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Navigating Scholarship Compliance Regulations

Better application management of scholarships, grants, awards, and more.

Navigating Scholarship Compliance Regulations

As a scholarship manager or administrator, you play a key role in helping students attend college. We understand that your role comes with a lot of tasks you have to keep up with. Unfortunately, one of those tasks is keeping up with scholarship compliance regulations.

Navigating these rules and regulations can be incredibly stressful for many reasons. For starters, there are several challenges associated with compliance, such as following multiple different guidelines and keeping track of the various levels you must comply with. That’s why we want to lay it all out for you - in a clear, comprehensive way. Continue reading as we share how to navigate scholarship compliance regulations.

Understanding Scholarship Compliance Regulations

The first step in navigating scholarship compliance regulation is to understand them. This usually entails reading a lot of correspondence.

It should be noted that compliance regulations will vary from local, national, and international regulations. Each level will have their own set of regulations to follow. It’s good practice to keep copies of all scholarship regulations that could impact your scholarship nearby. This way you can ensure you’re following all guidelines at all times.

Why is this so important? Compliance is crucial in order to keep your scholarship fund afloat. When your scholarship is in compliance, you meet each regulation and guideline at each level (local, national, and international). Some key areas that compliance is necessary include eligibility criteria, financial reporting, and anti-discrimination laws. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in your scholarship fund losing reputation, trust, and potentially the ability to continue operating.

Yes, you read that correctly. If your scholarship isn’t following the rules set forth by various organizations and even government bodies, your program could be shut down. In some cases, it may also mean you will incur fines for non-compliance. And, in the worst cases, if you are found non-compliant with a discrimination regulation for example, you could end up facing lawsuits from applicants that have been denied.

Identifying Regulatory Bodies and Authorities

As a scholarship fund manager or administrator, you may be wondering who you answer or report to. In other words, who the regulatory bodies and authorities are. These are the people or organizations you must be in compliance with.

In the United States, the Department of Education regulates scholarships on local and national levels. Additionally, on the local level, municipal or regional educational boards may also have regulations related to scholarships. Other federal government bodies may be associated with scholarship funds such as the National Institutes of Health and the Office of Management and Budget Compliance Supplement. The IRS has a role in this too, subject to regulations.

On the international level, you must comply with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). These bodies are responsible for overseeing scholarships and ensuring that all regulations and guidelines are followed. These are just some examples of organizations that you may need to comply with.

Be sure to review all partnerships, donations, contracts, etc. to ensure you’re in compliance with all relevant parties. We also recommend being advised by an attorney on your program just for some extra checks and balances.

Ensuring Eligibility Compliance

The simplest way to explain how to ensure eligibility compliance is to create eligibility criteria for your scholarship and stick to it. Once you’ve created your eligibility criteria and confirmed it doesn’t violate local, national or international scholarship regulations, you can finally craft your application.

We recommend identifying your eligibility criteria even before you begin crafting the application. Then, once you’ve laid out these criteria, use software like SmarterSelect to help you pre-qualify your applicants so they won’t fill out an application if they are ineligible.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t point out that with giving money away comes a lot of fraudulent applications. Fraudulent applications can take up your time and waste effort. A few ideas you can implement to prevent fraudulent applications are:

  • Require ID verification (i.e. require your applicants to upload an image of their driver’s license
  • Use application software that protects data and privacy
  • Require a phone number and address.

Financial Compliance and Reporting

Failure to comply with financial reporting is a quick way to lose the trust of stakeholders and donors. Financial compliance and reporting is a process where you share what funds have been spent on what scholarships. Practicing transparency and open communication with regulatory boards and authorities, stakeholders and donors, and applicants is crucial.

We recommend participating in transparent, timely, and compliant financial reporting. We also recommend putting accountability measures in place to offset any potential issues that may come up during this process.

Anti-Discrimination and Diversity Compliance

Scholarship managers and administrators also have to follow anti-discrimination and diversity laws and regulations to stay in compliance. Passed in 1964, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin in any program receiving federal financial assistance. Additionally, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in any education program.

Additionally, each regulatory body or authority may have its own anti-discrimination and diversity policies and regulations. Ensure you’re staying up to date so you can stay in compliance.

To be safe, it’s best that your scholarship program avoids eligibility criteria based on age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, and/or religious affiliation.

Data Privacy and Security Compliance


As technology continues to advance, scammers and bad actors continue to advance with it. Data privacy and security are of the utmost importance in scholarship fund management and compliance. As scholarship managers, it’s your job to ensure that all private and sensitive information is protected. There are many laws and regulations that state the importance and necessity of keeping information private. For example, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

We recommend using technology and security software to assist you in safeguarding this information. Ensure you’re reviewing all necessary regulations and guidelines to ensure you’re staying in compliance with the laws and relevant bodies.

Implementing Compliance Policies and Procedures

To remain compliant, ensure you’re establishing clear policies and procedures within your organization. We recommend checking with each level of scholarship regulation to ensure you’re covering all bases. Once you’ve established policies and procedures to ensure compliance, train staff and stakeholders on compliance and best practices.

Holding team training events will get everyone on the same page and will promote a compliant organization. Use visual aids and hand out a copy of your compliance policies and procedures so all parties can have them on hand. Preparing for compliance is a great way to ensure compliance!

Conducting Regular Audits and Reviews

Feedback is an essential tool to utilize to ensure your organization is in compliance. It’s of high importance to conduct regular audits and reviews to ensure your team is on the right track. Conducting these will allow your team to identify any potential areas of non-compliance and address them. This will prevent further issues you may run into and can help you proactively address the situation at hand.

Staying Updated on Regulatory Changes

Regulatory policies, procedures, and practices change over time. Change can be intimidating, but it’s often ultimately a good thing. Regulatory changes occur to help better serve all parties and improve the experience for everyone involved. As a scholarship manager or administrator, it’s crucial to keep up to date with regulatory changes as they may alter things on your end.

Keeping up to date with changes in scholarship regulations is a big task. To assist you in this process, we recommend utilizing technology to notify you of any regulatory changes. For example, creating a Google Alert that emails you about keywords like “scholarship compliance” and/or “scholarship regulations.”

Collaborating with Legal and Compliance Experts


When in doubt, seek out the experts! Compliance and legal matters may not be in your suit. That’s why leveraging the expertise of professionals is so important. They can help assist you and your team in all of your legal and compliance matters. Many large scholarship organizations keep public relations and legal teams on retainer for this very reason!

Fostering a Culture of Compliance

The culture of a workplace can dictate employee compliance and set the tone for your team. Creating a culture of compliance is key to ensuring your team is practicing proper compliance within the organization.

Provide transparent and clear communication on compliance policies and procedures so your team is aware of their roles. Encourage transparency, accountability, and ethical behavior within your team to promote compliance.

Where to Go From Here

As you can see, practicing compliance is of utmost importance for scholarship managers and administrators. Having a good understanding of specific regulations you need to follow, creating a transparent plan, and training all staff will help your team remain in compliance. It may take a lot of reading and double-checking your eligibility criteria, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. And, when in doubt, remember to seek out professional advice if needed and foster a culture of compliance within your team.


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