Federal Program To Strengthen Developing Institutions of Higher Education Lacks Direction

HRD-78-170: Published: Feb 13, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 13, 1979.

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GAO reviewed the Strengthening Developing Institutions of Higher Education Program implemented by the Office of Education under title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The program was planned to make grants to institutions which are struggling for survival and isolated from the main currents of academic life, so they might contribute to U.S. educational resources if they have the desire and potential.

More than 800 institutions participated in the program between 1966 and 1977, exhausting appropriations exceeding $700 million, most of which was allocated to small institutions serving primarily minority or low-income students. There was no evidence of improvement among the institutions in the program; in fact, none of the institutions has graduated from title III status, including 120 which have received funds for at least 8 years. Questions persist regarding the program's intended beneficiaries, the method of assistance, and program objectives.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should consider terminating the title III program. If the program is to be continued, its intent should be clarified to show which institutions should be served and the goals to be achieved.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: Criteria for determining eligibility, selecting participating institutions, and establishing institutional responsibilities should be strengthened so that the most deserving institutions receive funding, funds are accounted for, and institutions approach established goals. The Office of Education should expand its monitoring of grant awards to measure the success of the program. The Commissioner of Education should fix eligibility criteria for institutions to be served and determine what services are needed; apply these criteria in selecting institutions; provide institutions with guidelines for administering grant funds, obtaining technical services, and evaluating program results; and emphasize long-range planning and coordination needs of various title III projects. The Commissioner should also apply grantee selection procedures, refine grant application review procedures, and ensure that reviewing field readers are free of conflicts of interest. Field visits should be employed to monitor institutions more closely, and audit exceptions should be promptly resolved. The relationships between grantee institutions and the "assisting agencies" which service them should be clarified in the interest of increased competition.

    Agency Affected:


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