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    Federal Agency: "Department of Education"

    37 publications with a total of 81 open recommendations including 7 priority recommendations
    Director: William B. Shear
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To address demonstrated noncompliance with section 15(k) of the Small Business Act, as amended, the Secretary of Education should comply with sections 15(k)(3) and (k)(11) or report to Congress on why the agency has not complied, including seeking any statutory flexibilities or exceptions believed appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help improve students' access to information so that they can make well-informed transfer decisions, the Secretary of Education should require schools to (1) disclose the list of schools with which they have articulation agreements online if the school has a website, and (2) clearly inform students, on the school's website if it has one, when no articulation agreements on credit transfer are in place. If the department determines that it does not have the authority to require this, it should nonetheless encourage schools to take these actions (through guidance or other means).

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help improve students' access to information so that they can make well-informed transfer decisions, the Secretary of Education should provide students and their families with general transfer information, for example by developing a consumer guide and posting it on Education's website or augmenting transfer information already provided on the website, to help increase awareness of key considerations when transferring schools.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: David Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education has not yet taken action to implement our recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.
    Director: Marie Mak
    Phone: (202) 512-4841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that IGCEs are optimized as a tool in the procurement planning process, the Secretary of Education should consider making Contracts and Acquisitions Management guidance applicable to all agency procurements, and if so, take steps--such as clarifying guidance, providing additional training, or issuing reminders to officials--to help ensure that guidance on when to prepare an IGCE is followed.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with the recommendation and stated that it will enhance or clarify guidance on independent government cost estimates.
    Recommendation: To ensure that IGCEs contain key information consistent with good cost estimating practices, the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor should revise or clarify guidance to require that IGCEs document data sources, methodology, and assumptions, and take steps to help ensure that guidance is followed by, for example, providing training or issuing reminders to officials to include this information when developing IGCEs.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with the recommendation and stated that it will enhance or clarify guidance on independent government cost estimates.
    Recommendation: To ensure that IGCEs are optimized as a tool in the procurement planning process, the Secretaries of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor should take steps to ensure that, when appropriate, contracting staff document differences between IGCE and final contract award value in the contract file.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with the recommendation and stated that it will enhance or clarify guidance on independent government cost estimates.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To determine whether IDEA's current transition age requirement allows youth with disabilities, including those with ASD, the time needed to plan and prepare for the transition to adult life, the Secretary of Education should examine outcomes for students when transition services begin at age 16 and the merits and implications of amending IDEA to lower the age at which school districts are to begin providing transition services to students with disabilities, such as 14.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation and has not taken steps to implement it.
    Recommendation: To implement the goals and policy priorities of the 2020 Federal Youth Transition Plan, the Federal Partners in Transition (FPT) workgroup--the Secretaries of HHS, Education, Department of Labor, and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration--should develop a long-term implementation plan that includes milestones and specific agency roles and assignments.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation but has not yet taken action to implement it.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to expand its performance measures for the 21st Century program to address all program objectives. Specifically, Education should establish performance measures related to key behavioral, including student attendance and disciplinary incidents, and socio-emotional outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with our recommendations; rather, it generally noted that it will keep our recommendations in mind as it continues to implement changes in the program as a result of ESSA. Specifically, the department stated that it is in the process of re-examining whether additional or revised measures should be developed to align more significantly with the program's statutory objectives under ESSA. Education also expressed concern about collecting data on student attendance and disciplinary measures, noting that it will require effective collaboration between states, districts, and other eligible entities. However, we note that about half of states already collect data on at least one of these two measures; and that research has shown that 21st Century programs more often have positive effects on student attendance and reducing disciplinary incidents than on improving students' academic outcomes. Given these effects, we continue to believe that it is critical for Education to measure student attendance and disciplinary incidents to obtain more complete, accurate information on this program's effect on student outcomes.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to conduct federal-level data checks on the accuracy of 21st Century program data submitted by states. Such checks could test for logical relationships between fields. Education should also publicly disclose and address any data limitations it identifies, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education commented that it plans to build in additional data checks into the data system beyond its current checks on the data's completeness. Specifically, Education anticipates that new technology enhancements in the data system will be designed to flag for inconsistencies in data reporting. For example, the system may send a "flag" that participation data is significantly lower or higher than previously reported participation data. Further, Education indicated that it will consider whether auditors performing audits under the Single Audit Act can be asked and guided to do more checks on the accuracy and reliability of 21st Century program data.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to provide written, non-regulatory guidance to states on developing and conducting high-quality 21st Century state evaluations to help address the difficulties states face in measuring program performance and effectiveness.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education outlined several steps it has taken to assist states in the past. For example, Education said that it provided six states with individualized technical assistance on strategies related to developing statewide evaluations and measures. Education also noted that, to date, it has conducted two webinars on state evaluations and is in the process of including presentations from those webinars on its online learning portal so that states will have easy access to the information. In addition, Education stated that it included presentations on evaluation strategies in the past during its Summer Institute. Education also said it would consider whether additional guidance for all states was needed. While these are important steps, we do not believe they are sufficient. We continue to believe that Education should prepare written guidance to assist all states in developing and conducting high-quality program evaluations.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to use the information it collects from its monitoring visits and ongoing interactions with states to share effective practices across states for sustaining their 21st Century programs once program funding ends. This information could be shared using existing mechanisms such as Education's meetings with 21st Century state coordinators.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education noted that it hosts meetings twice a year for 21st Century state coordinators where strategies related to program sustainability are shared with states. These meetings covered topics such as reducing the amounts of 21st Century grant awards by a percentage each year. However, these meetings have not focused on topics on program sustainability for several years. We continue to believe that Education should take the lead in sharing information with states to help them address their sustainability challenges by sharing information on state policies and practices that have shown some success.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance its oversight of discretionary grantee performance, the Secretary of Education should direct the Risk Management Service (RMS) to work with principal offices, as appropriate, to establish and implement detailed written supervisory review procedures for official grant files to provide reasonable assurance that grant staff perform and document key monitoring activities.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education substantially agreed with this recommendation. The agency noted that it planned to establish a standard operating procedure for grant file reviews, including a protocol for the review of these files to ensure that monitoring efforts are documented appropriately.
    Recommendation: To enhance its oversight of discretionary grantee performance, the Secretary of Education should direct RMS to work with principal offices, as appropriate, to develop guidance for grant staff on using the PAM Module to share information on grantee performance. Such guidance could clarify expectations about when staff should use the "Issues" and "Notable Results" tabs while monitoring grantees once the transition to electronic grant files is complete, and clarify the types of information staff should enter about grantee performance.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education substantially agreed with this recommendation. The agency noted that it planned to reinforce through grant administration trainings the importance of sharing grantee performance information agency-wide, including in the PAM Module.
    Director: Yvonne Jones
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To support the consistent application of agency telework policy throughout the agency, the Secretaries of the Departments of Education and Labor and the Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission should implement controls to verify that supervisors have completed telework training prior to entering into telework agreements with their employees and that completion of this training is documented.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a letter dated May 18, 2017, a Department of Education official stated that the department concurs with the recommendation and have taken steps to implement it. The letter stated Education is implementing tighter controls such that, no later than September 30, 2017, Education will fully verify that supervisors have completed telework training prior to entering into telework agreements with their employees and that completion of this training is documented. When we confirm that Education has completed these actions, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure the employee eligibility data transmitted to OPM comport with what OPM is required to report under the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 and accurately reflect the current number of employees eligible to telework, the Secretary of the Department of Education should direct the Telework Managing Officer to take the steps necessary to regularly update employees' eligibility status.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a letter dated May 18, 2017, a Department of Education official stated that the department concurs with the recommendation and notes that the Telework Managing Officer has already taken the necessary steps to regularly updated employees' eligibility status for reporting purposes under the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. The letter further states that the Department reported these updated numbers in the fiscal year 2017 Telework Data Call. When we confirm that Education has completed these actions, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Allison Bawden
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should inform affected borrowers of the suspension of offset and potential consequences if the borrower does not take action to apply for a TPD discharge. Such information could include notification that interest continues to accrue and that offsets may resume once their disability benefits are converted to retirement benefits.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education does not currently notify borrowers of the suspension of offset, but plans to implement a process to do so in the future using a new mailing sent to affected borrowers by their default servicer. The current budget situation does not allow for this type of enhancement, and it is not clear when that will change. In the interim, the agency is exploring alternative notification approaches that could be put in place prior to the implementation of an automated solution. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should revise forms sent to borrowers already approved for a TPD discharge to clearly and prominently state that failure to provide annual income verification documentation during the 3-year monitoring period will result in loan reinstatement.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that the current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) TPD-Post discharge forms contain the recommended language in the first bullet of the Earned Income Section. In order to more clearly provide this information they recommended that the new OMB form, which is in its public comment period, (1) use a larger font size for the form and (2) use "plain language." GAO will consider closing this recommendation when the agency has completed this effort.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should evaluate the feasibility and benefits of implementing an automated income verification process, including determining whether the agency has the necessary legal authority to implement such a process.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that over the next six months, they are committed to working with SSA to determine the feasibility and benefits of implementing an automated income verification process. The verification will address both the legal authority to implement such a process as well as operational and budgetary feasibility. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should inform borrowers about the financial hardship exemption option and application process on the agency's website, as well as the notice of offset sent to borrowers.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agrees with the recommendation and said that they will include this change in upcoming revisions to the agency's web content. The agency reported that the Notice of Offset to borrowers is sent by Treasury and that they will share this recommendation with Treasury and discuss possible changes to the notice. We will consider closing this recommendation when the agency has completed this effort.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should implement an annual review process to ensure that only eligible borrowers are exempted from offset for financial hardship on an ongoing basis.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education reported that it plans plan to fully automate their process for tracking hardships and other exceptions from offset. However, due to competing priorities and funding limitations, full implementation of these improvements have not been scheduled. As they fully implement this process, they will review complementary strategies to assist borrowers in complying with annual reporting requirements. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    6 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should assess and improve, as necessary, the quality of data and methods used to forecast borrower incomes, and revise the forecasting method to account for inflation in estimates.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to assess and improve its borrower income forecasts. The agency reported that it is working with Treasury and other federal partners to obtain the best income data while ensuring that taxpayer privacy is protected to the full extent of the law. Education noted it will establish a timeframe for improvements to the IDR model that allows for adequate and thorough analysis and quality control. It will also consider including an adjustment for inflation in our income estimates and will document the results of our analysis for the next version of the IDR model. The agency wants to guarantee that an inflation adjustment is appropriate for this subpopulation of IDR borrowers, therefore they will conduct further analysis to ensure that any inflation adjustment is appropriately incorporated into the model. The agency anticipates completing these efforts by September 29, 2017. When these efforts are complete, GAO will await documentation that Education has assessed and improved the quality of data quality and methods it uses to forecast borrower incomes, and that it has revised its forecasting methods to account for inflation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should obtain data needed to assess the impact of income recertification lapses on borrower payment amounts, and adjust estimated borrower repayment patterns as necessary.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to attempt to obtain data to assess the impact of income recertification lapses on borrower payment amounts. The agency reported that it started to collect more detailed information on borrowers who fail to recertify their income. It will analyze these data to see if they can be used to adjust borrower repayment patterns in the model. The agency will also consider whether to include behavioral effects to account for targeted borrower outreach to recertify their income. GAO will monitor the progress of these efforts. Education expects to complete these efforts by September 29, 2017. At that time, GAO will await documentation that Education has obtained the necessary data to assess the impact of recertification lapses on borrower repayment patterns and adjusted estimated borrower repayments in its model, as necessary.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should complete efforts to incorporate repayment plan switching into the agency's redesigned student loan model, and conduct testing to help ensure that the model produces estimates that reasonably reflect trends in Income-Driven Repayment plan participation.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to incorporate repayment plan switching into its redesigned student loan model, and reiterated that efforts to incorporate this capability had begun despite challenges inherent in predicting borrower behavior. GAO will monitor the progress of these efforts.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should, as a part of the agency's ongoing student loan model redesign efforts, add the capability to produce separate cost estimates for each Income-Driven Repayment plan and more accurately reflect likely repayment patterns for each type of loan eligible for these plans.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education asserted that as they redesign its current cost estimation model, it will consider adding the capability to produce separate cost estimates for each IDR plan and allow for separate, more accurate estimates by loan type.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should more thoroughly test the agency's approach to estimating Income-Driven Repayment plan costs, including by conducting more comprehensive sensitivity analysis on key assumptions and adjusting those assumptions (such as the agency's Public Service Loan Forgiveness participation assumption) to ensure reasonableness.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to test its approach to estimating IDR plan costs more thoroughly, including through more comprehensive sensitivity analysis. The agency included in its FY16 Annual Financial Report, sensitivity analyses for Public Service Loan Forgiveness participation and borrower incomes. In the future, the agency will consider conducting additional sensitivity to analyses as well as other kind of analysis to ensure reasonableness. GAO will consider closing this recommendation when the agency has completed these efforts.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should publish more detailed Income Driven Repayment plan cost information-- beyond what is regularly provided through the President's budget--including items such as total estimated costs, sensitivity analysis results, key limitations, and expected forgiveness amounts.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to publish more detailed IDR plan cost information and stated that it plans to present sensitivity analysis results and key limitations in upcoming financial reports. GAO will consider closing this requirement when the agency has completed this effort.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance customer service, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Federal Student Aid to identify ways to modify the data collected in its unified borrower complaint system to allow the agency to more precisely identify and analyze complaints specifically about the SCRA interest rate cap.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education said it is committed to accurately tracking the types of complaints it receives and will create a complainant subcategory for SCRA under the "Military and Veterans Benefit" category. In addition, it will continue to run periodic key word searches to identify other complaints that may have been miscategorized by the complainant, related to the requirements of the SCRA, and ensure that they are considered appropriately. GAO will consider closing this recommendation when the department has provided evidence that it has completed these efforts.
    Director: David Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the quality of the seven departments' information on project incremental delivery reported to the IT Dashboard, the Secretaries of Commerce, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, and the Treasury should direct their CIOs to review major IT investment project data reported on the IT Dashboard and update the information as appropriate in the following areas: (1) whether the project is in-progress or complete; (2) whether the project is a software development project or not; and (3) the status of the delivery of functionality every 6 months, ensuring that these data are consistent across all reporting channels.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) concurred with our recommendation and stated that the department will ensure that the data is kept current using their IT portfolio management process. However, after our report was issued in August 2016, the IT Dashboard was not publicly updated from the end of August 2016 until the end of May 2017, during the formulation of the President's budget request. Now that the Dashboard is being publicly updated again, we will continue to analyze and monitor the department's progress in updating investment information on the Dashboard and the implementation of our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the certification of adequate incremental development, the Secretaries of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury should direct their CIOs to establish a department policy and process for the certification of major IT investments' adequate use of incremental development, in accordance with OMB's guidance on the implementation of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) concurred with our recommendation to establish a departmentwide certification policy. Education officials reported in March 2017 that the department will complete changes to its guidance by November 2017. However, until this guidance is finalized, Education will not be able to fully ensure adequate implement of, or benefit from, incremental development practices. We will continue to evaluate Education's progress in implementing this recommendation.
    Director: Gretta L. Goodwin
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance the clarity and transparency of sexual violence data that is reported to the public, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Attorney General should direct the Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics to make information on the acts of sexual violence and contextual factors that are included in their measurements of sexual violence publicly available. This effort could entail revising their definitions of key terms used to describe sexual violence so that the definitions match the measurements of sexual violence.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Cheryl E. Clark
    Phone: (202) 512-9377

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that subsidy cost estimates for the Direct Student Loan Program are supported, reliable, and reasonable, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development to develop detailed policies and procedures over the subsidy cost estimation process that address, at a minimum, the documentation that should be prepared and maintained to support subsidy cost estimates and the process to document management review and approval of subsidy cost estimates.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) agreed with this recommendation. Education stated that has detailed procedures for developing and validating subsidy cost estimates. These procedures include, but are not limited to, establishing a baseline scenario, documenting each assumption individually, comparing estimates to actual data, and management review and sign-off. Education has begun drafting a more detailed document that will describe policies and procedures.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that subsidy cost estimates for the Direct Student Loan Program are supported, reliable, and reasonable, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development to develop detailed documentation of the cash flow model used to estimate subsidy costs, including the rationale for model calculations, all formulas and assumptions used in the model, data sources, the process to update and document changes to the model, and the process to document management review and approval of the model, which may be based on an independent verification and validation of the model to ensure that calculations are accurate and consistent with the model documentation.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) agreed with this recommendation. Education stated that it is committed to continuous improvements in its cash flow model and how it is documented. The cash flow model includes inputs of modeled data, referred to as assumptions, together with program-determined static values, such as interest rates and fees. Education stated that it will update its detailed documentation of its cash flow model. In addition, Education is investing staff and resources into developing a new cash flow model to estimate subsidy costs. Detailed documentation of this new cash flow model will be prepared before the model becomes operational. We will review Education's new cash flow model documentation once it is completed.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that subsidy cost estimates for the Direct Student Loan Program are supported, reliable, and reasonable, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development to document the procedures and results of such procedures used to develop or support key elements of the subsidy cost estimation process, addressing at a minimum (1) the reliability of historical data, (2) the rationale for informed opinion when applicable, (3) the methods used to calculate cash flow assumptions, (4) the process to ensure that subsidy cost estimates are consistent with the terms and conditions of the program, (5) the process to assess estimated cash flows for reasonableness, and (6) the process used to perform sensitivity analysis.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) agreed with this recommendation. Education stated that it will work on developing more detailed policies and procedures which will address the key elements referenced in this recommendation.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better manage any challenges states may face implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of State Support to evaluate its oversight process in light of the challenges states encountered in implementing the Flexibility initiative to identify lessons learned and, as appropriate, incorporate any lessons into plans for overseeing the ESSA, particularly around issues such as the design and implementation of states' monitoring systems.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed that it is important to continuously evaluate its work and to consider ways to improve its efficiency and effectiveness and cited examples of the agency doing so during ESEA Flexibility implementation. For example, Education said it developed the Office of State Support, in part based on lessons learned while implementing the Flexibility initiative. In addition, Education said that since the ESSA was enacted in December 2015, it has continued to informally evaluate ESEA Flexibility implementation and oversight and cited several examples relevant to ESEA Flexibility and other Education programs and initiatives. Further, the agency provided is piloting quarterly calls between Education program officers and states and piloting a fiscal review in eight states focused on components of the law it says did not change significantly between NCLBA and ESSA. As Education continues its efforts to evaluate lessons learned from the Flexibility initiative - including the peer review process - and apply them to its oversight of ESSA, we encourage Education to incorporate these lessons into how it oversees the design and implementation of states' monitoring systems which are key to the success of ESSA's accountability provisions.
    Director: Marcia Crosse
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each develop a written plan that describes the agency's approach for conducting education and outreach to key stakeholders in the United States regarding FGM/C.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that it will develop a written plan for disseminating relevant FGM/C resources to the agency?s key stakeholder groups. As of August 2017, Education reported that action is still pending.
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each communicate the plan with other relevant federal agencies and stakeholder groups, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that it will develop a written plan for disseminating relevant FGM/C resources to the agency?s key stakeholder groups and will explore how to best communicate and coordinate efforts at the federal level. As of August 2017, Education reported that action is still pending.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that the Dashboard ratings more accurately reflect risk, the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, the Interior, State, and Veterans Affairs; and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management should direct their CIOs to factor active risks into their IT Dashboard CIO ratings.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department agreed with the recommendation, but has not provided an update on its actions to address it. When we confirm what actions have been taken, we will update.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that the Dashboard ratings more accurately reflect risk, the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State, Transportation, the Treasury, Veterans Affairs; the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should direct their CIOs to ensure that their CIO ratings reflect the level of risk facing an investment relative to that investment's ability to accomplish its goals.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department agreed with the recommendation, but has not provided an update on its actions to address it. When we confirm what actions have been taken, we will update.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help foster and unaccompanied homeless youth better navigate the college admissions and federal student aid processes, the Secretaries of Education and HHS should jointly study potential options for encouraging and enabling child welfare caseworkers, McKinney-Vento homeless youth liaisons, and other adults who work with these youth to more actively assist them with college planning.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education, working with the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a Foster Youth Transition Toolkit in May 2016 which addresses both financial aid and college admissions processes. The toolkit was written for youth in or formerly in foster care rather than for professionals who serve these youth. Education noted that it had also posted a Homeless Youth Fact sheet for teachers and other professionals on its website in July. Education said that it will continue to work with HHS and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth about college admissions and federal student aid processes for foster and unaccompanied homeless youth. Education also plans to conduct a technical assistance webinar for McKinney-Vento homeless youth liaisons and to provide technical assistance for other programs. Making such information available on Education's website is an encouraging step, as are plans to conduct webinars for professionals who work with homeless youth. We look forward to the implementation of these plans. However, we continue to believe that HHS and Education should consider ways to encourage more active college planning efforts among professionals who work with homeless and foster youth that consider professional staff's competing goals and priorities and multiple responsibilities.
    Recommendation: To help foster and unaccompanied homeless youth, as well as adults who assist these youth, better navigate the federal student aid process and obtain information about college resources, the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS, should create webpages directed to homeless and foster youth so they can more easily find tailored and centralized information about available federal and other resources, such as Pell Grants, Chafee Education and Training Voucher Program (Chafee ETV Vouchers), and waivers for college admission tests.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In addition to having a webpage about foster youth, Education noted that in April 2016 it had created a new webpage with resources for homeless children and youth. In July 2016, Education developed and posted online a Foster Care Transition Toolkit and a Fact Sheet on federal student aid for homeless youth that is available through its resources webpage. The development and posting of these materials on the agency's website offers helpful resources to foster and homeless youth; however, Education should also make it easier for these youth, who often lack adult support, to find these documents easily--such as by referring to them on the page that says who is eligible for federal student aid--without lengthy searching of the Website.
    Recommendation: To help college financial aid administrators more effectively implement eligibility rules for unaccompanied homeless youth, the Secretary of Education should make available an optional worksheet or form that college financial aid administrators can voluntarily use to document unaccompanied homeless youth status or encourage the use of existing forms that are available.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed that it would be helpful to make forms developed by outside organizations knowledgeable about homelessness issues available for financial aid administrators to use for documenting the status of unaccompanied homeless youth. Education also said that it plans to highlight the availability of these forms and provide guidance at its annual conference and in updates to the Federal Student Aid Handbook. Education noted that it will not endorse the use of a specific form but that it will highlight forms that already exist that may be useful to financial aid administrators. We look forward to Education making such forms available for college financial aid administrators so that they can more effectively implement eligibility rules for unaccompanied homeless youth.
    Recommendation: To help homeless youth more easily access federal student aid, the Secretary of Education should clarify its guidance to financial aid administrators and students about whether financial aid administrators should accept any unaccompanied homeless youth determination provided by McKinney-Vento homeless liaisons or other authorized officials even if a student is not in high school or receiving program services.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, Education posted questions and answers about federal student for homeless youth on its website and in July, the agency posted a fact sheet about Homeless Youth on its webpage for teachers and other professional staff. However, neither document states whether financial aid administrators should accept any unaccompanied homeless youth determination provided by McKinney-Vento liaisons or authorized officials even if a student is not in high school or receiving program services. In July 2016, Education issued guidance for the McKinney-Vento program specifying that a local liaison may continue to provide verification of a youth's homelessness status for federal student aid purposes for as long as the liaison has access to the information necessary to make such a determination for a particular youth. The guidance also stated that local homelessness liaisons should ensure that all homeless high school students receive information and counseling on college-related issues. Education said that it will also hold a technical assistance webinar for McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program liaisons. In July 2016, Education said that it will issue the most-up-to-date guidance clarifying that financial aid administrators should accept any unaccompanied homeless youth determination provided by McKinney-Vento liaisons or authorized officials even if a student is not in high school or receiving program services. In addition to updating its guidance for financial aid administrators, the agency should also update the question and answer factsheet on federal student aid for homeless students and the factsheet for professionals so that the information on unaccompanied homeless youth determinations is presented consistently in these key documents.
    Recommendation: To enhance access to federal student aid for unaccompanied homeless youth, the Secretary of Education should consider developing a legislative proposal for congressional action to simplify the application process so that once a student has received an initial determination as an unaccompanied homeless youth, the student will not be required to have that status re-verified in subsequent years but attest to their current status on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, unless a financial aid administrator has conflicting information.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2016, Education said that the department had proposed further simplification of the FAFSA in its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal. Education stated that it will also consider the feasibility of a legislative proposal to not require re-verification of homelessness after a student has received an initial determination. Such a legislative proposal would enhance access to federal student aid for unaccompanied homeless youth.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help address Education's strategic goal of providing superior customer service to borrowers, and to strengthen oversight of the Direct Loan program, the Secretary of Education should develop a minimum standard that specifies core call center operating hours to provide borrowers, including those on the West Coast, with improved access to servicers.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to establish core hours in the requirements for servicers to help borrowers access live customer service representatives. Education also noted that borrowers can use interactive voice response and web technology to access information from their servicers during periods when live operators are not available. While these are additional tools for borrowers, they do not replace the need for access to live representatives, and, as we note in the report, Education's customer satisfaction surveys of borrowers in 2014 and 2015 raised concerns about the usefulness of servicers' automated voice response systems. Establishing core call center hours in servicer requirements, if implemented as Education described, would meet the intent of the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help address Education's strategic goal of providing superior customer service to borrowers, and to strengthen oversight of the Direct Loan program, the Secretary of Education should ensure the new unified borrower complaint tracking system includes comprehensive and comparable information on the nature and status of borrower complaints made to both Education and servicers, to allow Education to track trends and better manage the program to effectively meet borrower needs.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that it will conduct communication and awareness campaigns to ensure borrowers know of the existence and purpose of the feedback system, which includes comprehensive and comparable information on the nature and status of borrower complaints about servicers. One of the communication channels used will be through the servicers. In addition, the agency reported that it will establish a common borrower experience and common branding in the requirements for the ongoing student loan servicing solicitation by, among other things, requiring the creation of a single web portal clearly labeled as representing the agency. Through that system, all borrowers will be ale to access information, make payments, apply for benefits and manage their accounts. When implemented, this new platform, in conjunction with FSA's Feedback System, will collect complaint information at FSA comprehensively.
    Recommendation: To help address Education's strategic goal of providing superior customer service to borrowers, and to strengthen oversight of the Direct Loan program, the Secretary of Education should evaluate and make needed adjustments to Direct Loan servicer performance metrics and compensation to improve assessment, including using baseline data, and alignment with Federal Student Aid's strategic goals aimed at superior customer service and program integrity, and to ensure that the assignment of new loans to servicers takes program compliance into account.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would evaluate existing and alternative performance metrics and compensation strategies as part of the ongoing student loan servicing procurement. The agency noted that the results of this evaluation, along with information gleaned form other market research conducted in the context of the procurement and proposals submitted by prospective vendors, will be reflected in future servicing contracts.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct Education's Office for Civil Rights to more routinely analyze its Civil Rights Data Collection by school groupings and types of schools across key elements to further explore and understand issues and patterns of disparities. For example, Education could use this more detailed information to help identify issues and patterns among school types and groups in conjunction with its analyses of student groups.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that it already analyzes its civil rights data in some of the ways we recommended, and in light of our recommendation, will consider whether additional analysis could augment their core civil rights enforcement mission. Education noted that it often uses the type of analyses GAO recommended, when appropriate, to inform its internal civil rights investigations, and makes the data available to researchers and other stakeholders outside the agency. While these efforts are encouraging, our recommendation emphasizes that the agency itself more routinely use the civil rights data across key data elements to help it identify disparities and patterns among groups and types of schools. Such an analysis could enhance the agency's current efforts and ultimately improve the agency's ability to target oversight and technical assistance to the schools that need it most. Education reported that this recommendation would be implemented by September 15, 2017. At that time, we will await documentation of its analyses by the school groupings as specified in our recommendation.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: Using its general authority to collaborate with other federal agencies, the Secretary of Education should convene its federal interagency partners to develop a strategic approach to interagency collaboration on school emergency preparedness. This group could include designees or delegates from the Secretaries of DHS, HHS, and the Attorney General, including representatives from relevant agency components, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and others as appropriate, and should incorporate leading federal interagency collaboration practices, for example, by: (1) identifying leadership, (2) defining outcomes and assigning accountability, (3) including all relevant participants, and (4) identifying necessary resources.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education agrees that improved federal coordination will better assist K-12 schools in preparing for emergencies, and noted that other federal agencies, including especially FEMA, play a significant role in school emergency preparedness. Additionally, Education cited the importance of involving other relevant agencies in obtaining agreement on the assignment of roles and responsibilities, including selecting a lead agency charged with primary responsibility for coordinating federal emergency preparedness assistance to K-12 schools. In August 2016, Education convened a committee of Assistant Secretary-level representatives from relevant agencies, including DHS, FEMA, and TSA, among others, to develop a strategic approach to interagency collaboration on school emergency management efforts. Subsequently, in October 2016, it convened a task force consisting of program staff from the relevant agencies to draft a plan for organizational structure, goals, and objectives for the next five years, which it expects will be approved for implementation beginning in January 2017. We are encouraged by these actions and will monitor the group's progress towards developing a strategic approach to school emergency preparedness. Education stated that it expects to complete these efforts very soon. At that time, we will await documentation showing that it has finalized and implemented its strategic approach for interagency collaboration around school emergency management.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To strengthen management of the Direct Loan Program and ensure good customer service for borrowers, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to review its methods of providing instructions and guidance to servicers, identifying areas to improve clarity and sufficiency, and ensure consistent delivery of instructions and guidance to ensure program integrity and improve service to borrowers. For example, the Department could consider implementing a detailed, common servicing manual for the Direct Loan program.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed with this recommendation and has reviewed its guidance to servicers, as of October 2016. It has issued clarifications to servicers in several areas. In addition, the Department had been in the process of an acquisition for a new loan servicing solution but, as of September 2017, is reassessing its acquisition strategy. While the plan for the revised acquisition is not finalized, FSA expects its approach to significantly streamline the process of communicating instructions and guidance to servicers, as well as improve the overall experience for students and borrowers. Upon resolution of its acquisition strategy, Education needs to demonstrate that its final contract for a new loan servicing solution is structured to provide clear and consistent instructions and guidance to servicers to ensure program integrity and improve service to borrowers.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen states' monitoring and facilitate local MOE compliance, the Secretary of Education should prioritize technical assistance and information sharing across states on ways to facilitate local MOE compliance with respect to the use of the four calculation methods and the exceptions.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2016, Education officials reported that the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has been working on guidance on local educational agency maintenance of effort (LEA MOE) and intends to issue an expanded question and answer document by the end of 2016. In addition, the officials reported that the OSEP-funded Center for Idea Fiscal Reporting (CIFR) has taken additions steps, including creating an LEA MOE calculator projected for publication in fall 2016. GAO anticipates closing this recommendation when these activities have been implemented.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that Income-Based Repayment, Pay As You Earn, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness serve their intended beneficiaries to the greatest extent possible, the Secretary of Education should take steps to consistently and regularly notify all borrowers who have entered repayment of income-driven repayment plan options, including Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education generally concurred with our recommendation, stating that it is committed to ensuring the federal student loan borrowers have the information they need to manage their debt, including details regarding income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs. However, Education stated that it is not clear that providing information on repayment options to all borrowers is the most efficient or effective way to achieve this goal. The agency indicated that the steps it is taking to raise awareness about income-driven repayment would include streamlined processes for learning about, applying for, and recertifying eligibility for income-driven repayment plans with enhanced communications targeted to borrowers most likely to benefit from these plans. While these are positive steps, because Education does not have income and family size information needed to determine which borrowers could benefit from income-driven repayment, we maintain it is important for Education to notify all borrowers of these options.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should develop a risk-based, cost-effective strategy to verify that states are implementing a process for assessing whether any teacher preparation programs are low-performing.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported adding additional questions about states' processes for identifying low-performing and at-risk programs to its annual state data collection form. The Department reported that this revised data collection form was submitted to OMB in April 2016 and was still undergoing OMB review as of September 2017. In the meantime, Education reported that it is conducting a temporary risk-based monitoring approach to determine how states report information on low-performing teacher preparation programs. GAO will monitor Education's efforts to finalize and implement these initiatives.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should study the usefulness of Title II data elements for policymakers and practitioners, and, if warranted, develop a proposal for Congress to eliminate or revise any statutorily-required elements that are not providing meaningful information.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that its regulations published in October 2016 included new Title II data elements related to program quality. However, this action is distinct from our recommendation to assess whether existing fields required by law should be eliminated or revised. During our review, Education officials noted that such data elements could only be eliminated or revised through legislation, rather than regulation. Therefore, we continue to believe that it would be valuable for Education to review the existing data elements required by law and submit a proposal to Congress to eliminate or revise any of these fields, if warranted.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should develop and implement mechanisms to systematically share information about teacher preparation program quality with relevant Department of Education program offices and states (including state Independent Standards Boards).

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that, subject to available staff resources, the agency would be designing an internal work group to increase information-sharing about teacher preparation program quality within and outside the Department. As of August 2017, ED reported that actions on this recommendation were pending. GAO will monitor Education's continued steps to design and implement this working group.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that states are better able to sustain RTT reforms and that Education can effectively support other grant programs managed by the Office of State Support, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of State Support to fully implement and incorporate into its coordinated technical assistance policies and procedures the types of support that would be useful in sustaining RTT reforms and providing effective support to grantees in other programs supporting education reform that the Office of State Support oversees. These could include: (1) providing individualized technical assistance to states, such as that currently provided by Education program officers; (2) facilitating communities of practice to promote opportunities for collaboration across states; (3) providing professional development (or training) throughout the grant period, as opposed to only during the early stages of the grant; (4) making training more easily accessible by conducting training locally in their respective states, when possible; and (5) to the extent permissible in the context of federal and state requirements and restrictions, exploring the possibility of assisting states in identifying skilled contractors to help implement reform efforts.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that, as of October 20, 2015, the Office of State Support has a draft technical assistance plan in place that is currently being revised based on stakeholder input. Officials stated that the technical assistance plan addresses all of the numerated suggestions from GAO that were included in the recommendation. We look forward to reviewing the technical assistance plan once it is finalized. Education plans to provide an update by the end of fiscal year 2017.
    Recommendation: To help states address capacity challenges as they sustain comprehensive education reforms similar to RTT, the Secretary of Education direct the Office of State Support to take steps, such as: (1) providing ongoing individualized technical assistance to states to help them target assistance to rural districts, particularly in the reform areas that were most challenging for rural districts; (2) finalizing and disseminating guidance to be included in Education's toolkit to help states leverage federal formula grants to sustain education reforms; and (3) clarifying and improving understanding of how funding flexibilities in existing formula grants could be used to support education reform efforts to help states and the audit community address impediments to using formula grants in different ways.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it expected to release a toolkit for states and districts on ways to leverage federal grants to sustain educational reforms. As of October 20, 2015, officials stated that the toolkit is in clearance. Staff are developing a dissemination plan that will outline how the toolkit will be rolled out to states and support its use. However, they do not yet have an estimated release date. We look forward to reviewing the toolkit once it has been released. Education plans to provide an update by the end of fiscal year 2017.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki,
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance participation in and strengthen management of federal student aid programs for teachers, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to explore and implement ways to raise awareness about the TEACH Grant and the loan forgiveness programs.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education noted that Federal Student Aid disseminates information about these programs through various channels, such as its website, social media, and materials posted to the Financial Aid Took Kit. Annual in-person training is also provided, as well as online guidance on these programs to Financial Aid Officers at Title IV institutions. Education will assess the effectiveness of these sources of program information and seek input from interested organizations outside the agency on ways to better publicize and promote the progress. They will also develop and implement additional outreach efforts and vehicles to more effectively raise awareness both among current and incoming students and, for loan forgiveness among potentially eligible individuals who have already entered the workforce. We will close this recommendation when these efforts are completed. As of August 2017, Education reported that it is preparing a response to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enhance participation in and strengthen management of federal student aid programs for teachers, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to take steps to determine why participants are not able to meet TEACH Grant service requirements and examine ways to address those challenges.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In FY 2015, the Department of Education (Education) developed a survey for institutions that offer the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant and grant recipients to assess program issues and challenges. According to documentation posted in the Federal Register, the surveys will be administered in 2016 and will be used as part of a study to improve TEACH Grant program administration. Education has also indicated it is developing plans to analyze existing data on TEACH grant recipients and institutions. We will close the recommendation when the study is complete and Education has examined ways to address the challenges identified. As of August 2017, Education reported that it is preparing a response to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enhance participation in and strengthen management of federal student aid programs for teachers, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to review the underlying cause of the known erroneous conversions to ensure steps Education has taken are sufficient to address the problem, and establish time frames for transferring the approximately 2,600 loan conversions currently with other loan servicers.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education noted it has already taken steps to implement this recommendation, such as a comprehensive assessment to identify the causes of the conversions and the grants affected. After identifying the reasons, they worked with current grant services to ensure accuracy and make sure they understood program requirements. ED will also work with recipients to resolve issues related to grants that were converted in error. All active Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans that were converted from TEACH grants and not in default were transferred to FedLoan Servicing by December 2014. As of August 2017, Education reported that it is preparing a response to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enhance participation in and strengthen management of federal student aid programs for teachers, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to review the TEACH grant-to-loan conversion dispute process and disseminate to appropriate audiences clear, consistent information on it, including that recipients have an option to dispute, how to initiate a dispute, and the specific criteria considered in the adjudicating process.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education noted steps it has taken to address this recommendation. For example, the agency clarified the TEACH grant conversion dispute process, detailing the specific set of criteria under which FedLoan Servicing is authorized to convert loans back to grants. The agency reported that it will assess the current process for disseminating information on the dispute process to determine whether additional outreach or more extensive information is necessary to ensure that appropriate audiences have access to needed information. We will close this recommendation when this effort has been completed. As of August 2017, Education reported that it is preparing a response to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enhance participation in and strengthen management of federal student aid programs for teachers, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to establish program performance measures for the TEACH Grant and the loan forgiveness programs to assess against established goals and to inform program administration.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that it will convene a group to review program data, identify appropriate metrics for which supporting data are available, and establish baselines and targets for those metrics. The agency will then incorporate those metrics, baselines and targets into its ongoing program management and policy development processes. We will close this recommendation when these efforts have been completed. As of August 2017, Education reported that it is preparing a response to address this recommendation.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen Education's oversight of schools, the Secretary of Education should ensure that Education staff consistently review, record, and respond to accreditor sanction information, and clarify its guidance on how the agency will respond to specific accreditor sanctions.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation, noting that it is committed to identifying ways to use data about and from accreditors in its oversight. As of July 2017, Education has developed guidance for how accreditors should report sanction information. Education previously noted that the agency also planned to provide additional staff training and to provide a copy of GAO's report to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. GAO will close this recommendation when Education provides current documentation of staff training and guidance, and documentation that GAO's report has been provided to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity.
    Recommendation: To strengthen Education's oversight of accreditors through the recognition review process, the Secretary of Education should draw upon accreditor data to determine whether accreditors are consistently applying and enforcing their standards to ensure that the education offered by schools is of sufficient quality. For example, Education could systematically use available information related to the frequency of accreditor sanctions or could do additional analyses, such as comparing accreditor sanction data with Education's information on student outcomes, to inform its recognition reviews.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation, noting that it is committed to identifying ways to use data about and from accreditors in its oversight. As of July 2017, Education has taken steps to track the number of accreditor sanctions issued by each accrediting agency. Education previously noted that this information will then be used to focus their limited resources on those accrediting agencies with extremely low or high sanction rates. The agency also noted it would provide a copy of GAO's report to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. GAO will close this recommendation when these efforts are completed.
    Director: J. Christopher Mihm
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Recognizing that moving toward a more customer-oriented culture within federal agencies is likely to be a continuous effort, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer, to improve Federal Student Aid's customer service standards and feedback review, to: (1) ensure standards are easily publicly available, (2) develop a feedback mechanism that includes guidance or criteria for service providers to elevate customer feedback to identify the need for and to make service improvements.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: We emailed Department of Education in June 2017 for an update on the status of this recommendation. Once a response is received we will update this recommendation.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Based on GAO's review, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Special Education Programs to increase transparency regarding the timeliness of due process hearing decisions for Congress and better target its monitoring and technical assistance to states, revise its performance measure to collect information from states on the amount of time that extensions add to due process hearing decisions.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: : In April 2017, Education reported that it had developed and implemented a plan to monitor states with 10 or more fully adjudicated hearings in a given year where at least 75 percent of the decisions are issued with extended timelines. Specifically, the agency reported it was actively monitoring 6 states meeting these criteria. It would also provide technical assistance to states, as appropriate, to facilitate more timely resolution of due process disputes. Education also reported that it would gather information on the burden and cost of revising its performance measure, however, as of June 2017, it had not provided documentation that it had done so. While these are positive steps, we will consider closing this recommendation when Education's revises its performance measure on the timeliness of due process hearing decisions.
    Recommendation: Based on GAO's review, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Special Education Programs to assist its oversight of dispute resolution, take steps to improve the comparability of parental involvement data while minimizing the burden to states, and use the data for better management decision making. Steps to consider could include establishing and requiring that states follow standard data collection and analysis procedures.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In FY15, Education reported that the IDEA Data Center, in relation to the parent involvement portion of the audit, has continued review of APR [need to spell out] indicator B8 to collect information related to data collection methods, results, and improvement activities for the indicator summary for OSEP. It also began reviewing existing sources for information on how parent data are collected and best practices/ exemplars that are publicly available. In April 2017, Education reported it would direct Parent Technical Assistance Centers and other Education-funded centers to work together to develop and disseminate materials to assist states in analyzing and using parental involvement data to improve the provision of special education services. We believe this effort could help individual states improve methods for analyzing and using parental involvement data. However, we await documentation that such materials were developed and distributed. Also, it is unclear how it would improve the comparability of parental involvement data across states and allow Education to accurately assess states' performance on this IDEA indicator.
    Director: Carol R. Cha
    Phone: (202) 512-4456

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure the effective management of software licenses, the Secretary of Education should develop an agency-wide comprehensive policy for the management of software licenses that addresses the weaknesses we identified.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education concurred with this recommendation. In August 2016, the Department provided evidence that it has developed agency-wide policy that addresses six of the seven elements that a comprehensive software licensing policy should specify. However, as of August 2017, the department did not provide evidence that its policy specifically addresses the analysis of software license data such as usage to inform decision making. We will follow up with the agency to obtain additional information on its software licensing policy and continue to monitor its progress in implementing this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ensure the effective management of software licenses, the Secretary of Education should analyze agency-wide software license data, such as costs, benefits, usage, and trending data, to identify opportunities to reduce costs and better inform investment decision making.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education concurred with this recommendation. In August 2016, the department reported that it regularly analyzes agency-wide software license data, such as costs, benefits, usage, and trending data, to identify opportunities to reduce costs and better inform investment decision making. For example, the department said that it manually analyzes software data by comparing data in the software inventory database with requests for software acquisitions. However, as of August 2017, the department did not provide documentation on its analysis of agency-wide software license data or on the extent to which this information was used to inform investment decisions to identify opportunities to reduce costs. We will follow-up with the department to obtain documentation supporting actions to fully implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ensure the effective management of software licenses, the Secretary of Education should provide software license management training to appropriate agency personnel addressing contract terms and conditions, negotiations, laws and regulations, acquisition, security planning, and configuration management.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education concurred with this recommendation. The department has made progress in implementing this recommendation by providing its staff with software license training, including training on its software tracking database. In addition, the department's Software Asset Management and Acquisition Policy (SAMA) require employees to take training on the SAMA policy and computer software piracy. However, as of August 2017, the department did not demonstrate that it offers training in other important areas specific to software license management, such as contract terms and conditions, laws, and regulations. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in implementing this recommendation.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to improve grantees' planning and implementation efforts, increase the effectiveness of grantee efforts to integrate and manage resources, and learn more about the program's impact, the Secretary of Education should clarify program guidance about planning and implementation grants to provide reasonable assurance that planning grantees are better prepared to continue their efforts in the absence of implementation funding. Additional guidance could include encouraging grantees to set aside a small amount of the grant to identify and deliver early, tangible benefits to their neighborhoods.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would communicate to planning grant applicants that implementation funding is contingent on the availability of funds and that it would clarify to grantees that planning grant funds could be used to achieve early, tangible benefits. However, Education has not awarded any new planning grants since 2012. In FY17, ED reported that if new funding becomes available for the Promise Neighborhoods' planning and implementation awards, the Department will emphasize to all interested applicants that grant awards are contingent on the availability of funds and the results of the competitive award process. Education also stated that it would provide more targeted technical assistance to planning grant recipients regarding strategies for continuing grantees' efforts absent implementation funding. In 2015, its technical assistance provider published information on planning for growth and sustainability of Promise Neighborhoods.
    Recommendation: In order to improve grantees' planning and implementation efforts, increase the effectiveness of grantee efforts to integrate and manage resources, and learn more about the program's impact, the Secretary of Education should develop and disseminate to grantees on an ongoing basis an inventory of federal programs and resources that can contribute to the Promise Neighborhoods program's goal to better support coordination across agency lines.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would work with its technical assistance providers to create a mechanism to distribute a comprehensive list of external funding opportunities, programs and resources on a regular basis to better support the grantees' implementation efforts. In FY15, ED reported that the program office held a grantee meeting in July 2015 featuring at least three workshops on sustainability and leveraging additional funding sources. The program office also had a website (promiseneighborhoods.ed.gov) with a number of resources under the "toolbox" tab that can assist interested programs in financing their ongoing needs. While the workshops and web resources were good first steps that can assist grantees, GAO maintains that Education, rather than individual grantees, is best positioned to develop and share such an inventory of federal programs that relate to the goals of the Promise Neighborhoods program. Without such an inventory, Education may be missing opportunities to better support grantees; find other federal program for future coordination efforts; and identify potential fragmentation, overlap and duplication at the federal level. In FY17, Education did not provide any updates on this recommendation, nor has it provided such an inventory.
    Recommendation: In order to improve grantees' planning and implementation efforts, increase the effectiveness of grantee efforts to integrate and manage resources, and learn more about the program's impact, the Secretary of Education should develop a plan to use the data collected from grantees to conduct a national evaluation of the program.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would consider options for how and whether it can use the data collected from grantees to conduct a national evaluation. As a first step, Education said it would conduct a systematic evaluation of the reliability and validity of the data. In its 2016 Notice of Funding Availability for Implementation Grants, Education acknowledged that grantees have struggled to collect the full range of data necessary to conduct meaningful evaluation activities and emphasized the importance of helping grantees develop robust data systems. In addition, in its agency comments, Education had stated that it had not received sufficient funding to support a national evaluation. In FY2017, ED provided documentation of its request for funding for conducting an evaluation and the response to the request. However, the entity within ED that is responsible for impact evaluations maintains that it has no plans to conduct an impact evaluation, given that grantees were not randomly selected. GAO agrees that the program was not designed for impact evaluation, however, as we reported, there are other options for evaluating such programs that can provide meaningful information about how well grantees are addressing the problem of poor student outcomes in impoverished neighborhoods. Not evaluating the program limits Education and other agencies from learning about the extent to which model is effective and should be replicated. Developing an evaluation plan would provide critical information about the resources required to conduct an evaluation, and could better inform future funding requests for such an evaluation.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    2 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To strengthen Education's oversight of the loan rehabilitation process, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to take steps to ensure that the final monitoring plan for the new defaulted loan information system contract identifies risks presented by the contractor or contract work and the oversight activities planned to address those risks.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Education concurred with this recommendation and reported that it has developed a contract monitoring plan that tracks explicit deliverables related to key risk areas. Education also reported that the new vendor for the defaulted loan information system is using a methodology, referred to as Lifecycle Management Methodology, that includes risk monitoring and mitigation strategies, and is using an independent verification and validation service to work with the new vendor to ensure that all appropriate processes and controls are in place. With the contract's base period end date of July 31, 2016, GAO will close this recommendation when Education provides documentation of its monitoring reviews that show its contractor is receiving appropriate levels of oversight.
    Recommendation: To strengthen Education's oversight of the loan rehabilitation process, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to take steps to improve its collection agency call review process. For example, Education could take steps to ensure that quarterly rehabilitation call reviews are completed, establish procedures for monitoring collection agency corrective actions, and utilize call review results to inform its oversight of collection agencies activities.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education concurred and reported that it has taken a number of steps to strengthen its call review process. For example, Education reported it has established a target of reviewing each collection agency once per quarter, revised monitoring procedures to improve documentation of corrective actions taken by collection agencies, and developed a database to track errors made by collection agencies. GAO will close this recommendation after Education provides documentation of these efforts and how it is sustaining them over time to ensure collection agencies receive appropriate levels of oversight. The agency did not provide an update for FY15.
    Director: Brown, Kay E
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to help inform federal, state, and local initiatives to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse by school personnel, the Secretary of Education should lead an effort, in collaboration with the Secretary of HHS and the Attorney General, to leverage resources, expertise, and capacities across the departments to determine the most cost-effective way to disseminate federal information so that relevant state and local educational agencies, child welfare agencies, and criminal justice entities are aware of and have access to it.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2016, the Department of Education reported that on November 16, 2015, the Office of Safe and Healthy Students within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education convened a meeting with federal partners to explore ways in which the agencies can better support states and to devise dissemination strategies for sharing information and providing technical assistance in the most cost- effective ways to state and local educational agencies and child welfare agencies, and ensure that resources are accessible to the various stakeholders. It noted several next steps including creating and implementing a Federal dissemination plan for the new adult sexual misconduct guidance, repository of federal resources, and for information on all state-level mandates and policies addressing adult sexual misconduct in schools. GAO will consider this recommendation closed when the department provides timelines for the completion of these activities and documentation of their completion.
    Recommendation: In order to help inform federal, state, and local initiatives to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse by school personnel, the Secretary of Education should lead an effort, in collaboration with the Secretary of HHS and the Attorney General, to leverage resources, expertise, and capacities across the departments to identify mechanisms to better track and analyze the prevalence of child sexual abuse by school personnel through existing federal data collection systems, such as the School Survey on Crime and Safety, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, and the National Crime Victimization Survey.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education reported that experts within the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) consulted with research partners in the Department of Justice and academic research experts to determine if an effective item or item set about this important issue could be derived. After review of extant sources and consultation with item development experts, a clear question that would result in meaningful information from school administrator respondents could not be developed. They also noted that they understand there is continuing interest on this issue and will continue studying item possibilities for the next School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) provided the collection is funded. As of May 2016, NCES does not have funds to field SSOCS after 2016, but there is a request in the 2016 budget to support a 2018 collection. GAO will consider this recommendation closed when the department has taken the above mentioned action to continue studying item possibilities for the next SSOCS if the collection is funded.
    Director: Wilshusen, Gregory C
    Phone: (202) 512-6244

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the act, the Secretary of Education should develop and implement policies and procedures for cost-benefit analyses related to computer matching agreements to include key elements such as personnel and computer costs, as well as avoidance of future improper payments and recovery of improper payments and debts.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet received sufficient information to validate agency actions on this recommendation. Subsequent to the agency stating that is has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To provide federal policymakers information on the relative effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures, the Secretary of Education should take advantage of opportunities presented by recent and anticipated substantive program changes to sponsor and conduct evaluative research into the effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures at improving student outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) has made some progress toward sponsoring and conducting evaluative research into the effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures at improving student outcomes, as GAO recommended. For example, in June 2014, Education signed an agreement with the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to share data for the purpose of policy development and research. In particular, the agreement allows the agencies to coordinate their data to understand the relationship between Title IV student aid and tax benefits, and to model the effects of potential policy changes. Education officials noted the office of Federal Student Aid is also working with Treasury to generate outcomes data by institution and make that information publicly available. In June 2016, Education officials stated their website would be updated with these new data by the end of the year. In addition, in fiscal year 2014 Education launched the Enterprise Data Warehouse and Analytics (EDW&A) project to provide internal and external stakeholders, including researchers, timely and accurate access to centralized Federal Student Aid data and analytic tools. Education officials said that the agency is in the process of improving EDW&A for a variety of purposes, including research on Title IV program effectiveness. In July 2016, through the Education Research Grants competition, Education's Institute of Education Sciences awarded two grants to researchers looking at the impact of interventions related to applying for federal student aid on college enrollment, attendance, and degree completion. While sponsoring this research represents an important step toward understanding specific financial aid interventions, Education has identified a critical research gap in the area of linking higher education financing to student outcomes, and more evaluative research may be necessary to strengthen the evidence related to key federal strategies and programs. As of May 2017, although Education awarded several grants to evaluate the effectiveness of higher education programs and interventions, most of the studies do not focus on federal assistance. GAO encourages Education to ensure that its data-sharing and future grant efforts result in actively sponsoring or conducting evaluative research on federal higher education assistance programs, and make plans to use the information in future policymaking, as appropriate. Making these data-sharing and research efforts a priority will help policymakers make fact-based decisions on the merits and value of various federal assistance efforts. To fully implement this recommendation, Education needs to ensure that its efforts result in evaluating the effectiveness of Title IV programs and federal higher education tax expenditures.