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Distance education--offering courses by Internet, video, or other forms outside the classroom--is a fast growing part of postsecondary education. GAO was asked to review the state of distance education at Minority Serving Institutions, which are schools that serve high percentages of minority students, including Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians. Under Titles III and V of the Higher Education Act, these schools are eligible for grants that can be used for expanding their technology, including distance education. GAO's review focused on (1) the use of distance education at Minority Serving Institutions, (2) key factors influencing these schools' decisions about whether or not to offer distance education, and (3) steps the Department of Education could take, if any, to improve monitoring efforts of technological progress under Titles III and V programs.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education 1. The Secretary of Education should direct managers of the Title III and Title V programs to further improve their annual performance report for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribal Colleges by including areas such as student access to computers and the number of distance education courses that were offered.
Closed - Implemented
The Institutional Development and Undergraduate Education Service has amended the Annual Performance Report for Title III and Title IV grantees to include 15 questions regarding student access to computers and distance education courses. The Office of Management and Budget approved the changes on May 25, 2007. The completed report will reflect the activity of the grantee to improve access to technology over the entire 5-year grant period. The Annual Performance Report will be open to grantees to complete on October 1, 2007.
Department of Education 2. The Secretary of Education should study the feasibility of adding questions on distance education and information technology to an existing study at Education, such as the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, to develop baseline data on technology capacity at Minority Serving Institutions and to judge the extent to which progress is being made.
Closed - Implemented
The Office of Postsecondary Education worked with the National Center for Education Statistics to determine whether additional data could be collected on the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). They determined that no additional data on IPEDS was warranted. Instead, the use of Education's Postsecondary Education Quick Information System to collect data on these issues is more appropriate.

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