Federal Employee Use of Off-Campus College and University Programs

FPCD-82-14: Published: Jan 29, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 2, 1982.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the use of off-campus college and university programs to train Federal employees, and (2) other training matters. An article which appeared in a national newspaper was the basis of the review. The article discussed off-campus programs operated in the Washington, D.C., area by colleges and universities whose main campuses were several hundred miles away. According to the article, these programs are producing degree holders of dubious quality while providing a significant source of revenue to these institutions. The article also stated that the Government may be paying the tuition costs of these programs for thousands of Federal employees and that the benefits of these expenditures may be questionable.

GAO determined that further study of the article is not warranted at this time because: (1) Federal expenditures for these programs were small in relation to total external short-term training costs; (2) the use of off-campus training at these activities was limited; (3) the fees charged for most of the off-campus programs were comparable to the costs on the institution's main campuses; and (4) all the programs identified have been reviewed and licensed by accreditation associations and licensure commissions. GAO also answered specific questions regarding various aspects of Federal employee training. The authorities used by agencies to fund off-campus training are the Government Employees Training Act and Executive Order 11348. Little in-depth evaluation is done of Federal training. Although the approval forms provide space for such evaluation, the information is used mainly as a record that the course has been successfully completed. There are no data available showing the Government's total costs for off-campus programs. Any courses or degrees beyond those necessary to initially obtain a position are not used as a basis to promote employees. In-house training is preferred; however, there are areas which are not covered by Government sources which must be supplemented by off-campus programs. Professional development seminars are all non-Government short-term training, excluding regular college and university courses, interagency courses, and agency-specific courses. No instances were found where training funds were spent for professional dues.

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