Last Friday marked a day of dynamic discussions in the local higher education industry. College and university professionals in the finance and accounting, student financial aid, and internal audit departments attended the second annual Higher Education Training Day to learn about accounting and tax updates, endowments, legal topics, human resources issues, student financial aid updates, and technology.

The conference began with a panel discussion with Gary Cox, President of Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities; Bob King, President of Council on Postsecondary Education; Robin Kinney of Education Commissioner’s Office; and Hal Heiner, recently appointed Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Heiner announced that Kentucky was in the top of Forbes’ recent rankings on best states to do business; however, Kentucky’s labor supply ranked 46th in the country. Heiner indicated that education needs to be a top priority in order to improve this anomalous labor supply ranking.

Leigh McKee, Dean Dorton Director of Tax Services, presented on selected tax topics, including compensation studies, state and local taxes, endowments, and legislative updates like ongoing IRS budget cuts. U.S. colleges and universities raised a record $40.3 billion in endowment funds last year; Stanford, Harvard, and University of Southern California topped the list

The endowment conversation continued with a market update by Tracy Osborne and Chris Meng of Community Trust Bank, covering the three investment classes (collectibles and/or commodities, real property, and securities), as well as developing an investment strategy based upon risk.

Justin Hubbard, Dean Dorton’s Associate Director of Assurance Services, updated the group on accounting standards, including recently issued GASB and FASB statements, as well as emerging issues in both areas.

Jim Newberry and Melissa Watkins of Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC addressed the Sweet Briar College closing announcement of 2015. They explained the challenges confronting financially distressed institutions, roles of administrators, faculty members, and board members, and lessons from Sweet Briar’s experience that can be applied at other institutions.

Higher education training day
Tracy Osborne and Chris Meng of Community Trust Bank discuss market performance and endowment management strategies.

Gina Whitis, Dean Dorton Manager of Accounting and Financial Outsourcing, and Kerri Schwaner, Dean Dorton Human Resources Manager, covered HR issues and risks for colleges and universities. Schwaner’s HR audit and assessment identifies potential risks such as in the hiring process, handbook, compensation, and benefits. Whitis announced the Department of Labor’s overtimes rules change which, if adopted, will result in more employees becoming subject to overtime pay. Whitis also discussed the Affordable Care Act reporting requirements which are dependent on the size and structure of the workforce.

Crissy Fiscus, Dean Dorton Director of Assurance Services, and Megan Crane, Dean Dorton Manager of Assurance Services, updated the conference attendees on student financial aid topics including new cash management for rules (many of which will impact all institutions), common audit and program review findings, and default management plans.

To wrap up the day, Jason Miller, Dean Dorton Director of Technology Consulting, covered cyber security and cyber insurance in higher education. Some cyber security threat types include crimeware, insider misuser, physical theft/loss, web app attaches, and card skimmers. Miller addressed higher education concerns like malware, miscellaneous errors, and phishing.

A video of the presentations and a whitepaper on the panel discussion are coming soon and will be available at If you missed this year’s training, contact Crissy Fiscus at or 859.425.7631 – she will gladly meet with you to discuss the content in detail.

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