EDGAR Part 86 is the set of regulations by which colleges and universities are expected to meet the federal requirements of the Drug Free Schools and Campuses Act (DFSCA) of 1989. If you don’t know where your institution stands when it comes to meeting these requirements, please read on. Why? Because for IHEs found in violation of Part 86, the Department of Education (ED) can stipulate an agreement designed to bring the institution into full compliance, including sanctions as severe as requiring repayment or loss of all federal funds, including student financial aid.

Put simply, EDGAR Part 86 requires that any institution of higher education receiving federal financial assistance must adopt and implement a program to prevent the use of illicit drugs and alcohol abuse by students and employees. In addition, schools must: 1) annually distribute specified drug and alcohol prevention information to students and employees (“annual notification”), and 2) conduct a biennial review of their drug and alcohol prevention programs.

EDGAR is not new. It has been around since 1990, but after years of limited to no oversight, it is back on the ED’s radar. Title IX resolution agreements now include express mention of DFSCA compliance and biennial reviews are being requested as part of Clery Act and financial aid audits. There are also those “friendly visits” from ED that have been happening with more frequency, putting schools in the unenviable position of scrambling to produce every item on the ED’s checklist.

But thinking about the regulations as a checklist is exactly the mistake that many institutions have made. The biennial review, for example, is not merely an inventory of programs, policies, and enforcement procedures. It must provide documentation on consistency of enforcement. It must note evidence-based interventions. Importantly, it must include recommendations for improvement, which cannot be determined without appropriate data monitoring and evaluation methods in place to assess for impact. It provides direction in the design of effective, comprehensive, evidence-informed prevention.

There is also a mistaken belief that distribution of the Annual Security Report (ASR) enables an institution to “check the box” on EDGAR’s annual notification requirement. However, the two are not synonymous. Such a shortcut does not fulfill an institution’s obligation to annually provide each student and employee with a written statement outlining it’s standards of conduct; sanctions for violation of federal, state, and local law and campus policy; health risks associated with alcohol and other drug (AOD) use; and description of available treatment programs. Nor does it require documentation that the information has reached every student and employee. In speaking with 60+ schools that have completed EVERFI’s Alcohol Diagnostic Inventory (a comprehensive, no-cost prevention assessment available through the Campus Prevention Network), the annual notification requirement – particularly as it pertains to employees – is often overlooked. The distribution of the school’s Annual Security Report is not a sufficient substitute.

Following the Sandusky investigation, Penn State was the most public example of what happens when this 25-year old legislation falls off of an institution’s radar. While the majority of their violations fell under Clery and Title IX, the ED also took Penn State to task on their failure to meet certain DFSCA requirements. The school’s shortcomings may have been made public, but they are certainly not alone. Community colleges are particularly challenged when it comes to complying with EDGAR. A recent study conducted in Michigan found that “21 of Michigan’s 28 community colleges partially complied with the Act, only two implemented all the required mandates, and five were noncompliant. Most notably, colleges failed to collect substantive programmatic outcomes data, and few offered evidence-based alcohol and drug prevention programs to students.” While institutions are given the opportunity to address their deficiencies, keeping on top of the requirements is a much better use of time and resources than spending weeks and sometimes months responding to non-compliance.

It is important to remember that renewed attention to EDGAR is not just about ensuring compliance. Considering the role of alcohol in the myriad of health and safety threats to our students, it can also be leveraged by administrators to drive thoughtful processes in the assessment and development of effective programs and policies. Peter Lake, renowned expert on higher education law and policy, speaks to the importance of balancing compliance and prevention in his book The Rights and Responsibilities of the Modern University, stating, “The best defense in any lawsuit stemming from an alcohol-related incident is the institution’s commitment to use evidence-based practices and to evaluate those efforts.”1 EDGAR may be a requirement, but it also provides the blueprint for a defense in the hopes it will never be needed.

* * * * *

For more information on complying with EDGAR Part 86, download the free publication: Complying with the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Regulations [EDGAR PART 86]: A Guide for University and College Administrators

To learn how EVERFI can assist campuses in meeting the annual notification requirement for students, register for our upcoming webinar Ongoing Alcohol Prevention Education: Training Beyond Incoming Students.

* * * * *

  1. Lake, Peter F. (2013). The Rights and Responsibilities of the Modern University: The Rise of the Facilitator University (Second Edition). Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.