Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Education

GAO-21-428PR Published: Jun 30, 2021. Publicly Released: Jul 07, 2021.
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Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 80 priority open recommendations for the U.S. Department of Education as of May 2021.

For example, we recommended that Education improve its data to include how and when states and school districts plan to use certain COVID-19 relief funds.

Since our previous letter in April 2020, Education implemented 3 of our 6 priority recommendations.

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What GAO Found

In April 2020, GAO identified six priority recommendations for the Department of Education. Since then, Education has implemented three of those recommendations by taking action to: (1) raise awareness of the threat of lead in school drinking water and collaborate with EPA to encourage testing; (2) help borrowers in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program better understand eligibility requirements; and (3) improve its cyber risk management framework to better protect the agency's systems and data.

In May 2021, GAO identified four additional priority recommendations for Education, bringing the total number to seven. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • protecting the investment in higher education and
  • ensuring the well-being and education of the nation's school-age children.

Education's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations.

For more information, contact Jackie Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or

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