Prioritizing Primary Prevention and Awareness Programs for All Incoming Students and Employees

This is part two of an EverFi blog series regarding Clery Act & Title IX compliance, and sexual assault prevention best practices. You can learn more by reading part one, here.

New Clery Act mandates, put in place by the 2013 re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, have now gone into effect requiring all colleges and universities to offer “primary prevention and awareness programs” to all incoming students and employees.

But questions remain for many institutions: how do primary prevention and awareness programs differ, and how will prevention and compliance officers meet and exceed these mandates?

For clarification, the definitions of these two separate programmatic approaches—primary prevention and awareness—are detailed below (Figure 1).

Primary Prevention Programs Awareness Programs
Primary prevention programs means programming, initiatives, and strategies informed by research or assessed for value, effectiveness, or outcome that are intended to stop dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking before they occur through the promotion of positive and healthy behaviors that foster healthy, mutually respectful relationships and sexuality, encourage safe bystander intervention, and seek to change behavior and social norms in healthy and safe directions. Awareness programs means community-wide or audience- specific programming, initiatives, and strategies that increase audience knowledge and share information and resources to prevent violence, promote safety, and reduce perpetration.

Figure 1. Primary Prevention and Awareness Programs, as Defined in VAWA Negotiated Rulemaking

Prevention efforts must go beyond increasing knowledge and awareness about definitions, policies, statistics, and resources. From a best practice perspective, primary prevention programs should be developed to address the root causes of violence and abuse in order to prevent their initial occurrence. The end goal is to reduce—and ultimately eliminate—the risk of sexual assault perpetration and victimization. Put simply, we are striving for behavior change – decreasing dangerous or harmful behaviors and increasing healthy, positive behaviors. Awareness programs, alone, have not been shown to impact behavior in the absence of a more comprehensive approach that addresses the attitudes, expectations, experiences, and social norm (mis)perceptions that drive behavior.

Sexual assault stems from a confluence of such factors that contribute to greater risk for experiencing or perpetrating violence. The Social Ecological Model (Figure 2) is a public health framework for addressing these individual, relational, community, and societal influences that should be incorporated into prevention programs to ensure that they are comprehensive and effective. Done well, primary prevention programs can spark a positive cultural shift necessary for driving down rates of sexual assault, on campuses and beyond.

Prevention and Awareness Training for All Incoming Students and Employees

 Figure 2. Social Ecological Model

For many schools, investing in primary prevention helps to address sexual and relationship violence before it happens, reducing the impact these crimes have on students, staff, and the campus community at large. Successful prevention programs that, over time, lead to lower rates of violence will decrease the need for institutions to invest as heavily in response, ultimately lowering the direct and indirect costs of these offenses.

In fact, studies have shown substantial return-on-investment (ROI) of public health prevention programming, with additional savings on intervention and treatment costs. One study found that for every $1 invested in community-based prevention, the return amounts to $5.60, or an ROI of 460%.

The Clery Act legislation requires institutions to provide primary prevention programs to all incoming students, staff, and faculty. This includes transfer, graduate, and non-traditional student populations like online enrollees, military, and more. Providing education to such diverse populations at scale can be difficult for many campuses, so the addition of online programs is becoming an invaluable prevention approach for many schools, including Oregon State University.

“We were looking for something that would help us meet all of our compliance requirements,” says Roni Sue, Co-Associate Director of Bias Prevention and Education with Oregon State University’s Office of Equity & Inclusion. “But we also required a program that would drive real positive changes in student attitudes and behaviors.”

Oregon State has been able to achieve a 95% completion rate of their sexual assault prevention programs for incoming students by incorporating online training, allowing the University to address key compliance requirements and protect their diverse campus population.

As institutional leadership consider these mandates, and what they mean for their students, faculty, staff, and institution, we’ve compiled a free Title IX and Clery Act guidebook to help institutions meet and exceed compliance. In addition, we will be hosting a webinar on this topic on Wednesday, August 5th, from 2 to 3 PM (EST).


May Student of the Month Blog Contest Winner!

As the school year came to a close, students all across North America submitted blog posts and we have selected our winners for May’s Student of the Month contest.  We are proud to share this student’s inspiring story about the impact EverFi’s financial literacy courses has had.

Longley P. from Von Steuben Metropolitan High School said:

The EverFi program had a personal impact on my life and the decisions that I will make moving forward by introducing me the fundamentals in the economy; what it is, how you use it, and why you use it. Some things that this program introduced were: savings, or the process of saving money while earning more money at the same time; banking, or the process of how banks work in savings, interests, and special fees; payments: the different types and their advantages and disadvantages, like cash or paper, which accrues no interest but maintains lots of control, and plastic debit or credit cards, direct withdrawal from account and a loan from the bank to pay later, respectively; debt, or money owed to someone, how to pay it back and stay out of it; Future investments for higher education, your first car, a house, etc.; insurance, or how to be protected from debt in case of an incident; privacy, or how to protect yourself from identity theft.

The program has changed my attitude or behavior by guiding me in reevaluating the value and meaning of money, helping me understand why the world loves earning and spending money for their own benefits, both long-term and short-term, rather than just spending on what they desire. My future goal is to exceed expectations of me in high school, and especially excel in the computer science field to become a software developer specializing in video games. I want to pursue this because the generation today focuses so much on gaming, making it an activity that I want to take to the next level. The EverFi course I completed will help prepare me to achieve my goal by giving me a conscience inside my mind that is specialized in handling my finances, which will help me invest in my future goals. This course also helped me understand how to not spend money irrationally, and instead spending it on something that will get me closer to my future goal of working in gaming education.

I have seen most of my family members spend money in the least beneficial way, on scams such as free giveaways with fees, spending it to only feed their wants, like on cigars, and spending more than what’s needed. Knowing the difference between necessities and wants is crucial. Now that I have completed this course, the first set of actions that I will focus on will be to help my entire family (mother, father, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) set up a budget, determine what they need and what they don’t need, help them look at their current budget that lead them to debt and then their budget that will get them out of debt, as well as how much money they could have been saving all this time for future investments. Then, I will help reconcile all of their statements in order to make sure they got the message and see if there were any unusual activities. By doing this my family will be able to live much more comfortably and maybe get new cars, invest in a home, and live in a much safer, cleaner environment.

How to Exceed Clery Act and Title IX Compliance Mandates

As of July 1st, federal legislation has gone into effect requiring all colleges and universities to offer “primary prevention and awareness programs” to all incoming students and employees, as well as “ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns” – all dedicated to help address campus sexual assault.

These guidelines are part of the Clery Act, put in place by the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Many refer to these Clery Act amendments as the Campus SaVE Act, and they will be enforced by the Department of Education in addition to all requirements of Title IX.

As institutional leadership consider these mandates, and what they mean for their students, faculty, staff, and institution, we’ve compiled a free guidebook to help institutions meet and exceed compliance. In addition, we will be hosting a webinar on this topic on Wednesday, August 5th, from 2 to 3 PM (EST).


The oft-cited statistics that 20-25% of college women (and 3-6% of college men) will experience sexual assault during their time on campus, albeit horrific, are only numbers. These numbers represent thousands of women and men whose lives are drastically affected by preventable violence and abuse. Depression, PTSD, anxiety, eating disorders, suicide, substance abuse, harmed social/intimate relationships, poor academic performance, higher rates of dropping out, and heightened risk for future victimization are among the potential fallout.

Beyond the physical, mental, and emotional toll sexual assault has on survivors, the impact of violence on higher education institutions is significant in multiple mission-critical domains: student attrition, reputational repercussions, enrollment, litigation costs, federal investigations tied to fines and funding cuts, more staff time, and increased demand for services. In fact, a report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault estimated a total economic cost of $87,000 to $241,000 per rape, while a recent study by United Educators cited $17M in losses to colleges and universities for sexual assault claims resulting in litigation (an average of $200,000 for defending/resolving each claim). To put this into perspective, a recent EverFi analysis found that the average campus sexual assault prevention budget is under $30,000.

As federal and state lawmakers continue to confront these issues, and mandates from Title IX, the Clery Act, and other pending legislation continue to evolve, institutions will require a more thorough and holistic approach to their sexual assault prevention efforts.

As part of our guidebook, we’ve compiled a list of key requirements from both the Clery Act and Title IX so that you can review your current efforts and ensure your institution is taking a best practice approach to create safer, healthier campus communities. Download our Clery Act and Title IX guidebook today, and learn how to meet and exceed the new compliance mandates.

Congratulations to the Spring 2015 Montana Bankers Blog Contest Winners!

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the Spring 2015 Montana Bankers Financial Scholars Blog Contest! Montana Bankers Association and its participating member banks asked all Montana students who completed the EverFi Financial Literacy program to share their thoughts on the impact the course has had on their lives and the financial decisions they’ll make as they strive for their dreams in the future. We were astounded by the incredible submissions we received this semester — their stories were truly inspiring.

After receiving over 70 entries from students across the state who completed the online financial education course, our committee has chosen three winners, each of whom will receive a $500 award! Congratulations to our 3 final winners, Mecaila, Emma, and Brooklyn. Here are their stories:

Winner #1
Mecaila M.
Wolf Point High School, MT
Sponsored by Montana Bankers Association and First Community Bank
I plan to attend Minot State University in pursuit of a bachelor degree to become a registered nurse (RN). As well as a Bachelors degree, I plan to achieve a concentration in Photography and Addiction Studies. After receiving my Bachelors in Nursing, I want to further my education by receiving my masters in nursing while working as a Registered Nurse. After college, my goal is to obtain a full time career in nursing. I want to work at a smaller hospital because it allows me to further my education to all aspects of the medical field, including the Emergency Room, Obstetrics and general patient care. I look forward to working with all types of people from newborns to elderly people. I am very excited to pursue my passion in helping people through nursing.

Participating in the First Community Bank Financial Scholars Program has been more than helpful. I am fully prepared to handle any situation that will come to me after high school. Although I had already filled my FAFSA out, the course helped me by explaining exactly what I had filled out and what everything meant. I learned what the best options for saving money are and how compounding money over time will help me succeed. One of the most helpful things that I learned was credit card protection. I never realized that it was so easy to have your identity stolen. I enjoyed the interactive parts of this program, because it allowed me to see if I completely understood the subject that I had learned. Overall, I am glad that I took the time to complete this program, for I see it being beneficial to me after high school.

Winner #2
Emma H.
Bozeman High School, MT
Sponsored by Montana Bankers Association and Big Sky Western Bank

During high school, I have dreamt of what college would be like, what friends I would make, where I will go, what to do with my life. But rarely did I stop and think about how to get there and when I am there, how to pay. My father always advised that I take as many courses in financial literacy as possible. As soon as college letters came in we sat down, made a plan, looked at what money I had, and what I needed. It was a wake up call. Getting accepted wasn’t the hardest part. To me, receiving the Montana Bankers Financial Scholars Blog Contest award could mean the opportunity to be one enormous step closer to attending my dream college of Boise State University.

I am a people person, and feel connected to those who face the burdens of poverty or other barriers. Throughout school I have volunteered at local homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and assisted with events to benefit my community. I plan on majoring in Public Relations or Political Science. The political world fascinates me and one day I want to continue to advocate for people in need. Through scholarships, grants, and my part-time job I aspire to graduate college with little to no debt. This opportunity would help me become closer to that goal and continue my path of education to one day help inspire myself and those around me to adhere to a lifestyle that can be debt free. Being a part of the Montana Bankers Financial Scholars program has already done so much for my personal life. It has taught me how to plan for retirement, invest early, be smart with my money, and understand how to continue a debt free lifestyle for the rest of my life.

Winner #3
Brooklyn F.
Charlo High School, MT
Sponsored by Montana Bankers Association and Community Bank

Growing up is all about responsibility and preparation. Like anything else, we need a plan to work towards and accomplish our goals. One of my goals in life is to attend college and become a biomedical engineer. Although financial education may not be the first thing that comes to mind, individual qualities such as organization and useful management of time, equipment, and money are all necessary to successfully obtain and maintain this occupation. The Community Bank Financial Scholars Program has motivated me to start early with finance, create budgets, and make wise decisions where money management is concerned.

Through this program, I have discovered how important and delicate finance is. I learned how to set goals and achieve them. I even realized how decisions now affect me later on and how to select the best banking options for me. Before taking the course, I had multiple bank accounts and credit cards, all of which I barely knew anything about, aside from how to withdraw money. Now I am able to balance my checks, make deposits and transactions, and keep track of my money. I make smarter purchases and conserve additional amounts of money for college.

Armed with these crucial life skills, I am now confident that I will make beneficial decisions that will help me buy a home, secure my dream job, and stay clear of debt. This program has not only taught me how to manage my money and set high goals but to start good saving habits and develop my skills. The Community Bank Financial Scholars Program has educated me in more ways than I previously thought imaginable. I would recommend anyone, young or old, to take this online course. The Community Bank Financial Scholars Program has undoubtedly made an impact on my life and changed my perspective regarding my future.

A (Brief) Primer on Effective Planning for Student Wellness

We talk a lot about the virtues of good planning here at EverFi. Indeed, it is a hallmark of doing effective work—of any kind. This month, you’re likely writing up your end-of-year reports and starting to consider the year ahead. It seems timely for a reminder of the importance of planning and the availability of tools and resources to support this important aspect of your efforts. The first part of any good planning process will be a situational assessment. What are the needs and strengths of your students, and how can they be better supported? These answers may come from your most recent NCHA II or Core survey data, or perhaps AlcoholEdu and/or Haven. You might also look to service utilization reports in order to determine where and how students are accessing your services, and how and whether you are meeting their needs. This phase of planning should also consider what resources and assets are available in order to establish goals that are realistic.

This formative analysis should also consider the broader campus environment and your surrounding community. What are the threats or challenges posed to students making safe and healthy choices? How might you influence the environment so that healthy and safe choices are easier? The research base must inform this part of the thought process. If there is no research base, then the thought process should be informed, at the very least, by behavioral change theory. Environmental changes may include reducing low-priced drink specials in your community, providing more alcohol-free opportunities on campus, expanding access to recreational facilities, or promoting healthy norms regarding sexual activity, consent, or bystander intervention.

Goal setting is best supported using a logic model, where you can map out the impact of your proposed activities into short-term outputs, medium-term outcomes, and eventually long-term impact. A logic model will force you to check assumptions and can help identify gaps in your thinking or efforts that might lead to failure. It also helps identify evaluation measures, which, once collected, will enable you to determine where you were successful, and where along the process things may have fallen short. As you set about articulating objectives in order to reach your goals, a useful tool to follow is the SMART method, which supports creating reasonable, concrete goals and objectives that are amenable to evaluation and improvement. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely or Time-bound. There are several web-based SMART goal-planning tools and guides you might call upon; here and here are just two examples.

Once you have identified what must be done to reach your mission or overarching goal, you can begin to lay out an action plan of what will be done, when, and by whom. It will also help clarify the partners you will likely need to engage, and resources you will need to call upon in order to effect the change you are seeking. While this is an oversimplification of the planning process, thinking through these steps will greatly enhance the success of your campus health and safety efforts. One fantastic compendium of resources to call upon for planning and building healthy communities is the Community Tool Box. This resource contains a host of toolkits, information, and guidance to drive social change in support of healthy communities. The Healthy Campus 2020 MAP-IT model may also prove useful as you engage in this process. Congrats on wrapping up another academic year, and best of luck as you engage this process in planning for the year to come!

April Student of the Month Winners

April is an especially busy time of year for teachers and students as they work to earn their certifications during Financial Literacy Month. To recognize the achievement of students across North America, we selected four winners for our Student of the Month contest.  These students shared inspiring stories about the impact EverFi’s financial literacy courses have had on them.

Damien C.
Hoover High School, AL
Mrs. Moncus’ class

The EverFi Financial Literacy course has helped me understand how to pay bills and has given me confidence that I can handle stressful and tedious decisions now and as an adult. Along with providing valuable information, it it inspired me to pull things from the lesson and put them into reality. Topics such as paying bills, savings, and credit are all important financial lessons. EverFi has really played a big role in my spending habits and how I live my life, as well as help me understand the reasons why I want to invest in college or a house at some point. EverFi lessons are a great way to teach students such as myself how to prepare for the real world, and I thank this course for giving me the confidence to succeed.From now on I will not be avoiding finance classes, I will be signing up for more classes that will prepare me for real life, thanks to the knowledge I gained from going through EverFi. Thanks to EverFi I do not need to rely on my parents to make financial choices for me, I have the skills to make my own financial decisions. It is a great thing to be able to understand how to save up for college and plan for the future.

Nolan G.
SCAPA Bluegrass, KY
Mr. Onkst’s class

This program has helped me understand money, it impacts, risks, how to save it and much more. I recently had a birthday and many friends and family gave me money, and because of the Vault – Understanding Money program, I know to spend some and save some and how to make wise financial decisions. It has really helped me understand how important money is to my daily life.

I hope to go to a good college so I can pursue a career in teaching. I learned from Vault that I can start saving money for college now! I can open a savings account or a bank account to keep my money safe and to make sure I don’t spend it. I really would like to talk to a trusted adult about opening a savings account with good interest rates, so that my money will increase in value.

In the past, I made the mistake of spending all of my money at one store on stuff I wanted. I was going shopping and ended up going to another store and found some things I really needed, but I didn’t have any more money to spend. If I could change my actions I would have spent a little money at the first store, a little at the second and I would have saved some of the money.

I am so happy that I learned all about understanding money so I can make wise decisions with my money.

Thank you Vault!

Natalie G
Staunton High School, IL
Mr. Moore’s class

EverFi has helped me learn how to start saving money early in life. Only buying things that you need can help you achieve many of your financial goals. I learned about the differences between wants and needs, and not to spend an excessive amount of money on wants, and to save for what you need. My behavior has changed because I realized that at a younger age, I don’t need all the best things in life, but to save my money for later in life when I need it.

I also learned about the differences between credit and debit cards. If I want to save more money, debit cards are the way to go because you can only spend the amount of money that you have on the card at that time. Even though having a credit history is good to have, so you are able to get loans and show your ability to pay bills, you have to be careful not to overspend with credit cards.

My future goals are to graduate high school, go to college to study and hope to pursue my dream job of being an architect. The EverFi course has helped me realize when to rent an apartment, like in college, and when to look into buying a house, like when I am starting a family and have a good steady job.

I have also learned from EverFi that some people in my life have made mistakes with some of their financial decisions.  People don’t always have to have the nicest cars and the best houses if they can’t afford it. Saving your money and just buying a car or house to get the job done could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout the years. That is a lesson learned for me because going through life I will make sure that I don’t buy something nice or expensive just to show off, but make sure that I have all the money to pay for it.

Jamey T
Plymouth High, NC
Ms. Harris’ class

As a 17-year-old high school student who is about to graduate and step into the “real world”, I have deeply enjoyed the educational benefits of this financial literacy course. Growing up, whenever I received any money, I spent it. This is a mistake I have made that I wish I could go back and fix. Now, I have no money saved up at all, which is going to make it that much more difficult for me to pay for things like college, a car, and an apartment. Had I known then what I know now from taking this course, I would have taken the money I received on holidays and birthdays and put it in the bank so that I can gain interest and have a good amount saved up by the time I needed it. Sadly, the past cannot be changed, however, this course has given me the guidance I need to start saving my money and use it in a smart way. Thank you so much for making this course available for the use of people like me.

EverFi Partners Receive Financial Education Innovation Award at Nasdaq’s MarketSite in NYC

Last week, Nasdaq and EverFi honored 25 of our financial services partners with an Innovation in Financial Education Award for their significant efforts to improve the financial capability of young Americans. The ceremony took place at Nasdaq’s MarketSite headquarters in Times Square.

Honorees were selected based on a set of criteria that included the scale and reach of their financial education initiatives, the duration of their commitment, and unique employee volunteering activities that supplement their programs.

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“The institutions being recognized have led exceptional efforts to rethink how financial education is taught in our nation’s schools,” said EverFi Founder and CEO Tom Davidson. “Our global competitiveness is dependent on the next generation understanding how the economy works and how to achieve financial security in their lives. We are grateful to the organizations that are helping pave a brighter future for students today.”

Perhaps the highlight of the event was a panel discussion on youth financial empowerment featuring four students from the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem. These remarkable women spoke about the biggest financial challenges facing students today, and how a solid financial education has helped put them on a path to success:

A FINRA-funded study released in February 2015 found that students who received rigorous financial education in high school saw increased credit scores and decreased chance of credit delinquency as young adults, compared to their peers who did not receive financial education. Data collected from more than 94,000 students who completed the EverFi curriculum showed that only a quarter of high school students reported understanding how credit scores work prior to taking the course, however that number jumped to 62% after students completed the online curriculum.

As we close out Financial Literacy Month, we’d like to recognize ALL of our partners for their collective efforts to empower the next generation with critical money management skills.

A Teacher’s Perspective On Financial Literacy

Almost a year ago, a colleague and I were fortunate to be able to attend an economics training at the Atlanta Federal Reserve. Our intent was to gain a few resources, spend a little time collaborating with other economics teachers in the Atlanta area, and above all, enjoy a wonderful breakfast and lunch. We came away having done all of that and with access to the Financial Literacy course available from EverFi.

8951436522_d04cc37846_mOur initial thoughts were to offer the course as a supplemental option for our students. As we reviewed our course schedule, we were able to incorporate several days in the computer lab and decided to make the Financial Literacy course our students’ final exam, which would be due following the End of Course Test (EOCT) in early December. We interspersed our days in the computer lab with review work in the classroom throughout November.

As our students worked through EverFi’s Financial Literacy course, we were floored by their comments. Consistently, our students told us that they loved what they were learning. One student even told my colleague, “This is the first actually useful thing I’ve learned in high school.” Although we hope that he was overstating that, we did observe a dramatic increase in EOCT scores in December with most of the increase in the International Trade and Personal Finance domain. Overall, our pass rate on the EOCT increased by three percent over the year before. The principal and administration were happy, but more than that, our students were excited about what they had learned. Spring semester, we planned to utilize EverFi again, and students reiterated the excitement we saw in the fall.

EverFi’s Financial Literacy program has been so well received by my students that I also planned and executed a professional development for our Social Studies department for several additional EverFi courses. Excitement is building with the teachers, and I am hopeful that we will see an increase in student engagement across all Social Studies classes. Students who are engaged in their learning through interactive simulations are remembering new concepts better, and the proof of that understanding can be found in their increased EOCT scores.

Leah Kurtz
EverFi Teacher
Kell High School, GA

March Student of the Month Contest Winner

EverFi is excited to announce the winner of the Student of the Month Contest for the month of March, Adrienne S. from Georgia! We asked students all over North America to share with us the lessons they learned after becoming certified in of one of EverFi’s K-12 learning courses, as well as how this program has helped shaped their plans for the future. Our winner this month chose to write about her experience taking the 306: African American History course and how it has changed her view of the world. We love hearing the inspirational stories that come from our student network and we look forward to hearing many more each month!

March Winner

Adrienne S.

South Cobb High School

Ms. Valentine’s Class

The EverFi 306: African American History course impacted me by providing a new way of learning. It was not just my history, but it was a history lesson for everyone. Learning about the different abolitionists and how they fought for what they believed in was amazing. My life was impacted because it expanded my knowledge about topics and things I only knew little about. The program also made sure the things that were mentioned in each course were understood by offering a short quiz. The lessons empowered and inspired me to go after what I want. No matter what consequences or trials you face, you will be satisfied with yourself once you meet your ultimate goal.

The decisions I make from now on will forever be impacted. It makes me think twice about something before I do it. Analyzing decisions will help me to spot problems before they arise. When you don’t make rushed decisions, you will be more satisfied with the end result.

This program has changed my attitude because it made me realize how far we have come. The people that came before me made the simplest things that I take for granted happen. For example, being in school with others that don’t look like me, in public restaurants, stores, etc. These are all things that are taken for granted now. It really made me stop and think about how I am living what they have dreamed of. Some of them never survived to see what they were able to make happen. My attitude and behavior was forever changed thanks to 306: African American History.

Leveraging Climate Data to Strengthen Institutional Commitment to Sexual Assault Prevention

Note – The subject of this post will be covered in an upcoming webinar entitled, “A Holistic Approach to Sexual Assault Prevention on Campus”. Register here to reserve your place.

Campus sexual assault has dominated headlines for the past two years, and for good reason. In addition to the oft-cited statistic that 1 in 5 college women will experience sexual assault during their time on campus, a recent EverFi study found that 1 in 30 incoming female college students will experience a sexual assault before her first midterm exam.

In spite of sobering national statistics and widespread media attention, a recent Gallup survey revealed that 78% of college and university presidents disagreed that sexual assault is prevalent at their institution. How can that be? And, more importantly, how does that impact campus prevention and response efforts with new federal mandates going into effect on July 1?

The reluctance of campus authorities to recognize and outwardly take on sexual assault at their school is not new. It also doesn’t help that many college and university leaders do not have reliable, campus-specific data regarding sexual assault to draw from. According to a July 2014 survey of over 400 colleges, led by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), only 16% of campus respondents conducted confidential student surveys to assess issues related to sexual assault.

The implementation of student “climate surveys” were a key recommendation in the April 2014 release of the “Not Alone” report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Most college and university presidents believe that all higher education institutions should conduct climate surveys, according to Inside Higher Ed, but few favor legislation that would mandate them. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act, a pending Senate bill with bipartisan support, would make climate surveys a biennial requirement.

Today, campus leaders are quick to avoid the label of having “a sexual assault problem.” In the absence of data demonstrating that sexual assault is widespread across the board, and with myopic focus on the 100+ schools currently under Federal investigation for potentially mishandling sexual assault cases, it’s understandable that schools are avoiding the spotlight. However, this can result in a lack of the ownership, commitment, and accountability critical to making meaningful progress. Climate surveys could be the catalyst for a much-needed paradigm shift, transforming the conversation from “ is this a problem?” to “what can we do to best serve our students?”

Climate surveys will help campuses define the problem and set appropriate goals by providing a deeper understanding of students’ attitudes, behaviors, and experiences related to sexual assault — a critical first step of a comprehensive approach to prevention. These insights will encourage campuses to be more intentional in their prevention efforts, ultimately informing the design and delivery of more targeted and impactful programming. Further, campuses could leverage these data to garner additional resources and broader institutional commitment.

At EverFi, we are committed to supporting administrators in understanding and meeting the unique needs of their students. We currently partner with over 750 higher ed institutions to help educate students, faculty, and staff on critical wellness issues, including sexual assault. Our online courses, data, and advisory services also allow institutions to meet and exceed the latest compliance requirements from Title IX and the Clery Act (Campus SaVE/VAWA).

As testament to our commitment, we are also announcing the release of an online climate survey tool as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We developed this resource in collaboration with leading researchers and national prevention experts, including several negotiated rulemakers who helped articulate new campus mandates laid out in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The survey instrument is based on a model template provided in the White House Task Force Report, and has undergone extensive pilot testing at over 60 campuses.

As mandates for compliance with Title IX and the Clery Act (Campus SaVE/VAWA) continue to evolve, institutions will undoubtedly require a more thorough understanding of their unique student population, and how best to educate, protect, and support them. We believe that student climate surveys can become an invaluable resource for those who wish to deploy them, and one that will likely be mandated shortly.

EverFi will be providing a webinar on Thursday April 30th at 2:00 PM Eastern to discuss the climate survey and other valuable tools to help campuses address sexual assault. Interested campuses are encouraged to sign up for the climate survey and webinar.