just easy enrollment.”

Retirement Online is faster and easier than the legacy system. Municipality users are commenting on how simple it is to use, which is especially valuable for smaller offices where staff wear many hats.

With the new system, government employers can easily enroll new members; generate reports; get instantaneous access to information about days worked, earnings, and job information; process and change deductions accurately and in a timely manner, and receive timely notifications about potential issues.

In addition, Retirement Online allows users to view new hire information and contribution rates, as well as historical reporting data and financial transactions; update information about your organization; manage and assign security access; request events; and submit the Statement of Accrued Payments and Leave Credits form for retiring employees.

There are numerous resources available to support the transition:

While you’re focusing on making the transition, remember, RBT CPAs is here to focus on all of your accounting, tax, and auditing needs. We’ve been supporting municipal clients in the Hudson Valley and beyond for over 75 years, and we’re committed to upholding the highest levels of professional, ethical service. Give us a call today.

Consider Making Silent Alarms Part of Your School Safety Plan – It’s the Law

Consider Making Silent Alarms Part of Your School Safety Plan – It’s the Law

In June, Governor Kathy Hochul signed Alyssa’s Law, which requires schools in New York to consider the use of silent panic alarm systems as part of their school safety plan reviews/updates.

Named after 14-year-old Alyssa Lhadeff, who was killed in a mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the law advocates for systems that directly alert law enforcement of an active shooter situation requiring immediate response. That way, there’s no delay and the minutes saved could also save lives. Ultimately, it is designed to make New York schools safer.

New York schools join those in Florida, New Jersey, and Kansas, which have similar laws. While not a mandate, New York schools should consider the alarm’s usefulness and inclusion in building safety plans.

A panic/silent alarm system can cost a few thousand dollars and can be implemented via a smartphone app (there are also hard-wired and lanyard options). The system bypasses 911 and connects directly with law enforcement. In addition to an active shooter situation, it can be used for medical and fire emergencies, and also alert school staff in addition to first responders.

As reported on Lohud.com, the law “allows state reimbursement for districts that add the systems,” as well as related technology updates. A news report from the Finger Lakes region of New York indicates schools are working with their insurance carriers to learn about the silent alarm options available to them and the best prices. In Olean city schools, a silent alarm system was funded with a grant.

A month before Alyssa’s Law was signed, Hochul strengthened New York’s Red Flag Law. As reported via RochesterFirst, “On May 18, 2022, Governor Hochul signed an Executive Order to require State Police to file for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) whenever they have probable cause to believe that an individual is a threat to themselves or others.” Training was on the radar for educators and mental health professionals.

So, if reviewing or updating your school safety plan is on the agenda in the weeks or months ahead, be sure to become acquainted with Alyssa’s law, the Red Flag Law, and training and other resources that may be available to you and your staff. To learn more, visit New York State Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) or the New York Center for School Safety.

As always, it’s always a good idea to check with your legal counsel to ensure compliance. While you’re focused on boosting your school’s safety, please know you can count on RBT CPAs to support your school’s/district’s accounting, audit, and tax needs. We’ve been serving businesses, municipalities, and school districts in the Hudson Valley and beyond for over 50 years and have gained a reputation for our professional and ethical practices and services. Give us a call to see what we can do for you today.

Better Together: Local, State & Federal Resources Team Up to Fight Cyber Terrorism

Better Together: Local, State & Federal Resources Team Up to Fight Cyber Terrorism

U.S. and state leaders recognized municipalities do not have the resources or manpower to stop the onslaught of cyberattacks at a local level. This year, a new strategy has emerged in the war on cyber terrorism, fostering a shared services approach to winning on this invisible battlefield on national, state, and local levels. As a result, New York municipalities have access to more support, training, and tools than ever to protect sensitive data and critical infrastructure.

In June, the State and Local Government Security Act was signed into law, formalizing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) relationship and roles in increasing cybersecurity defenses and resiliency.

Under the law, CISA is required to help address cyber incidents; share cyber threat indicators, defensive measures, and risks; communicate incidents; share best practices, standards, and policies; help build system resiliency; promote education and awareness; and more. MS-ISAC (made up of a coalition of more than 2,500 organizations including states and territories) must work with CISA to improve cybersecurity for all, using a 24/7 watch and warning center and a Computer Emergency Response Team.

In July, NY Governor Kathy Hochul announced the start of the state’s $30 million shared services program to help counties protect government systems against ransomware and other attacks. This follows the introduction of the state’s Joint Security Operation Center which takes a centralized approach to managing cybersecurity risk for government assets throughout the state. Counties can opt-in at no cost.

What’s more, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 includes $1 billion in grants to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments over four years. Under the law, 80% of money received by states via grants must go to local governments.  Just a few days ago (September 16 to be exact), the Department of Homeland Security launched the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program to begin distributing funds. (Click here for FAQs for how local governments can access the grants.)

To bolster efforts to stand up to cyber attacks at the local level, early this year, the New York State Association of Counties issued a Cybersecurity Primer for Local Leaders. The Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress hosted a series of webinars (with recordings available) focusing on boosting cybersecurity in the region.

Also, the New York State Office of Information Technology developed a webpage devoted to cybersecurity resources for local municipalities’ elected officials, administrative officials, and business managers. Among the many resources posted is a Local IT Governance Management Guide, as well as guides for incidence reports, risk management, getting started with cyber security, secure credit card payments, firewalls, Internet and acceptable use policies, disposal of electronic media, and backing up essential information. In addition, there are awareness resources including webinar recordings, newsletters, and toolkits; training resources; and a toolkit with assessment tools, user guides, and more.

With so many divisive factors in society today, it’s refreshing to see that when called upon Americans can be bigger than what divides us by uniting at every level of government to stand up against security threats in cyberspace. No doubt, it’s a big job on a battlefield with no borders and no visible enemies.

To free you up to focus on what you do best – including protecting your community’s critical infrastructure and residents’ private data, we want to remind you that RBT CPAs is here to take on everything accounting, tax, and audit-related. We’ve been serving municipalities in the Hudson Valley and beyond for over 50 years, and we’re always ready to do our part with the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. Contact RBT CPAs today.

Don’t Get FOILed by FOIL Requests: Be Prepared to Move Fast

Don’t Get FOILed by FOIL Requests: Be Prepared to Move Fast

Updates to New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) on March 22 (and retroactive to December 29, 2021) are designed to make it easier to access public records by speeding up responses to requests for information and providing more detailed justifications for denials. Are your municipal agencies and public authorities ready to respond?

New York state leadership is taking responsibility for transparency seriously, as seen by not one but two FOIL amendments within the last year – one at the end of 2021 and another in March of 2022. FOIL is intended to provide the public – whether it’s a taxpayer, a reporter, a defense attorney, or someone else – with access to public records from government agencies.

As a result of amendments, ABC 50 Now (via InformNNY.com) reported FOIL requests now go directly to the agency managing the information (rather than starting with an Executive Chamber review) and each agency must post commonly requested information online to eliminate the need for a FOIL request.

Section 86 defines agency as “any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities thereof, except the judiciary or the state legislature.”

FOIL is overseen by The Committee on Open Government. Its Model Rules for Agencies, Section 5 Requests for public access to records details how and when an agency should respond to a FOIL request. Some noteworthy items:

  • A request can be verbal if records are readily available on the internet.
  • Within five days of receipt of a request, a response must be provided. This includes:
    – Asking for more details;
    – Granting or denying the request;
    – Acknowledging receipt of the request and providing an approximate date for granting or denying the request (which must be within 20 business days from the acknowledgement unless a written explanation is provided about why there is a delay and when the request will be fulfilled); or
    – If after acknowledging the request, disclosure can’t be met by the date noted, a written explanation for the delay and the date the request will be granted must be provided.
  • Several factors are used to determine a reasonable time to fulfill a request, including how big the request is, how easy it is to get the records, request complexity, the number of requests received by an agency, and more.
  • Failing to comply with time limits is construed to be a denial that can be appealed. This includes:
    – Failing to provide access to requested records;
    – Failing to acknowledge in writing receipt of request or denial within five business days;
    – Failing to provide an approximate date for fulfilling the request in whole or in part;
    – Approximating a date for fulfilling the request that is unreasonable;
    – Failing to respond within a reasonable time after the approximate date provided or within 20 days of acknowledging receipt of a request;
    – Granting a request within 20 business days of acknowledging receipt of the request, but failing to do so and failing to explain why in writing and when the request will be granted in whole or in part;
    – Failing to grant a request and provide a written explanation why and when it will be granted in whole or in part; or
    – Responding to a request stating more than 20 business days is needed and stating when the request will be fulfilled but that date is unreasonable based on the request.

Other changes related to the updated law include the elimination of a judicial hearing for a public records request as long as an investigating agency confirms release of information could hurt investigations or lives (Bliss, 2022, CriminalLegalNews.org). What’s more, failing to fulfill a request and having a viable reason for doing so could result in having to pay a requestor’s attorney’s fees should the matter be litigated.

While FOIL has been around since the 1970s, renewed focus on transparency and trust in government as a New York state priority likely means the recent law changes are a beginning rather than an end, and more is likely to come in terms of enforcement and precedence. New York’s Committee on Open Government website has more information to help you learn about and navigate FOIL (including training materials). It’s worth a visit every once and a while to ensure compliance.

While this article reviews key highlights, we need to say and can’t emphasize enough that this is a legal matter. If your agency is subject to FOIL, you should seek legal counsel to ensure compliance. In the meantime, it is important to recognize that a broad spectrum of subjects – including finance-related ones – are subject to FOIL. That makes using a respected, professional accountant with a track record for excellence even more important – why not give RBT CPAs a call to see what we can do for you?

New Project & Expenditure (P&E) Report Requirements for Recovery Funds Start July 31

New Project & Expenditure (P&E) Report Requirements for Recovery Funds Start July 31

With the second quarter ending, you may want to get acquainted with updated guidance the U.S. Treasury provided for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) Project and Expenditure (P&E) Reports. The next one is due July 31 and there are several new requirements.

On June 17th, updates were issued by the U.S. Treasury for State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Compliance and Reporting Guidance.  Quarterly P&E reports are due from States and U.S. territories; tribal governments allocated more than $30 million in SLFRF funding; metropolitan cities and counties with more than 250,000 residents; metropolitan cities and counties with less than 250,000 residents allocated more than $10 million in SLFRF funds; and Non-Entitlement Units (NEUs) allocated more than $10 million in SLFRF funding.

The next report is due July 31 for the quarter ending June 30. If your municipality is required to submit a P&E, get acquainted with the updated reporting guidelines. Changes for quarterly and annual reports, as reported by the National Association of Counties, include:

  • Reveal the type of capital expenditure per enumerated uses (found on pages 27 and 28 of the S. Treasury Compliance and Reporting Guidance, Section 2, Capital Expenditures).
  • Provide written justification for capital expenditures in projects expected to total $10 million or more for enumerated uses or $1 million or more for an “other” use. (Exception: This does not apply to Tribal governments.)
  • Provide labor reporting (outlined on pages 30 and 31 of the S. Treasury Compliance and Reporting Guidance) for projects with total expected capital expenditures of over $10 million.
  • Provide additional information for Broadband projects (outlined on pages 32 and 33 of the S. Treasury Compliance and Reporting Guidance).
  • Provide additional data for projects in expenditure categories (outlined on page 33 of the S. Treasury Compliance and Reporting Guidance). This applies to States, U.S. territories, and metropolitan cities and counties with more than 250,000 residents.
  • New Recovery Plan Template required to be published annually on the recipient’s website and provided to.

For additional resources, including guides and webinars, visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury website.

On a different note, as reported by the New York Government Finance Officer’s Association (NYGFOA), SAM.gov – the Federal System of Award Management – is having some issues. If you’re experiencing delays or having issues completing reauthorization or registration, in order to get your Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) needed to apply for Federal funding opportunities, there are a number of resources that can help: UEI FAQ document published by the General Services Administration (GSA); SAM.gov Help webpage; and the GSA Federal Service Help Desk.

You probably have a lot more to do navigating all of these new requirements and processes. RBT CPAs can help. We’re available to partner with you on all of audit, tax, and accounting needs, so you have peace of mind these responsibilities are covered by one of the largest firms in the Hudson Valley, a top 100 firm in New York and a top 250 firm nationwide. That way, you’re freed up to focus on new and growing responsibilities to help plan for, secure, and track valuable funds for your community’s future.

To What Degree Can You Boost College Completion Rates?

To What Degree Can You Boost College Completion Rates?

Colleges are doing better than ever attracting new students, but the same can’t be said for getting students to finish degrees.

In fact, about four out of every 10 students who start college never finish, leaving many with student loan debt but no college degree to show for it. Growing research and resources show improving college completion rates is good for students, colleges/universities, and society overall. Is it time to jump on the bandwagon?

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Center (NSC), which tracks completion rate trends, the 2021 six-year completion rate for those who started in the fall of 2015 reached 62.2% (a 1.2% increase over 2014), with the largest increase in community colleges. CollegeTransitions.com reports that in 2021 just 41% of students completed college in four years.

poll conducted by Third Way and New America found that due to the pandemic one out of every three students believe they’ll need an additional semester or year to finish college. Since this requires more funding, there’s a chance many of these students will never get their degree.

Those who don’t finish college see much lower earnings than their counterparts who do graduate.

2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics Data shows the following relationships between education and earnings:

  • Less than a high school degree: $619 weekly and $32,188 annually
  • High School Degree: $781 weekly and $40,612 annually
  • Some college: $877 weekly and $45,604 annually
  • Associate’s degree: $938 weekly and $48,776 annually
  • Bachelor’s degree: $1,305 weekly and $67,860 annually
  • Master’s degree: $1,545 weekly and $80,340 annually
  • Professional degree: $1,893 weekly and $98,436 annually
  • Doctorate degree: $1,885 weekly and $98,020 annually

Students aren’t the only ones impacted – institutions of higher learning are, too.

According to CampusLogic.com, “Students who drop out in order to attend a different institution, or who drop out entirely, will negatively impact graduation rates and generate lost tuition revenue.”

What’s an institution of higher learning to do?

Some states are using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to expand programs shown to improve completions rates, like CUNY ASAP (which doubled participant graduation rates) and Bottom Line (which increased graduation rates by 23% in four years). Colorado has a task force charged with using remaining ARPA funds to improve completion rates. North Carolina invested $2 million of CARES Act funds to expand its Accelerate, Complete and Engage (ACE) program to enhance bachelor’s degree completion rates in the state’s school system.

Some schools are benefiting from the Title III Strengthening Institutions program Part A, using funds specifically for retention and completion purposes.

Proposed legislation like the College Completion Fund Act would provide for $62 billion over 10 years on programs to help students complete their degrees.  There’s a lot of lobbying for Federal retention and completion funds in 2023 fiscal year appropriations.

Some colleges are already moving ahead with their own retention grant programs.

EdSurge.com reports that the main reason students leave college is financial. Some colleges offer small grants for those close to graduating, owing a modest amount, who used up all other aid sources, and are at risk of dropping out due to funds. One study found about a third of colleges that used these grants experienced higher graduation rates among recipients.

Georgia State University’s retention grant program has had 86% of recipients since 2011 going on to complete their degrees. Perhaps even more notable: it also benefits the university. Boston Consulting Group showed “for every 1,500 grants disbursed, the university receives an additional $5.4 million to $9.2 million in revenue. Even after including the costs of the grants themselves and the costs associated with the administration of the program, the Boston Consulting Group estimated that Georgia State’s return on investment was between $4 million and $7.8 million.”

Grants are just one solution – there are others.

Refer to the U.S. Department of Education database containing individual college and university plans for driving retention and completion. Also the University Innovation Alliance has a playbook to help institutions interested in exploring and starting a retention and completion program.

For insights and assistance on how investing in a retention and completion program can have a positive impact on accounting and taxes, give RBT CPAs a call. We’re the Hudson Valley’s premier accounting firm and within the top 250 nationwide. A number of institutes of higher learning in the area are already our clients – see why. Give us a call.

Do You Know About These Finance Resources Available through the State?

Do You Know About These Finance Resources Available through the State?

New York State’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System helps counties, cities, towns, villages, and school districts check vital signs for fiscal health and, when appropriate, proactively take action to address and fix issues. Take a moment to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the tools and resources the state offers to monitor, act (when appropriate), and maintain strong fiscal health.

The Fiscal Stress Monitoring System was created by New York State Comptroller Thomas P DiNapoli in 2012 and is a lot like an annual physical. During an annual physical, a doctor collects information about certain key health factors; tracks and compares that information year to year; and, using baseline data, either helps the individual fix any issues or refers him/her for more specialized care to manage a condition. The state’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System works much the same way. It provides an early warning to local officials and residents to indicate when action is needed to manage potential risks to finances, property taxes, and essential services.

Based on financial factors, fiscal stress scores are assigned and reported publicly. Financial indicators include year-end fund balance, short-term cash-flow borrowing, cash position and operating deficit patterns.

Stress scores using data from Annual Financial Reports for fiscal years ending 2021 have started to be reported via a press release and lists posted on the comptroller’s website. (School district scores were released in January.) A second, separate analysis of environmental factors using US Census Bureau data provides insight into a local government’s or school district’s economic health and other challenges.

In addition to these reports, insights from the Office of the Comptroller can highlight points of focus for local municipalities. As noted in a recent press release, “The financial landscape for many local governments has improved with the infusion of federal aid and stronger economic activity,” DiNapoli said. “The relief funds are temporary, so it is critical that local communities make changes, including carefully managing debt and engaging in long-term planning, that help improve their financial outlook for years down the road.”

Beyond the fiscal stress report, the Office of the Comptroller provides:

  • A self-assessment tool – which can be especially helpful during budget planning processes – so local officials can determine stress scores using current and future financial assumptions.
  • Numerous live and on-demand webinars on a variety of topics from budgeting, financial planning, and procurement to capital planning, audits, taxes, and more.
  • Reference guides, research reports, and other resources.
  • A Financial Toolkit, which provides targeted information, tools, and training to address potential challenges and issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • New York Open Book, a site that tracks state and local spending and makes public financial records, state contracts, and other commonly requested data.

If you prefer more personalized guidance on finance and accounting, remember, RBT CPAs is available to help. We’re one of the Hudson Valley’s leading accounting firms and we have extensive experience working with local governments and school districts. Give us a call.

Check, Please! College Student Covid Relief Update

Check, Please! College Student Covid Relief Update

In January, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced it was distributing $198 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to support colleges, universities and students in 2022. Much of the funding (50% to 100%) must be used for Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEERF) grants for students.

Community and rural colleges with at least 50% of students being Pell Grant recipients and at least a 4.5% enrollment decline year over year; institutions where at least 90% of the student body consists of graduate students; and institutions that didn’t receive previous HEERF disbursements due to application errors will receive priority for funds.

Thousands of U.S. colleges and universities have received HEERF funds. They have broad discretion to distribute the student aid portion pretty much as they see fit. In general, they award grants to students ranging from an average of a couple of hundred dollars to $3,000 (with some colleges offering even more); they are intended to help students cover ongoing expenses like tuition, housing, food, and healthcare (including mental healthcare).

Funds cannot be applied to students’ outstanding account balances without permission or reduce financial aid. They are not considered income, so no taxes apply, and they have no impact on FAFSA filings.

The process for distributing funds varies. Many colleges automate allocations based on financial need using FAFSA information. Some also offer discretionary grants that require students to complete an application process.

Colleges and universities who received HEERF funds are required to provide detailed reporting on the use of funds and timing of distributions. Data about how a school is distributing funds, how many students received grants, how much money has been distributed, and more must be posted on a school’s website by predetermined deadlines. For complete details, refer to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) HEERF Reporting Guidelines.

In early April, ED extended the performance period for all open HEERF grants to June 30, 2023.

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Education website which includes revised FAQs from the IRS and auditing requirements.  Also visit the NASFAA website.

In related news, on April 6, the ED extended the student loan payment pause through August 31.  What’s more, any student debt forgiven after December 31, 2020, or through January 1, 2026, is no longer considered taxable (which can translate into big savings for student loan borrowers).

There’s likely more changes, clarifications, and information to come – keep an eye out for future RBT CPA Thought Leadership articles designed to keep you in-the-know. In the meantime, if you have any questions about taxes or audits related to ARPA funding, give your RBT CPA contact a call.

The Border Crisis in Our Backyard

The Border Crisis in Our Backyard

When we think about the crisis at the border, images from Texas come to mind.

Actually, the crisis is a lot closer than that. Last year, media coverage about middle-of-the-night flights to New York airports drew attention to the fact that the crisis touches communities throughout the U.S., including the Hudson Valley. In this post, we explore how immigrant children make their way to the Hudson Valley, why, and the effects on local communities and school districts.

Among the masses crossing the boarder are unaccompanied children.

According to Pew Research, there were over 144,000 in 2021. While awaiting immigration proceedings, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is required by Federal law to feed, shelter, and care for these minors until they can be released to safe settings with sponsors. About 85% are released to sponsors – usually family – while  others enter foster care or are taken in by charities across the U.S.  Sponsors must provide for a child’s physical and mental well-being.  Because of trafficking, abuse, violence and smuggling, policies protect the children’s identities and locations.

Between October 1, 2020 and August 31, 2021, unaccompanied children transported and released to sponsors across the Hudson Valley include 282 in Orange County; 553 in Rockland County; 570 in Westchester County; 73 in Putnam County; 109 in Dutchess County; and 80 in Ulster County.  Does that mean the local school districts had to absorb the increase in enrollment and educational needs? In a word, yes.

As reported by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “When unaccompanied children are released to an appropriate sponsor, while awaiting immigration proceedings, they have a right — just like other children living in their community — to enroll in local schools regardless of their or their sponsors’ actual or perceived immigration or citizenship status. State laws also require children to attend school up to a certain age.”

While no one can deny the heartbreak felt for unaccompanied children, there are also concerns about the impact on local communities and schools. Some of the children have learning disabilities, can’t speak English, and don’t know Spanish. They may not have attended school before. Although young, there are concerns about potential gang affiliations, violence, and drugs. All of this can put additional stress on a district’s finances, staff, programs, and performance.

The DOE lists these resources that may be helpful for communities enrolling immigrant children:

  • Services for Educationally Disadvantaged Children (Title I):Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides funds to drive achievement of children at high-poverty schools. Newly arrived immigrant children attending Title I schools, may be eligible to receive Title I, Part A services. For more information, click here.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):IDEA funds may be used to evaluate children suspected of having a disability. If a child is found to have a disability, funds may be used to provide special education and related services. For more information, click here.
  • English Language Acquisition Programs:Up to 15% of a state’s Title III funds under the ESEA must be set aside for subgrants to local education agencies with a significant increase in immigrant students to be used for improving instruction, providing tutoring and intensified instruction, and conducting community participation programs. If a state previously reserved a lesser amount, it can increase that amount for next year’s subgrants. Click here and here for more information.
  • McKinney-Vento Act:Children who live with sponsor family members in “doubled-up” housing (i.e., sharing the housing of other persons due to economic hardship or a similar reason) may be eligible for services under the act. Eligibility information is here. Information about rights and services is here.
  • Migrant Education Programs (MEP):MEP provides education and support services to children who are migratory agricultural workers or fishers. Newly arrived immigrant children may qualify, as determined on a case-by-case basis. Additional information is available here.
  • National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition:This Clearinghouse provides non-monetary aide in academic language development and models to serve recently arrived immigrant students and English language learners. Additional information is here.

If you have questions, refer to these DOE Resources: Fact Sheet and Fact Sheet II: Enrolling New Immigrant Students. For additional information, please call the U.S. Department of Education  at 1-800-USA-LEARN. Finally, if you know any sponsors or unaccompanied children who could use assistance, here’s A Guide to Resources in the Hudson Valley for Immigrants.

If your district or agency needs any assistance with taxes or accounting, please contact us at RBT CPAs.

Is Tenure the Driver or Red Herring of Higher Education Costs?

Is Tenure the Driver or Red Herring of Higher Education Costs?

Turnover for college leadership is increasing. Enrollment is down and the U.S. population is barely growing. University and college costs are high, as is student debt. Still, when COVID hit, institutions of higher learning turned on a dime and figured out how to continue adding value and justify costs when so many other aspects of society simply paused. The solutions adopted in COVID’s early days prompted renewed discussions about college costs and whether there are ways – like changing tenure laws – to make higher education more accessible for everyone over the long-term.

Modern-day tenure laws for higher education were born over 80 years ago. They existed before personal computers, MTV, microwaves, Facebook, and more. Education traditionalists assert the rights afforded to pursue truth, challenge the status quo, and answer tough questions can never be outdated. Tenured professionals are protected to explore the unexplored and ask the unanswered through research that is not tied to capitalism or politics but is for the common good. Not everyone agrees.

Some believe tenure drives up costs, amounting to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over one person’s career, and translating into higher tuition. There are also questions about whether tenure adds value, driving performance and results, and benefits students.

There are questions to be answered on the flip side of the argument. If a state changes its tenure laws, what will that mean to accreditation and its colleges’/universities’ ability to compete against schools in other states and around the world? What impact will it have on public versus private institutions within the same state? What will it mean to higher education in the long-term?

It’s an understatement to say higher education is in a state of disruption (like most industries once the initial panic about COVID passed).

At the end of last year, Hawaii followed the lead of several other states in evaluating the role of tenure in higher ed and the appetite for change.  While some interesting proposals were brought to the table – like only offering tenure for teaching professionals and librarians (not purely researchers) – strong resistance by educators and institutions of higher learning paused progress, for now, but the conversation appears far from over.

In Georgia, the American Association of University Professors is challenging changes to tenure policies that would allow firing, the revocation of tenure, or suspended pay for not meeting performance standards. In South Carolina, 2021 ended with a bill on the table to eliminate tenure for future higher educators. Across the U.S., there’s a growing appetite for change in higher education, but the jury’s still out on what that will look like and when.

One interesting data point: Apparently, only one in four faculty hired at colleges/universities is on a tenure track. BestColleges reports that from 1975 to 2015, tenure-track positions decreased by 50% and full-time tenured positions dropped by 26%. This leads to the question: Is targeting tenure reform really the answer?

Another interesting point: After college costs increased by 169% from 1980 to 2019, according to the College Board’s 2021 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report, tuition increased at historically low rates and even decreased, when adjusting for inflation. Does this mean higher education costs have turned a corner or is the slowdown in growth temporary and resulting from the CARES Act and Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund?

One final consideration: Is the tenure discussion part of a larger narrative focused on reinventing higher education in a post-COVID world? What is the role of government versus higher education leadership? What will higher education and its delivery models look like 5 or 10 years from now? What will all of this mean to institutions of higher learning in New York State?

The answers are coming and may be more far-reaching and complex than tenure. Stay tuned. Remember! Your partners at RBT CPAs are here to help ensure you meet all your financial obligations; understand how COVID relief funds impact budgets, reporting, and taxes; and help ensure you’re prepared should an audit be required. Contact your local office for assistance.

SOURCES: FORBES, Best Colleges, Brookings.Edu, CNBC, Mckinsey & Co.