Open Recommendations (41 total)

Small Business Innovation Research: Agencies Need to Fully Implement Requirements for Managing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

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1 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should ensure that the SBIR program collects the required certifications from new SBIR awardees, beginning in future funding opportunity announcements, without material differences from the language in the SBIR/STTR Policy Directive. (Recommendation 10)
Open

Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.

When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness: DOD and Its Personnel Could Benefit from Additional Program Information

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2 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should ensure that the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid updates the student loan guide for service members to provide information on applying for the PSLF program and its temporary expanded process, as well as the steps borrowers can take to count their annual payment from DOD's student loan repayment program as multiple qualifying payments for the PSLF program. (Recommendation 4)
Open

Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.

The Department of Education concurred with this recommendation. When the agency takes action, we will update the status accordingly.
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should ensure that the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid collaborates with officials in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to share information about the PSLF program, including current information on program participation and eligibility, PSLF program requirements, and the potential to pursue PSLF and DOD's student loan repayment. For example, Education and DOD could use interagency groups or agreements to help improve information sharing among department officials and with military and civilian personnel. (Recommendation 2)
Open

Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.

The Department of Education concurred with this recommendation. When the agency takes action, we will update the status accordingly.

Higher Education: IRS and Education Could Better Address Risks Associated with Some For-Profit College Conversions

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1 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should develop and implement monitoring procedures for staff to review the audited financial statements of all newly converted nonprofit colleges for the risk of improper benefit. (Recommendation 3)
Open

Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.

Education agreed with this recommendation and said it would develop new financial analysis procedures to ensure that staff review audited financial statements submitted by newly converted colleges after Education's approval. In August 2021, Education provided an update on the status of its efforts to implement this recommendation, reiterating its commitment to developing new financial analysis procedures. The Department also noted that it was modifying decision letter templates to include additional reporting requirements for newly converted nonprofit colleges to include disclosure of amendments to servicing or contracting agreements, any new agreements with former owners or related parties, and the assumption of institutional responsibilities by other parties. Education noted that staff would monitor this information in addition to the colleges' audited financial statements. To demonstrate that new monitoring procedures have been finalized and implemented, as recommended, Education should provide GAO with updated monitoring procedures and examples of staff reviews that follow these procedures.

Higher Education: Department of Education Should Further Assess College Access Grant Programs

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2 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education should develop a plan—with specific actions and milestone dates—for assessing the effectiveness of TRIO programs that serve students using methods that are consistent with its statutory authority. (Recommendation 2)
Open

Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.

Education agreed with this recommendation. The agency stated that it plans to evaluate TRIO programs using the most rigorous methods available given statutory limitations and will develop a plan with specific actions and milestone dates. Education also noted that it is mindful of the statutory limitations of the HEA, under which Education cannot require grantees to participate in an evaluation that requires TRIO grantees to recruit additional students beyond those the TRIO program or project would normally recruit or that results in the denial of services for an eligible student under the program or project. We will monitor the agency's progress on these efforts.
Department of Education The Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education should take additional steps to ensure the performance data TRIO grantees report are reliable. (Recommendation 1)
Open

Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.

Education partially concurred with this recommendation. Education agreed that this information is important and the department has an interest in improving its reliability, noting steps it could take to better monitor the reliability of the different types of performance data grantees submit. However, Education noted that it does not have access to underlying data sources that can independently verify certain data that grantees in some programs are required to submit, such as high school persistence, rigorous course enrollment, exposure to research opportunities, student grade point average, and secondary school completion. We recognize that Education may not have access to all of the underlying data. However, verifying information where possible is an important step toward improving oversight of grantees. In addition, Education could ask grantees to explain how they collect data and request related documentation. Education stated that it could require grantees to explain their methodology for compiling student level data. Such action could help identify data reliability concerns even in cases where independent verification is more difficult. Education also noted that its ability to verify data submitted by grantees is dependent on the availability of appropriate funds for staffing. However, many of the steps the department identified to better monitor data reliability may not necessarily require additional staffing costs, such as leveraging the department's existing internal data or requiring grantees to document their methodology. Further, Education could consider other ways to limit costs, such as through a risk-based approach of monitoring a sample of grantees' performance data. Prioritizing staff resources toward oversight and monitoring is an essential component of program administration, particularly for programs like TRIO that rely on the results of prior performance to award future grants. We will monitor the agency's progress to ensure the reliability of TRIO grantee performance data.

Drug Misuse: Agencies Have Not Fully Identified How Grants That Can Support Drug Prevention Education Programs Contribute to National Goals

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1 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should work with grantees to collect and report performance information for the grants to state educational agencies component of the School Climate program that relate to achieving the prevention education goal of the National Drug Control Strategy. (Recommendation 1)
Open

Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.

Education partly concurred with this recommendation. Education stated that it believes it complied with the Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) guidance to identify performance measures for the School Climate program that align with the National Drug Control Strategy's goals and objectives through the grants to school districts. Specifically, the agency said that ONDCP's guidance applies to the program overall rather than to each component part, and that its performance measures for the school district portion of the program are therefore sufficient. However, we noted that 13 of 14 state grantees planned to incorporate opioid abuse prevention and mitigation strategies into their grant activities when using federal funds through the School Climate program. In response, Education said it would explore collecting performance information on opioid abuse prevention and mitigation from these grantees and make an effort to report such information. As of August 2021, Education said it was working with state grantees to collect this performance information as part of their annual performance reports which are due in October 2021. The agency also reported that it hoped to share information about its progress and conclusions no later than February 2022. We will consider closing this recommendation when Education reports performance information related to opioid abuse prevention and mitigation from state grantees.

Military and Veteran Support: Performance Goals Could Strengthen Programs that Help Servicemembers Obtain Civilian Employment

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1 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should develop performance goals for the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant program. (Recommendation 2)
Open

Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.

Education concurred with this recommendation. Specifically, Education said that it will begin tracking how quickly it notifies applicants for federal student aid of their eligibility for the program. As of February, 2021, Education had implemented these metrics and planned to use them as a baseline to determine whether any process improvements are needed to ensure that benefits are received in a timely manner. When Education develops performance goals for the program that allow it to assess or demonstrate the degree to which desired results are achieved, we will consider this recommendation closed.

Federal Research: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Public Access to Research Results

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1 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should take steps to ensure appropriate agency-funded research data are readily findable and accessible to the public. (Recommendation 2)
Open

Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.

The Department of Education concurred with this recommendation. According to its response to our report, the Department awarded a contract to support enhancements to its Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) to link scholarly research publications supported by the Department to its publicly accessible datasets. In June 2020, Education stated it completed implementation of enhancements to ERIC to link scholarly research publications supported by the Department to its publicly accessible datasets. All grantees who submit through the ERIC submission system will be asked to submit a link to their data management plan, which includes a link to the underlying data. In addition, Education stated as part of an effort to minimize the burden for their grantees and contractors, they negotiated agreements with the publishers of over 600 education journals to display publicly funded articles in ERIC 12 months after publication or sooner. If grantees or contractors publish their work in a participating journal, the journal will submit the full text to ERIC on behalf of the grantee so that the grantee will not need to submit their work to the ERIC Online Submission portal. In February 2021, Education officials stated that six articles funded by Education through grantees or contractors and which were submitted through ERIC have links to research data. Education stated they expect this number to grow considerably in the future. In response to our follow up questions, Education officials stated awardees are only required to provide public access to the associated data when a peer-reviewed publication is released. Education officials stated there are no instances where they would expect there to be a finalized dataset without a publication. Once we assess what steps the Department has taken to analyze the extent to which Education funded data is created without a publication, we will provide additional information.

Information Technology: Agencies Need to Fully Implement Key Workforce Planning Activities

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1 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should ensure that the agency fully implements each of the seven key IT workforce planning activities it did not fully implement. (Recommendation 2)
Open

Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.

In August 2020, Education stated that it plans to start developing an IT workforce planning process in fiscal year 2020, and that it plans to reassess its competencies in fiscal year 2022. Further, officials stated that the agency had performed a competency gap assessment of all staff with cybersecurity responsibilities in March 2019, and developed strategies to address both competency and staffing gaps. However, the agency did not provide supporting documentation for these efforts. We will follow-up with the agency to obtain this documentation and continue to monitor the agency's efforts to implement the key IT workforce planning activities.