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    Subject Term: "College students"

    5 publications with a total of 13 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help improve students' access to information so that they can make well-informed transfer decisions, the Secretary of Education should require schools to (1) disclose the list of schools with which they have articulation agreements online if the school has a website, and (2) clearly inform students, on the school's website if it has one, when no articulation agreements on credit transfer are in place. If the department determines that it does not have the authority to require this, it should nonetheless encourage schools to take these actions (through guidance or other means).

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education disagreed with this recommendation, noting that it already requires schools to disclose a list of other schools with which they have established articulation agreements. Given that the purpose of required consumer disclosures on articulation agreements is to inform students, we believe that posting this information online would make it more accessible to prospective students compared to publications located physically on a school's campus. The increased accessibility would be especially beneficial for prospective students who live far away from the school. Education also noted that students should contact specific schools to obtain accurate and updated information. While it is important for students to contact schools, we found that not all schools listed transfer-specific contacts on their websites. Thus, it is particularly important that the required consumer information on articulation agreements be easily accessible to students. Moreover, according to Education, online disclosure is already required with respect to a school's credit transfer policies if the school has a website, and schools are increasingly using their websites to provide other consumer information to students. In addition, Education cautioned that placing special emphasis on articulation agreements could mislead students because the agreements - or lack thereof - do not fully reflect the transferability of credits: if the few schools with articulation agreements are listed on the school's website or if a school notes that it has no articulation agreements, students may erroneously believe that their credits will transfer only to those few schools or that none of their credits will transfer. However, regardless of the number of articulation agreements a school may have, schools are already legally required to disclose the list of partner schools and we found that a majority of schools already disclose a list of partner schools on their websites. It is unclear why posting this required information online would be more confusing than disclosing this information through publications or other means. Further, according to Education, schools are also legally required to disclose their credit transfer policies online, in effect, outlining the circumstances under which students can generally transfer credits. Hence, using a school's website to disclose the list of other schools with which there are articulation agreements, or the fact that there are no agreements, would enhance students' understanding of their transfer options and help reduce confusion rather than mislead students.
    Recommendation: To help improve students' access to information so that they can make well-informed transfer decisions, the Secretary of Education should provide students and their families with general transfer information, for example by developing a consumer guide and posting it on Education's website or augmenting transfer information already provided on the website, to help increase awareness of key considerations when transferring schools.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation and said that it plans to include this information on its studentaid.gov website. We will monitor the progress of this and other efforts.
    Director: Gretta L. Goodwin
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    2 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To enhance the clarity and transparency of sexual violence data that is reported to the public, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Attorney General should direct the Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics to make information on the acts of sexual violence and contextual factors that are included in their measurements of sexual violence publicly available. This effort could entail revising their definitions of key terms used to describe sexual violence so that the definitions match the measurements of sexual violence.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2016, OJP's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported that beginning with reports and data files released in calendar year 2017, BJS plans to provide additional information on how sexual violence is defined, to ensure that the measures and definitions are clear and consistent, to improve understanding by users at all levels. Furthermore, BJS reported that they will provide definitions and the exact computer code used to construct the measures of sexual violence. Further, according to BJS, in October 2016 the Acting Director of BJS established an internal Rape and Sexual Assault working group tasked with assessing all BJS data collections; identifying any differences that may exist across data collection efforts; consulting with other federal agencies and subject matter experts; and making recommendations to the Acting Director of BJS to correct any issues identified. The working group met monthly through February 2017, and was comprised of a senior statistical advisor, a statistical policy advisor, and statistical staff from the Victimization Statistics, Corrections Statistics, and Institutional Research and Special Projects units within BJS. In August 2017, BJS officials reported that they are planning to release the 2016 Criminal Victimization Bulletin in late 2017 with additional information on the definition of sexual violence. Also the Rape and Sexual Assault working group provided a detailed set of recommendations to the BJS Acting Director and BJS has convened the working group to develop an implementation plan. BJS stated that their next update would be in early CY 2018 to allow for the release of the report and details on the implementation plan.
    Recommendation: To help lessen confusion among the public and policy makers regarding federal data on sexual violence, the Director of OMB should establish a federal interagency forum on sexual violence statistics. The forum should consider the broad range of differences across the data collection efforts to assess which differences enhance or hinder the overall understanding of sexual violence in the United States.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In March 2017, OMB stated that the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working together to conduct research on how data collection methodologies, including how questions are asked, affect the measurement of sexual violence in the context of each agency's programmatic needs. OMB reiterated that this research is not far enough along to warrant the investment of resources to establish a formal interagency working group. OMB stated that it has taken steps to enhance collaboration among the agencies, including facilitating discussion of data collection parameters that affect sexual violence reporting. This recommendation was included in the 2017 DOF report, and in August and September 2017, GAO reached out to OMB for the status on their efforts to address the recommendation. As of 9/18/17, OMB had not responded to inquiries.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help foster and unaccompanied homeless youth better navigate the college admissions and federal student aid processes, the Secretaries of Education and HHS should jointly study potential options for encouraging and enabling child welfare caseworkers, McKinney-Vento homeless youth liaisons, and other adults who work with these youth to more actively assist them with college planning.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, Education reported that it is continuing its efforts to address the recommendation. In May 2016, Education, working with the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a Foster Youth Transition Toolkit, which addresses both financial aid and college admissions processes. The toolkit was written for youth in or formerly in foster care rather than for professionals who serve these youth. Education noted that it had also posted a Homeless Youth Fact sheet for teachers and other professionals on its website in July. Education said that it will continue to work with HHS and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth about college admissions and federal student aid processes for foster and unaccompanied homeless youth. Education also plans to conduct a technical assistance webinar for McKinney-Vento homeless youth liaisons and to provide technical assistance for other programs. Making such information available on Education's website is an encouraging step, as are plans to conduct webinars for professionals who work with homeless youth. We look forward to the implementation of these plans. However, we continue to believe that HHS and Education should consider ways to encourage more active college planning efforts among professionals who work with homeless and foster youth that consider professional staff's competing goals and priorities and multiple responsibilities.
    Recommendation: To help foster and unaccompanied homeless youth better navigate the college admissions and federal student aid processes, the Secretaries of Education and HHS should jointly study potential options for encouraging and enabling child welfare caseworkers, McKinney-Vento homeless youth liaisons, and other adults who work with these youth to more actively assist them with college planning.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS, working with the Department of Education, issued a Foster Youth Transition Toolkit in May 2016 which encourages current and former foster youth to pursue college and addresses both financial aid and college admissions processes. The toolkit was written for youth in or formerly in foster care, and HHS considers it a resource for unaccompanied homeless youth as well as for the adults who serve these youth. Making such information available through this joint publication is an encouraging step. However, child welfare caseworkers, school homelessness liaisons, and other professionals who work with homeless and foster youth have competing goals and priorities and multiple responsibilities. To encourage and facilitate college planning and admissions efforts, Education and HHS would need to carefully consider professional staff's workloads, responsibilities, and training needs, among other issues, and develop some options for encouraging college planning efforts among professionals in these programs who work with homeless and foster youth. HHS did not provide an update for FY 2017.
    Recommendation: To help foster and unaccompanied homeless youth, as well as adults who assist these youth, better navigate the federal student aid process and obtain information about college resources, the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS, should create webpages directed to homeless and foster youth so they can more easily find tailored and centralized information about available federal and other resources, such as Pell Grants, Chafee Education and Training Voucher Program (Chafee ETV Vouchers), and waivers for college admission tests.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, Education reported that it is continuing its efforts to address the recommendation. In addition to having a webpage about foster youth, Education noted that in April 2016 it had created a new webpage with resources for homeless children and youth. In July 2016, Education developed and posted online a Foster Care Transition Toolkit and a Fact Sheet on federal student aid for homeless youth that is available through its resources webpage. The development and posting of these materials on the agency's website offers helpful resources to foster and homeless youth; however, Education should also make it easier for these youth, who often lack adult support, to find these documents easily--such as by referring to them on the page that says who is eligible for federal student aid--without lengthy searching of the Website.
    Recommendation: To help college financial aid administrators more effectively implement eligibility rules for unaccompanied homeless youth, the Secretary of Education should make available an optional worksheet or form that college financial aid administrators can voluntarily use to document unaccompanied homeless youth status or encourage the use of existing forms that are available.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed that it would be helpful to make forms developed by outside organizations knowledgeable about homelessness issues available for financial aid administrators to use for documenting the status of unaccompanied homeless youth. Education also said that it plans to highlight the availability of these forms and provide guidance at its annual conference and in updates to the Federal Student Aid Handbook. Education noted that it will not endorse the use of a specific form but that it will highlight forms that already exist that may be useful to financial aid administrators. In 2017, Education reported that it is continuing its efforts to address the recommendation. We look forward to Education making such forms available for college financial aid administrators so that they can more effectively implement eligibility rules for unaccompanied homeless youth.
    Recommendation: To help homeless youth more easily access federal student aid, the Secretary of Education should clarify its guidance to financial aid administrators and students about whether financial aid administrators should accept any unaccompanied homeless youth determination provided by McKinney-Vento homeless liaisons or other authorized officials even if a student is not in high school or receiving program services.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, Education reported that it is continuing its efforts to address the recommendation. In June 2016, Education posted questions and answers about federal student for homeless youth on its website and in July, the agency posted a fact sheet about Homeless Youth on its webpage for teachers and other professional staff. However, neither document states whether financial aid administrators should accept any unaccompanied homeless youth determination provided by McKinney-Vento liaisons or authorized officials even if a student is not in high school or receiving program services. In July 2016, Education issued guidance for the McKinney-Vento program specifying that a local liaison may continue to provide verification of a youth's homelessness status for federal student aid purposes for as long as the liaison has access to the information necessary to make such a determination for a particular youth. The guidance also stated that local homelessness liaisons should ensure that all homeless high school students receive information and counseling on college-related issues. Education said that it will also hold a technical assistance webinar for McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program liaisons. In the 2017-18 Application and Verification Guide for financial aid administrators, Education clarified circumstances under which authorized officials may provide documentation of unaccompanied homelessness for a person who is no longer officially receiving services. The updated guide also noted that local homelessness liaisons may write subsequent year letters of verification for unaccompanied homeless youth through age 23 for whom they have the necessary information to write such letters and that this documentation is acceptable for verifying unaccompanied homelessness. The agency should also update the question and answer factsheet on federal student aid for homeless students so that the information on unaccompanied homeless youth determinations is presented consistently in these key documents.
    Recommendation: To enhance access to federal student aid for unaccompanied homeless youth, the Secretary of Education should consider developing a legislative proposal for congressional action to simplify the application process so that once a student has received an initial determination as an unaccompanied homeless youth, the student will not be required to have that status re-verified in subsequent years but attest to their current status on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, unless a financial aid administrator has conflicting information.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, Education reported that it is continuing its efforts to address the recommendation. In July 2016, Education said that the department had proposed further simplification of the FAFSA in its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal. Education stated that it will also consider the feasibility of a legislative proposal to not require re-verification of homelessness after a student has received an initial determination. Such a legislative proposal would enhance access to federal student aid for unaccompanied homeless youth.
    Recommendation: To simplify program rules for Chafee ETV vouchers and improve access to these vouchers for former foster youth ages 21 and 22, the Secretary of HHS should consider developing a legislative proposal for congressional action to allow foster youth to be eligible for the Chafee ETV voucher until age 23 without also requiring that they start using the voucher before they turn 21.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS's budget request for fiscal year 2018 does not contain a legislative proposal to improve access to Chafee vouchers for former foster youth ages 21 and 22. In July 2016, HHS noted that it had made a proposal for mandatory programs to improve foster youth's access to vouchers for title IV-E Chafee programs in the Administration for Children and Families' fiscal year 2017 budget request. However, the agency explained that the proposal's purpose is to extend eligibility for Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) services to youth up to age 23 in jurisdictions that have extended foster care to age 21. According to HHS, the budgetary proposal does not affect the Chafee Vouchers. A legislative proposal to simplify program rules for Chafee ETV vouchers would support improving access to these vouchers for former foster youth ages 21 and 22.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that Income-Based Repayment, Pay As You Earn, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness serve their intended beneficiaries to the greatest extent possible, the Secretary of Education should take steps to consistently and regularly notify all borrowers who have entered repayment of income-driven repayment plan options, including Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education generally concurred with our recommendation, stating that it is committed to ensuring that federal student loan borrowers have the information they need to manage their debt, including details regarding income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs. However, Education stated that it is not clear that providing information on repayment options to all borrowers is the most efficient or effective way to achieve this goal. Beginning in 2015, Education directed its loan servicers to start sending detailed income-driven repayment information, such as projected monthly payment amounts and total amounts paid over the life of the loan under each plan, on a quarterly basis to all borrowers who are in school or in the 6-month grace period after leaving school. Education reported that in 2016 its loan servicers also began sending an email to borrowers in the fifth month of their grace period with information about applying for income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Education also reported that in December 2016 it began sending emails about the Revised Pay As You Earn plan directly to certain groups of borrowers, including those who expressed interest in income-driven plans during exit counseling, were less than 227 days delinquent, or had Federal Family Education Loans. While these are positive steps, we maintain it is important for Education to notify all borrowers in repayment of these options to support its goal to provide superior information and service to borrowers.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure DSOs' and students' compliance with OPT requirements, and strengthen efforts to identify and assess potential risks in OPT, the Director of ICE should direct SEVP to develop and distribute guidance to DSOs on how to determine whether a job is related to a student's area of study and require DSOs to provide information in SEVIS to show that they took steps, based on this guidance, to help ensure that the student's work is related to the area of study.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2015, SEVP has made progress in developing employment guidance to support DSOs in determining whether a job is related to a student's area of study and requiring DSOs to provide such information in SEVIS. SEVP stated that it has drafted such guidance and it is being reviewed by SEVP subject matter experts. In addition, SEVP stated that it is developing information requirements for DSOs to attest that they adhered to the new employment guidance document in SEVIS, which requires system enhancements. In May 2016, the new STEM OPT regulation went into effect and, among other things, SEVP officials stated that it requires much greater detail on the scope of the employment and how it is related to the earned degree. As of October 2016, SEVP expects that non-STEM guidance on field of study would be finalized by the second quarter of fiscal year 2017. In May 2017, SEVP officials stated they had been revising the guidance and that it was undergoing final revisions, as planned. However, according to SEVP officials, due to the Executive Order on regulatory reform, ICE guidance updates were placed on hold with no clear date as to when SEVP would be able to publish the guidance. To fully address this recommendation, ICE should develop and distribute non-STEM-related guidance on determining whether a job is related to a student's area of study and require DSOs to provide relevant information in SEVIS.