Improper Use of Federal Student Aid Funds for Lobbying Activities

HRD-82-108: Published: Aug 13, 1982. Publicly Released: Aug 13, 1982.

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Pursuant to a Congressional request, GAO determined whether California State University Northridge (CSUN) expended any Federal funds in its lobbying effort against cuts in the Guaranteed Student Loan Program and, if so, whether the lobbying effort violated Federal law.

GAO found that less than an estimated $300 of Federal funds was expended by CSUN on lobbying activities in violation of applicable appropriation act restrictions. The Federal funds involved were allowances for CSUN costs to administer three Department of Education student aid programs. Officials of the CSUN Financial Aid Office held several meetings with recipients of student financial aid during which students were encouraged to write members of Congress to urge that Congressmen oppose proposed funding cuts for student financial aid programs. Students were provided sample letters, stationery, and postage. The Federal funds in question were expended primarily on salaries of the Financial Aid Office staff. There are two antilobbying restrictions applicable to Education appropriations. These prohibitions apply primarily to expenditures of appropriated funds involving appeals to the public suggesting that Congress be urged to support or oppose pending legislation. GAO feels that it would not be cost effective for Education to recover the improper expenditures in this case, since the illegal expenditure involved a small sum. However, since similar activities may have been carried out at other institutions, GAO suggests that institutions receiving Federal funds under programs administered by Education be advised that such lobbying activities are improper.

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