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Open Recommendations

Higher Education: Department of Education Should Improve Enforcement Procedures Regarding Substantial Misrepresentation by Colleges

GAO-23-104832
Jan 12, 2023
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2 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should complete written procedures for selecting colleges for investigation of possible substantial misrepresentation and for conducting investigations. (Recommendation 1)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should update written procedures for imposing penalties, as appropriate, on colleges that are found to have engaged in substantial misrepresentation. (Recommendation 2)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Financial Aid Offers: Action Needed to Improve Information on College Costs and Student Aid

GAO-23-104708
Dec 05, 2022
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1 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Congress Congress should consider legislation requiring colleges to provide all students offered federal student aid with financial aid offers containing clear and standard information that follow best practices. This could include requiring colleges to provide the College Financing Plan to all such students. (Matter for Consideration 1)
Open
We will monitor congressional activity to address this matter.

Veterans Employment: Promising VA Technology Education Pilot Would Benefit from Better Outcome Measures and Plans for Improvement

GAO-23-105343
Oct 27, 2022
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6 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of VA should require training providers to inform VA of the reasons why veterans drop out of the VET TEC program. (Recommendation 1)
Open
VA agreed in principle with this recommendation. VA noted that it requires training providers to submit a change in enrollment status in VA's online enrollment system, at which point a training provider can complete a field in the system that includes six pre-populated reasons for terminating a veteran's enrollment prior to course completion related to unsatisfactory attendance, conduct, or academic progress. VA acknowledged that there may be additional reasons why a veteran might drop out of VET TEC that are not captured in this field. VA further noted that training providers are required to provide information to VA on the reason a veteran was dropped from the rolls due to unsatisfactory attendance, conduct, or academic progress. However, in April 2022, VA officials told us training providers were not required to complete this optional field when withdrawing or terminating a veteran's enrollment prior to completion. VA officials also did not indicate that they collect information on reasons for early termination from other sources. We continue to support this recommendation to ensure that VA can identify and address potential vulnerabilities in the program during the pilot phase.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of VA should adjust the terminology it uses to describe its current employment rate calculation to clarify that the calculation is not measuring the employment rate but is instead measuring employment at a specific payment milestone. (Recommendation 2)
Open
VA agreed with this recommendation. We will monitor the agency's progress to implement it.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of VA should develop an employment rate calculation consistent with standard approaches used by government or industry entities. (Recommendation 3)
Open
VA neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Agency officials stated that VA plans to conduct an environmental scan of employment rate calculations used in similar programs to determine whether it should develop such a calculation for VET TEC. VA further stated that the employment rate measures highlighted in our report exclude certain populations and are, therefore, not comparable to VET TEC. However, as noted in the report, these measures are comparable. For example, while the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) excludes individuals who did not intend to find employment before starting a program, this is likely not applicable to VET TEC. By definition, VET TEC is a job-training program, so individuals presumably enroll to find employment. Ultimately, CIRR's calculation accounts for all individuals who completed a program and planned to find work whereas VA's current calculation does not. We encourage VA to prioritize the calculation of a standardized employment rate in order to share information in a manner that is commonly understood and to allow VA to compare VET TEC outcomes to other programs and measures.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of VA should use available data, determine what additional data are needed to fully inform VET TEC employment outcomes, and develop concrete time frames for collecting and reporting these data. (Recommendation 4)
Open
VA agreed with this recommendation. We will monitor the agency's progress to implement it.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of VA should establish time frames for addressing actions it has identified for improving VET TEC. (Recommendation 5)
Open
VA agreed with this recommendation. We will monitor the agency's progress to implement it.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of VA should identify and document a single set of clear, measurable objectives for the VET TEC program. (Recommendation 6)
Open
VA agreed with this recommendation. We will monitor the agency's progress to implement it.

College Closures: Education Should Improve Outreach to Borrowers about Loan Discharges

GAO-22-104403
Aug 10, 2022
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4 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid should implement additional strategies to identify college closures in a timely manner. For example, Education could leverage available data to identify potential closures, record known closures as soon as possible, and impose penalties on colleges that do not report closures. (Recommendation 1)
Open
Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation, but identified steps it would take to address it. Education explained how the new data system it is implementing in fall 2022 will facilitate faster reporting of school closures. Further, Education described its plans to review cases where a school failed to submit a timely report to determine whether to initiate fine actions and stated it expects that this approach will deter schools from failing to report closures in a timely manner. Education released a solicitation in May 2022 for a new servicing system that includes several provisions aimed at addressing various issues we identified in our report and recommendations, but Education officials said it is too early to commit to an implementation date since the contract has not been awarded yet. We will continue to monitor the development and implementation of the new servicing system.
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid should instruct loan servicers to use more frequent reports from Education on closures, such as the weekly reports, to send notifications to borrowers of their potential eligibility for a closed school discharge earlier. (Recommendation 2)
Open
Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation, but identified steps it would take to address it. Education released a solicitation in May 2022 for a new servicing system that includes a requirement for servicers to monitor college closures on a weekly basis to identify borrowers that may be eligible for a closed school discharge. We will continue to monitor the development and implementation of the new servicing system.
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid should develop guidance for what information loan servicers should include in the notification letters they send to borrowers after a school closure informing them about their eligibility for a discharge. (Recommendation 3)
Open
Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation, but identified steps it would take to address it. The agency released a solicitation in May 2022 for a new servicing system that includes a requirement for servicers to use a new notification letter template developed by Education that includes the key information we highlight in our report that borrowers need to make an informed decision. Education stated it has also shared the template with its current servicers. We will continue to monitor the development and implementation of the new servicing system.
Office of Federal Student Aid The Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid should ensure additional outreach is provided to at-risk borrowers who are potentially eligible for a closed school discharge. At a minimum, this should include additional communication to borrowers with student loans in delinquency or default. (Recommendation 4)
Open
Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation, but identified steps it would take to address it. The agency released a solicitation in May 2022 for a new servicing system that includes a requirement for contractors to proactively remind borrowers about their eligibility and associated benefits of the loan discharge in all borrower communications, as well as a requirement for servicers to provide this information when an eligible borrower contacts the servicer's call center. These actions are positive steps that would benefit borrowers if Education implements the new servicing system. We will continue to monitor the development and implementation of the new servicing system.
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