Open Recommendations (55 total)

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. The agency stated that it will develop new financial analysis procedures to ensure that staff review audited financial statements submitted by newly converted colleges after Education's approval. Education also stated that it will include additional reporting requirements for newly converted colleges as a condition in their provisional program participation agreements and it will closely monitor newly converted nonprofit colleges for the risk of improper benefit until the school receives its first recertification after the nonprofit conversion. For example, newly approved colleges will be required to report relevant IRS actions, changes to any existing service agreements between insiders and the college, and any new servicing or contracting agreements, among other things. We will monitor Education's efforts, which we believe will help identify indicators of potential improper benefit that can surface in audited financial statements after a college's nonprofit approval.

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. We will monitor the agency's progress on these efforts.

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. The Department indicated it expects to complete this work by September 30, 2020. When we confirm what actions the Department has taken to implement this recommendation 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.

Foster Care: Education Could Help States Improve Educational Stability for Youth in Foster Care

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1 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should develop an online clearinghouse of sample documents from states and localities who wish to share them, past webinar recordings and their related documents, and links to other relevant resources that all SEAs can access. (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 agreed with this recommendation. The agency said that its Office of Elementary and Secondary Education will restructure its entire website to better organize its information, and create a new web page to house all foster care-related information and resources. Additionally, Education said this office will launch a virtual portal through which SEA foster care points of contact may collaborate and share resources. We will consider closing this recommendation when these efforts are complete. As of January 2021, we await an update from the agency on their progress.

Higher Education: More Information Could Help Student Parents Access Additional Federal Student Aid

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2 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education should either collect the CCAMPIS participant enrollment data needed to calculate a standard 3-year graduation rate or accurately define and calculate a different college completion measure. (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.

As of February 2020, Education stated that it continues to disagree with this recommendation, noting that more analysis is needed to determine whether it is appropriate to develop a more rigorous graduation rate measure for the CCAMPIS program. As we stated in our report, we recognize that collecting the enrollment data needed to calculate the standard graduation rate could place a burden on grantee schools. Our recommendation included the option to define a different college completion measure and calculate it correctly. Education reported that it will redefine its current graduation rate to be a different college completion measure and the agency will clarify the description of this metric in its information on CCAMPIS graduation rates. While the new graduation rate definition proposed by Education responds to this recommendation, Education's formula does not accurately calculate this redefined graduation rate measure. To close this recommendation, Education should correct the formula for its revised graduation rate measure and provide the updated formula and data to confirm that its calculations are accurate.
Department of Education The Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid should encourage schools—through appropriate means, such as the Federal Student Aid Handbook—to inform students via school websites about the availability of the dependent care allowance and how to request the allowance. (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.

While Education agreed with the spirit of this recommendation, it disagreed with the recommendation itself due to concerns that an increased emphasis on the availability of the dependent care allowance could lead to additional borrowing that might not be appropriate for all students based on their financial circumstances. To respond to the recommendation, Education told us in February 2020 that it has added a note to the 2019-2020 FSA Handbook that, when counseling students, schools should make clear the availability of the allowance and how to request it. Adding this language to the handbook is certainly helpful, but does not fully implement GAO's recommendation. Encouraging schools to provide this information to students who proactively contact a school's financial aid office to discuss their finances will likely make this information available to a relatively small number of students; however, it does nothing to make this information more broadly available to all students who may benefit from it. We are not recommending that schools should encourage all student parents to borrow more to pay for child care. Instead, we recommend that Education encourage schools to make students aware of this potential option-which federal law makes available to students-via school websites to allow them to make informed financial decisions based on their personal circumstances. We will close this recommendation when Education takes additional actions to encourage schools to make this information more broadly available to students on their websites.