OPM Needs To Provide Better Guidance to Agencies for Approving Government-Funded College Courses for Employees

FPCD-82-61: Published: Sep 20, 1982. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 1982.

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Rosslyn S. Kleeman
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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed government expenditures for its employees to attend college courses as well as expenditures on organizational dues which are a part of training expenses.

Federal agencies pay for a wide range of college courses. Agencies vary in their judgments of the types of training-related costs they will pay, whether college courses can be taken during duty time, and restrictions on the number and types of courses which employees may take. In the four activities which GAO visited, most employees and supervisors interviewed believed that the college courses which the employees took were necessary for performing agency functions; however, GAO did not see how some of the courses taken by employees related to their official duties. Although the Government Employees Training Act requires government-financed college courses to be related to employees' official duties, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) definition of official duties is not specific. Additional guidance is needed, particularly as the act relates to future duties. None of the activities visited had systematic procedures to determine whether the agencies are benefiting from paying for employees to attend courses. At the four activities, employees' leaving their agencies soon after completing courses did not appear to be a problem. Three of the four activities visited had also paid organizational dues during fiscal year (FY) 1980. Although most of the memberships were purchased in the names of the activities, one activity purchased two memberships for individuals. At the four activities, memberships in the Toastmasters clubs were not purchased during FY 1980.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 1986, OPM gave agencies an advance copy of a new FPM Supplement 410-2, "Establishing Policies for Managing Training to Effect Organizational Improvement", which provided further general guidance to agencies on about 30 training topics. Training relevance and training evaluation generally address aspects of this recommendation but they do not describe when to approve and pay for courses.

    Recommendation: The Director, OPM, should develop more specific guidance for federal agencies to use in determining the kinds of college courses they may approve and pay for, particularly those courses that relate to future duties employees may assume. Agencies should be required to have an established target position for trainees which can be reached within a specific time. The Director should emphasize to agencies the importance of establishing and implementing a system to evaluate and assess the effect that college training has on participants' performance and to ensure that skills acquired from college training are being used. OPM should assist agencies in developing their evaluation methodology.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management


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