Financial Aid Code of Conduct
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (“The Cooper Union”) requires its officers, trustees, employees, agents, and contractors (“Personnel”) to observe high ethical standards and fully comply with law in the conduct their duties and responsibilities. As representatives of The Cooper Union, Personnel must practice honesty and integrity in fulfilling their responsibilities, and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
This Financial Aid Code of Conduct (the “Code”) is part of those standards, and must be complied with by Personnel. It prohibits conflicts of interest with the responsibilities of Personnel with respect to any public or private student education loans (collectively “Loan(s)”). This includes by addressing various compensation relationships that may arise between any lender, guarantor, servicer, securitizer of a Loan, or any industry, trade or professional association or other entity that receives money related to Loan activities from any such lender, guarantor, servicer, or securitizer (collectively, “Lender(s)”), and either The Cooper Union itself, or any Personnel. The requirements of this Code complement related rules and policies of The Cooper Union that may impose further requirements, for example, rules on conflicts of interest more broadly, and certain additional rules respecting the administration of student financial aid in compliance with the New York State Student Lending Accountability, Transparency and Enforcement Act.
In accordance with requirements of the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act, this Code shall be published prominently on The Cooper Union website. The Cooper Union shall administer and enforce this Code. All Personnel with responsibilities with respect to such Loans shall be informed annually of the provisions of this Code.
B. Specific Requirements
(1) Ban on revenue-sharing arrangements
The Cooper Union shall not enter into any revenue-sharing arrangement with any Lender.
For purposes of this paragraph, the term “revenue-sharing arrangement” means an arrangement between The Cooper Union and a Lender under which--
(i) a Lender provides or issues a Loan to students attending The Cooper Union or to the families of such students; and
(ii) The Cooper Union recommends the Lender or the Loan products of the Lender and, in exchange, the Lender pays a fee or provides other material benefits, including revenue or profit sharing, to The Cooper Union, or an officer, trustee, employee or agent of The Cooper Union.
(2) Gift ban
Neither The Cooper Union, nor any Personnel on their own behalf or on behalf of another, shall, directly or indirectly, solicit, accept, or receive any gift from or on behalf of a Lender.
(B) Definition of gift
(i) In general
In this paragraph, the term “gift” means any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, or other item having a monetary value of more than a de minimis amount. The term includes a gift of services, transportation, lodging, or meals, whether provided in kind, by purchase of a ticket, payment in advance, or reimbursement after the expense has been incurred.
(ii) Exceptions The term “gift” shall not include any of the following:
(I) Standard material, activities, or programs on issues related to a loan, default aversion, default prevention, or financial literacy, such as a brochure, a workshop, or training.
(II) Food, refreshments, training, or informational material furnished to Personnel as an integral part of a training session that is designed to improve the service of a Lender to The Cooper Union, if such training contributes to the professional development of such Personnel.
(III) Favorable terms, conditions, and borrower benefits on a Loan provided to a student employed by The Cooper Union if such terms, conditions, or benefits are comparable to those provided to all students of The Cooper Union.
(IV) Entrance and exit counseling services provided to borrowers to meet The Cooper Union's responsibilities for entrance and exit counseling as required by applicable law, as long as--
(aa) The Cooper Union's staff are in control of the counseling (whether in person or via electronic capabilities); and
(bb) such counseling does not promote the products or services of any specific Lender.
(V) Philanthropic contributions to The Cooper Union from a Lender that are unrelated to Loans or any contribution from any Lender, and that are not made in exchange for any advantage related to Loans.
(VI) State education grants, scholarships, or financial aid funds administered by or on behalf of a State.
(iii) Rule for gifts to family members
For purposes of this paragraph, a gift to a family member of Personnel or to any other individual based on that individual's relationship with Personnel shall be considered a gift to Personnel if--
(I) the gift is given with the knowledge and acquiescence of such Personnel; and
(II) such Personnel have reason to believe the gift was given because of the official position of such Personnel.
(3) Contracting arrangements prohibited
An officer or employee who is employed in the financial aid office of The Cooper Union or who otherwise has responsibilities with respect to Loans, or an agent who has responsibilities with respect to Loans, shall not accept from any Lender any fee, payment, or other financial benefit (including the opportunity to purchase stock). (For Advisory Board service, see section 7, below.)
(B) Exceptions Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as prohibiting--
(i) an officer or employee of The Cooper Union who is not employed in The Cooper Union's financial aid office and who does not otherwise have responsibilities with respect to Loans, or an agent who does not have responsibilities with respect to Loans, from performing paid or unpaid service on a board of directors of a Lender, provided that full disclosure of such services is made to The Cooper Union.
(ii) an officer or employee of The Cooper Union who is not employed in The Cooper Union's financial aid office, but who has responsibility with respect to Loans as a result of a position held at The Cooper Union, or an agent who has responsibility with respect to Loans, from performing paid or unpaid service on a board of directors of a Lender, provided that such officers, employees, or agents must recuse themselves from participating in any decision regarding Loans at The Cooper Union; or
(iii) an officer, employee, or contractor of a Lender from serving on a board of directors, or serving as a trustee, of The Cooper Union, provided that any such board member or trustee must recuse themselves from any decision regarding Loans at The Cooper Union.
(4) Interaction with borrowers
The Cooper Union shall not--
(A) for any first-time borrower, assign, through award packaging or other methods, the borrower's Loan to a particular lender; or
(B) refuse to certify, or delay certification of, any Loan based on the borrower's selection of a particular lender or guaranty agency.
(5) Prohibition on offers of funds for private Loans
The Cooper Union shall not request or accept from any lender any offer of funds to be used for private Loans, including funds for an opportunity pool loan, to students in exchange for The Cooper Union providing concessions or promises regarding providing the lender with--
(i) a specified number of public Loans;
(ii) a specified Loan volume of such private Loans; or
(iii) a preferred lender arrangement for such private Loans.
(B) Definition of opportunity pool loan
In this paragraph, the term “opportunity pool loan” means a private education loan made by a lender to a student attending The Cooper Union or the family member of such a student that involves a payment, directly or indirectly, by The Cooper Union of points, premiums, additional interest, or financial support to such lender for the purpose of such lender extending credit to the student or the family.
(6) Ban on staffing assistance
The Cooper Union shall not request or accept from any Lender any assistance with call center staffing or financial aid office staffing.
(B) Certain assistance permitted
Nothing in this prohibition shall be construed to prohibit The Cooper Union from requesting or accepting assistance from a Lender related to--
(i) professional development training for financial aid administrators;
(ii) providing educational counseling materials, financial literacy materials, or debt management materials to borrowers, provided that such materials disclose to borrowers the identity of any Lender that assisted in preparing or providing such materials; or
(iii) staffing services on a short-term, nonrecurring basis to assist The Cooper Union with financial aid-related functions during emergencies, including State- declared or federally declared natural disasters, federally declared national disasters, and other localized disasters and emergencies identified by government officials.
(7) Advisory board compensation
Personnel who serve on an advisory board, commission, or group established by a Lender or group of Lenders shall be prohibited from receiving anything of value from the Lender or group of Lenders for such service, or any reimbursement of expenses for such service. This shall not prohibit either:
(a) participation on an advisory board of a Lender or group of Lenders that is unrelated in any manner whatsoever to Loans; or
(b) Personnel who do not have direct involvement in or do not benefit from the functions of The Cooper Union’s financial aid office, from serving on a board of directors of a publicly traded or privately held company, subject to the foregoing prohibition on receipt of anything of value.
(8) The Loan Lending Code of Conduct
The law specifies that the code shall be displayed prominently on the institution’s website and that all institutional officers, employees, and agents with responsibilities related to such loans be annually informed of the provisions of the code of conduct.
Cooper Union’s Loan Lending Code of Conduct policy and provisions are applicable to the code of conduct set forth in the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) signed into law on August 14, 2008. Cooper Union’s Loan Lending Code of Conduct is provided here.
C. Reporting Procedure
The Cooper Union requires Personnel to report to The Cooper Union good-faith concerns about behavior that appears to violate this Code, and under this Code a “Whistleblower” is the individual reporting such activity. The Cooper Union strictly prohibits any harassment, retaliation, or adverse employment consequences against any Whistleblower who, in good faith, reports a violation or suspected violation of this Code, and any person who retaliates against a Whistleblower is subject to appropriate disciplinary and corrective action, up to and including termination of employment in the case of an employee. In most cases, an employee’s supervisor will be in the best position to address an area of concern. However, if any employee is not comfortable speaking with his or her supervisor, or is not satisfied with his or her supervisor’s response, the employee is encouraged to speak with the Vice President of Finance & Administration, John Ruth. All supervisors and managers employed by The Cooper Union are required to report suspected violations of this Code to the Vice President of Finance & Administration, John Ruth, who serves as The Cooper Union Equal Opportunity Officer.
Because failure to report misconduct can itself be understood to condone the misconduct, The Cooper Union emphasizes the importance of reporting, and failure to report knowledge of wrongdoing may itself result in disciplinary action against Personnel who fail to report. The identity of the individual making the report will be kept confidential to the extent consistent with The Cooper Union’s interests and its legal obligations. All reported violations of this Code will be promptly investigated by The Cooper Union and will be treated confidentially to the extent consistent with The Cooper Union’s interests and its legal obligations. All Personnel are required to cooperate in the investigation of an alleged violation of this Code. If the result of the investigation indicates that corrective action is required, The Cooper Union will decide what steps it should take to rectify the problem and avoid the likelihood of its recurrence.
Approved by the Board of Trustees March 4, 2009