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    Results:

    Federal Agency: "Department of Education"

    39 publications with a total of 82 open recommendations including 4 priority recommendations
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education should improve the usability of Education's websites to ensure that the states and school districts can more easily find and access federal guidance to address lead in school drinking water, by taking actions such as clarifying which links contain guidance; highlighting new or important guidance; improving their websites' search function; and categorizing guidance. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education should collaborate with EPA to encourage testing for lead in school drinking water. This effort could include disseminating EPA guidance related to lead testing and remediation in schools or sending letters to states to encourage testing in all school districts that have not yet done so. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Gregory C. Wilshusen
    Phone: (202) 512-6244

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should include requirements to assign code "000" to positions that do not perform IT, cybersecurity, and cyber-related functions in departmental procedures. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Nowicki, Jacqueline M
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Department of Education's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights should determine the extent to which Title IX coordinators at the K-12 level are aware of and using the tools recommended in OCR's existing guidance and any barriers preventing their use of this guidance, and use this information in OCR's efforts to encourage them to work with athletics administrators on ensuring equal athletic opportunities. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Education: Office for Civil Rights
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should increase the transparency of the data Education publicly reports on school sanctions by adding information on the number of schools that are annually sanctioned and the frequency and success rate of appeals. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Federal Student Aid
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation. Education stated that beginning with the release of fiscal year 2015 CDRs, it would provide additional information on its website indicating whether schools subject to sanctions have submitted appeals and the disposition of such appeals. As we recommended in our draft report, the agency should also publicly report the number of schools ultimately sanctioned each year. We will consider closing this recommendation when these efforts are complete.
    Director: Cindy Brown Barnes
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretaries of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services should work with DOL and HHS to fully identify and address their technology resource needs by (1) jointly identifying and prioritizing requirements for online collaboration tools, including those related to security, (2) determining which online tools would best meet their needs, and (3) leveraging their resources to support greater use of those tools. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretaries of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services should formally document agreements with DOL and HHS about how the collaboration operates and how the agencies share resources. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education, in collaboration with other agencies through the planned interagency working group or another mechanism, should identify further opportunities to more effectively publicize resources to reach additional colleges. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation. The agency noted its interest in increasing utilization by colleges of the emergency management resources. Education stated that the planned interagency working group would be a very appropriate and effective vehicle for increasing utilization of these resources, and that it will consider that group or other mechanisms to identify further opportunities to publicize resources to colleges. We will await the completion of efforts in implementing this recommendation.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The agency concurred with our recommendation, but as of May 1, 2018, the agency has not provided an update on the implementation of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The agency did not concur with this recommendation and stated that the CIO reviews and approves IT acquisition strategies and plans as part of his review and approval of IT investments. Our report noted that while two agency documents indicated that the agency's office of the CIO is to review IT acquisition plans, another document infers that this review and approval is optional. We will continue to monitor the implementation of this recommendation.
    Director: Nick Marinos
    Phone: (202) 512-9342

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to establish and document a procedure for the destruction of records contained in electronic systems in accordance with approved disposition schedules. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to ensure staff receive records management training annually. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to conduct the triennial assessment of the FSA records management program. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to ensure that privacy impact assessments address all required elements. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Chief Operating Officer of FSA to ensure that information security-related policies and procedures are reviewed at least annually, in accordance with FSA policy; updated as needed; and approved by security officials. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should incorporate into its program review process the review of postsecondary schools' information security program requirements. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should update its regulation to include protections of personal information as an element of a school's ability to demonstrate its administrative capability. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services should review information provided by states related to changes in federal special education rights when a parent places a student with a disability in a private school and work with states to correct inaccurate information.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education generally agreed with this recommendation. However, the agency believes it is necessary to review the full documents containing information provided by states, so that it can determine the context in which the information was presented. We will coordinate with Education as appropriate to facilitate such a review. Reviewing and evaluating the information provided by states are important first steps. However, we continue to believe that it is critical that Education take the next step to work with states to correct any inaccurate information about the rights of students with disabilities under IDEA being provided by private school choice programs.
    Director: William B. Shear
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To address demonstrated noncompliance with section 15(k) of the Small Business Act, as amended, the Secretary of Education should comply with sections 15(k)(3) and (k)(11) or report to Congress on why the agency has not complied, including seeking any statutory flexibilities or exceptions believed appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve oversight of school finances and provide better information to schools and the public about its monitoring efforts, the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should update the composite score formula to better measure schools' financial conditions and capture financial risks.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Federal Student Aid
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education generally disagreed with this recommendation. The agency stated that the report does not show that any changes in accounting standards have made the composite score calculations less reliable. Our report notes that components and definitions in Education's composite score do not reflect changes in accounting practices. As a result, some aspects of Education's formula are no longer directly linked to information in schools' audited financial statements. This makes the composite score difficult to apply in a consistent, uniform manner -- a problem that will be compounded by new accounting standards that go into effect later in 2017 that change how nonprofit schools will report net assets on their financial statements. Education stated that it will work with the Financial Accounting Standards Board on future changes to the accounting standards that may affect a school's composite score calculation; however, revisions to the underlying composite score formula are necessary to ensure consistency with accounting practices and to realign the formula with the information schools report in their audited financial statements. These and other weaknesses collectively raise significant concerns about the effectiveness of the composite score as a measure of schools' financial conditions. We continue to believe that Education should address these weaknesses by updating the composite score formula to better protect students and taxpayers going forward.
    Recommendation: To improve oversight of school finances and provide better information to schools and the public about its monitoring efforts, the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should improve guidance to schools about how the financial composite score is calculated, for example, by updating current guidance to include explanations about common areas of confusion and misinterpretation for schools.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Federal Student Aid
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation and that additional general guidance to schools would be helpful. The department also stated that it will update the guidance in its Federal Student Aid Handbook and may provide answers and related guidance to some frequently asked questions on its website. We will consider closing this recommendation then this effort has been completed.
    Recommendation: To improve oversight of school finances and provide better information to schools and the public about its monitoring efforts, the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should increase the transparency of public data on schools' financial health by publicly listing the final composite score for each school.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Federal Student Aid
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated it would further evaluate this recommendation. Education agreed that transparency in providing financial responsibility outcomes for schools is important. The department also stated that it will further evaluate the recommendation to ensure that any action it takes will provide information to the public that is precise, fair, and accurate.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 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: As of January 2018, Education continues to disagree with this recommendation, noting that it already requires schools to disclose a list of other schools with which they have established articulation agreements. However, 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, particularly for those who live far away from the school. Education also noted that students should contact specific schools to obtain accurate and updated transfer information. However, we found that not all schools listed transfer-specific contacts on their websites. 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 However, we found that a majority of schools already disclose a list of partner schools on their websites. We believe that posting a list of partner schools online would complement credit transfer policies, which schools are already required to post online. Given that the purpose of required consumer disclosures on articulation agreements is to inform students, we continue to believe that posting this information online would make it more accessible to prospective students and their families while enhancing students' understanding of their transfer options.
    Director: Marie Mak
    Phone: (202) 512-4841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that IGCEs are optimized as a tool in the procurement planning process, the Secretary of Education should consider making Contracts and Acquisitions Management guidance applicable to all agency procurements, and if so, take steps--such as clarifying guidance, providing additional training, or issuing reminders to officials--to help ensure that guidance on when to prepare an IGCE is followed.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with the recommendation and stated that it will enhance or clarify guidance on independent government cost estimates.
    Recommendation: To ensure that IGCEs contain key information consistent with good cost estimating practices, the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor should revise or clarify guidance to require that IGCEs document data sources, methodology, and assumptions, and take steps to help ensure that guidance is followed by, for example, providing training or issuing reminders to officials to include this information when developing IGCEs.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with the recommendation and stated that it will enhance or clarify guidance on independent government cost estimates.
    Recommendation: To ensure that IGCEs are optimized as a tool in the procurement planning process, the Secretaries of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor should take steps to ensure that, when appropriate, contracting staff document differences between IGCE and final contract award value in the contract file.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with the recommendation and stated that it will enhance or clarify guidance on independent government cost estimates.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To determine whether IDEA's current transition age requirement allows youth with disabilities, including those with ASD, the time needed to plan and prepare for the transition to adult life, the Secretary of Education should examine outcomes for students when transition services begin at age 16 and the merits and implications of amending IDEA to lower the age at which school districts are to begin providing transition services to students with disabilities, such as 14.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation and has not taken steps to implement it.
    Recommendation: To implement the goals and policy priorities of the 2020 Federal Youth Transition Plan, the Federal Partners in Transition (FPT) workgroup--the Secretaries of HHS, Education, Department of Labor, and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration--should develop a long-term implementation plan that includes milestones and specific agency roles and assignments.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation but has not yet taken action to implement it.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to expand its performance measures for the 21st Century program to address all program objectives. Specifically, Education should establish performance measures related to key behavioral, including student attendance and disciplinary incidents, and socio-emotional outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with our recommendations; rather, it generally noted that it will keep our recommendations in mind as it continues to implement changes in the program as a result of ESSA. Specifically, the department stated that it is in the process of re-examining whether additional or revised measures should be developed to align more significantly with the program's statutory objectives under ESSA. Education also expressed concern about collecting data on student attendance and disciplinary measures, noting that it will require effective collaboration between states, districts, and other eligible entities. However, we note that about half of states already collect data on at least one of these two measures; and that research has shown that 21st Century programs more often have positive effects on student attendance and reducing disciplinary incidents than on improving students' academic outcomes. Given these effects, we continue to believe that it is critical for Education to measure student attendance and disciplinary incidents to obtain more complete, accurate information on this program's effect on student outcomes.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to conduct federal-level data checks on the accuracy of 21st Century program data submitted by states. Such checks could test for logical relationships between fields. Education should also publicly disclose and address any data limitations it identifies, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education commented that it plans to build in additional data checks into the data system beyond its current checks on the data's completeness. Specifically, Education anticipates that new technology enhancements in the data system will be designed to flag for inconsistencies in data reporting. For example, the system may send a "flag" that participation data is significantly lower or higher than previously reported participation data. Further, Education indicated that it will consider whether auditors performing audits under the Single Audit Act can be asked and guided to do more checks on the accuracy and reliability of 21st Century program data.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to provide written, non-regulatory guidance to states on developing and conducting high-quality 21st Century state evaluations to help address the difficulties states face in measuring program performance and effectiveness.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education outlined several steps it has taken to assist states in the past. For example, Education said that it provided six states with individualized technical assistance on strategies related to developing statewide evaluations and measures. Education also noted that, to date, it has conducted two webinars on state evaluations and is in the process of including presentations from those webinars on its online learning portal so that states will have easy access to the information. In addition, Education stated that it included presentations on evaluation strategies in the past during its Summer Institute. Education also said it would consider whether additional guidance for all states was needed. While these are important steps, we do not believe they are sufficient. We continue to believe that Education should prepare written guidance to assist all states in developing and conducting high-quality program evaluations.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to use the information it collects from its monitoring visits and ongoing interactions with states to share effective practices across states for sustaining their 21st Century programs once program funding ends. This information could be shared using existing mechanisms such as Education's meetings with 21st Century state coordinators.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education noted that it hosts meetings twice a year for 21st Century state coordinators where strategies related to program sustainability are shared with states. These meetings covered topics such as reducing the amounts of 21st Century grant awards by a percentage each year. However, these meetings have not focused on topics on program sustainability for several years. We continue to believe that Education should take the lead in sharing information with states to help them address their sustainability challenges by sharing information on state policies and practices that have shown some success.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance its oversight of discretionary grantee performance, the Secretary of Education should direct the Risk Management Service (RMS) to work with principal offices, as appropriate, to establish and implement detailed written supervisory review procedures for official grant files to provide reasonable assurance that grant staff perform and document key monitoring activities.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education substantially agreed with this recommendation. According to agency officials, their Chief Information Office (OCIO), Office of the General Counsel (OGC), and Risk Management Service (RMS) will collaborate with grant staff across the agency to develop a Department-wide Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for creating and maintaining official grant records. The SOP will provide standards for timeliness of documenting key monitoring and administrative activities, define and clarify common terminology for all grant file formats, and require the periodic review of grant files, according to Education officials. Officials expect to complete the SOP by September 30, 2018. We will consider closing this recommendation once Education completes the SOP.
    Recommendation: To enhance its oversight of discretionary grantee performance, the Secretary of Education should direct RMS to work with principal offices, as appropriate, to develop guidance for grant staff on using the PAM Module to share information on grantee performance. Such guidance could clarify expectations about when staff should use the "Issues" and "Notable Results" tabs while monitoring grantees once the transition to electronic grant files is complete, and clarify the types of information staff should enter about grantee performance.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education substantially agreed with this recommendation. According to agency officials, the Department-wide SOP being developed for creating and maintaining official grant records will also define and clarify usage for common grantee performance terminology, such as "issues" and "notable results," which will help grant staff to determine how best to use PAM Module functionality when performing grant monitoring. Education officials expect to complete the SOP by September 30, 2018. We will consider closing this recommendation once Education completes the SOP.
    Director: Yvonne Jones
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To support the consistent application of agency telework policy throughout the agency, the Secretaries of the Departments of Education and Labor and the Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission should implement controls to verify that supervisors have completed telework training prior to entering into telework agreements with their employees and that completion of this training is documented.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a letter dated May 18, 2017, a Department of Education official stated that the department concurs with the recommendation and have taken steps to implement it. The letter stated Education is implementing tighter controls such that, no later than September 30, 2017, Education will fully verify that supervisors have completed telework training prior to entering into telework agreements with their employees and that completion of this training is documented. When we confirm that Education has completed these actions, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure the employee eligibility data transmitted to OPM comport with what OPM is required to report under the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 and accurately reflect the current number of employees eligible to telework, the Secretary of the Department of Education should direct the Telework Managing Officer to take the steps necessary to regularly update employees' eligibility status.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a letter dated May 18, 2017, a Department of Education official stated that the department concurs with the recommendation and notes that the Telework Managing Officer has already taken the necessary steps to regularly updated employees' eligibility status for reporting purposes under the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. The letter further states that the Department reported these updated numbers in the fiscal year 2017 Telework Data Call. When we confirm that Education has completed these actions, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Allison Bawden
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should inform affected borrowers of the suspension of offset and potential consequences if the borrower does not take action to apply for a TPD discharge. Such information could include notification that interest continues to accrue and that offsets may resume once their disability benefits are converted to retirement benefits.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education does not currently notify borrowers of the suspension of offset, but plans to implement a process to do so in the future using a new mailing sent to affected borrowers by their default servicer. The current budget situation does not allow for this type of enhancement, and it is not clear when that will change. In the interim, the agency is exploring alternative notification approaches that could be put in place prior to the implementation of an automated solution. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should revise forms sent to borrowers already approved for a TPD discharge to clearly and prominently state that failure to provide annual income verification documentation during the 3-year monitoring period will result in loan reinstatement.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that the current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) TPD-Post discharge forms contain the recommended language in the first bullet of the Earned Income Section. In order to more clearly provide this information they recommended that the new OMB form, which is in its public comment period, (1) use a larger font size for the form and (2) use "plain language." GAO will consider closing this recommendation when the agency has completed this effort.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should evaluate the feasibility and benefits of implementing an automated income verification process, including determining whether the agency has the necessary legal authority to implement such a process.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that over the next six months, they are committed to working with SSA to determine the feasibility and benefits of implementing an automated income verification process. The verification will address both the legal authority to implement such a process as well as operational and budgetary feasibility. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should inform borrowers about the financial hardship exemption option and application process on the agency's website, as well as the notice of offset sent to borrowers.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agrees with the recommendation and said that they will include this change in upcoming revisions to the agency's web content. The agency reported that the Notice of Offset to borrowers is sent by Treasury and that they will share this recommendation with Treasury and discuss possible changes to the notice. We will consider closing this recommendation when the agency has completed this effort.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should implement an annual review process to ensure that only eligible borrowers are exempted from offset for financial hardship on an ongoing basis.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education reported that it plans plan to fully automate their process for tracking hardships and other exceptions from offset. However, due to competing priorities and funding limitations, full implementation of these improvements have not been scheduled. As they fully implement this process, they will review complementary strategies to assist borrowers in complying with annual reporting requirements. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    5 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should obtain data needed to assess the impact of income recertification lapses on borrower payment amounts, and adjust estimated borrower repayment patterns as necessary.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to attempt to obtain data to assess the impact of income recertification lapses on borrower payment amounts. The agency reported that it started to collect more detailed information on borrowers who fail to recertify their income. It will analyze these data to see if they can be used to adjust borrower repayment patterns in the model. The agency will also consider whether to include behavioral effects to account for targeted borrower outreach to recertify their income. GAO will monitor the progress of these efforts. Education expects to complete these efforts by June 2018. At that time, GAO will await documentation that Education has obtained the necessary data to assess the impact of recertification lapses on borrower repayment patterns and adjusted estimated borrower repayments in its model, as necessary.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should complete efforts to incorporate repayment plan switching into the agency's redesigned student loan model, and conduct testing to help ensure that the model produces estimates that reasonably reflect trends in Income-Driven Repayment plan participation.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to incorporate repayment plan switching into its redesigned student loan model, and reiterated that efforts to incorporate this capability had begun despite challenges inherent in predicting borrower behavior. GAO will monitor the progress of these efforts.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should, as a part of the agency's ongoing student loan model redesign efforts, add the capability to produce separate cost estimates for each Income-Driven Repayment plan and more accurately reflect likely repayment patterns for each type of loan eligible for these plans.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education asserted that as they redesign its current cost estimation model, it will consider adding the capability to produce separate cost estimates for each IDR plan and allow for separate, more accurate estimates by loan type.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should more thoroughly test the agency's approach to estimating Income-Driven Repayment plan costs, including by conducting more comprehensive sensitivity analysis on key assumptions and adjusting those assumptions (such as the agency's Public Service Loan Forgiveness participation assumption) to ensure reasonableness.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to test its approach to estimating IDR plan costs more thoroughly, including through more comprehensive sensitivity analysis. The agency included in its FY16 Annual Financial Report, sensitivity analyses for Public Service Loan Forgiveness participation and borrower incomes. In the future, the agency will consider conducting additional sensitivity to analyses as well as other kind of analysis to ensure reasonableness. GAO will consider closing this recommendation when the agency has completed these efforts.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should publish more detailed Income Driven Repayment plan cost information-- beyond what is regularly provided through the President's budget--including items such as total estimated costs, sensitivity analysis results, key limitations, and expected forgiveness amounts.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to publish more detailed IDR plan cost information and stated that it plans to present sensitivity analysis results and key limitations in upcoming financial reports. GAO will consider closing this requirement when the agency has completed this effort.
    Director: David Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: We reported that the Department of Education partially met the following software application inventory practice: regularly updates the inventory with quality controls to ensure reliability. Specifically, we reported that the department had not yet established a policy for updating its inventory. In May 2017, the department issued an updated Lifecycle Management Framework directive, which requires system program managers to update the IT asset management information, including for software applications, in the department's Cyber Security Assessment and Management (CSAM) tool. In addition, in June 2017, the department updated its System Inventory Methodology and Guidance Document to ensure that the inventories within CSAM accurately reflect the system's software and operating system, and that all software utilized on the system is appropriately licensed and approved for use by the department's Enterprise Architecture Review Board. We will follow up with the department to determine whether it is using its updated policies.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the certification of adequate incremental development, the Secretaries of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury should direct their CIOs to establish a department policy and process for the certification of major IT investments' adequate use of incremental development, in accordance with OMB's guidance on the implementation of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) concurred with our recommendation to establish a departmentwide certification policy. Education officials reported in June 2018 that the department will complete changes to its guidance by October 2018. However, until this guidance is finalized, Education will not be able to fully ensure adequate implement of, or benefit from, incremental development practices. We will continue to evaluate Education's progress in implementing this recommendation.
    Director: Cheryl E. Clark
    Phone: (202) 512-9377

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that subsidy cost estimates for the Direct Student Loan Program are supported, reliable, and reasonable, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development to develop detailed policies and procedures over the subsidy cost estimation process that address, at a minimum, the documentation that should be prepared and maintained to support subsidy cost estimates and the process to document management review and approval of subsidy cost estimates.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) agreed with this recommendation. Education stated that has detailed procedures for developing and validating subsidy cost estimates. These procedures include, but are not limited to, establishing a baseline scenario, documenting each assumption individually, comparing estimates to actual data, and management review and sign-off. Education has begun drafting a more detailed document that will describe policies and procedures.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that subsidy cost estimates for the Direct Student Loan Program are supported, reliable, and reasonable, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development to develop detailed documentation of the cash flow model used to estimate subsidy costs, including the rationale for model calculations, all formulas and assumptions used in the model, data sources, the process to update and document changes to the model, and the process to document management review and approval of the model, which may be based on an independent verification and validation of the model to ensure that calculations are accurate and consistent with the model documentation.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) agreed with this recommendation. Education stated that it is committed to continuous improvements in its cash flow model and how it is documented. The cash flow model includes inputs of modeled data, referred to as assumptions, together with program-determined static values, such as interest rates and fees. Education stated that it will update its detailed documentation of its cash flow model. In addition, Education is investing staff and resources into developing a new cash flow model to estimate subsidy costs. Detailed documentation of this new cash flow model will be prepared before the model becomes operational. We will review Education's new cash flow model documentation once it is completed.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that subsidy cost estimates for the Direct Student Loan Program are supported, reliable, and reasonable, the Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development to document the procedures and results of such procedures used to develop or support key elements of the subsidy cost estimation process, addressing at a minimum (1) the reliability of historical data, (2) the rationale for informed opinion when applicable, (3) the methods used to calculate cash flow assumptions, (4) the process to ensure that subsidy cost estimates are consistent with the terms and conditions of the program, (5) the process to assess estimated cash flows for reasonableness, and (6) the process used to perform sensitivity analysis.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) agreed with this recommendation. Education stated that it will work on developing more detailed policies and procedures which will address the key elements referenced in this recommendation.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better manage any challenges states may face implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of State Support to evaluate its oversight process in light of the challenges states encountered in implementing the Flexibility initiative to identify lessons learned and, as appropriate, incorporate any lessons into plans for overseeing the ESSA, particularly around issues such as the design and implementation of states' monitoring systems.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed that it is important to continuously evaluate its work and to consider ways to improve its efficiency and effectiveness and cited examples of the agency doing so during ESEA Flexibility implementation. For example, Education said it developed the Office of State Support, in part based on lessons learned while implementing the Flexibility initiative. In addition, Education said that since the ESSA was enacted in December 2015, it has continued to informally evaluate ESEA Flexibility implementation and oversight and cited several examples relevant to ESEA Flexibility and other Education programs and initiatives. Further, the agency provided is piloting quarterly calls between Education program officers and states and piloting a fiscal review in eight states focused on components of the law it says did not change significantly between NCLBA and ESSA. As Education continues its efforts to evaluate lessons learned from the Flexibility initiative - including the peer review process - and apply them to its oversight of ESSA, we encourage Education to incorporate these lessons into how it oversees the design and implementation of states' monitoring systems which are key to the success of ESSA's accountability provisions. As of August 2017, Education reported that action is still pending to address this recommendation.
    Director: Marcia Crosse
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each develop a written plan that describes the agency's approach for conducting education and outreach to key stakeholders in the United States regarding FGM/C.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that it will develop a written plan for disseminating relevant FGM/C resources to the agency's key stakeholder groups. As of August 2017, Education reported that action is still pending.
    Recommendation: To make the best use of federal resources directed toward combating FGM/C in the United States, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State should each communicate the plan with other relevant federal agencies and stakeholder groups, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) concurred with this recommendation, and noted in a September 2016 update that it will develop a written plan for disseminating relevant FGM/C resources to the agency's key stakeholder groups and will explore how to best communicate and coordinate efforts at the federal level. As of August 2017, Education reported that action is still pending.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that the Dashboard ratings more accurately reflect risk, the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, the Interior, State, and Veterans Affairs; and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management should direct their CIOs to factor active risks into their IT Dashboard CIO ratings.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department agreed with the recommendation, but has not provided an update on its actions to address it. We will update the status when we confirm what actions have been taken.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that the Dashboard ratings more accurately reflect risk, the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State, Transportation, the Treasury, Veterans Affairs; the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should direct their CIOs to ensure that their CIO ratings reflect the level of risk facing an investment relative to that investment's ability to accomplish its goals.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department agreed with the recommendation, but has not provided an update on its actions to address it. According to the agency, it is currently being reviewed for closure. When we confirm what actions have been taken, we will update the status.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    5 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, 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.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help address Education's strategic goal of providing superior customer service to borrowers, and to strengthen oversight of the Direct Loan program, the Secretary of Education should develop a minimum standard that specifies core call center operating hours to provide borrowers, including those on the West Coast, with improved access to servicers.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed to establish core hours in the requirements for servicers to help borrowers access live customer service representatives. Education also noted that borrowers can use interactive voice response and web technology to access information from their servicers during periods when live operators are not available. While these are additional tools for borrowers, they do not replace the need for access to live representatives, and, as we note in the report, Education's customer satisfaction surveys of borrowers in 2014 and 2015 raised concerns about the usefulness of servicers' automated voice response systems. Establishing core call center hours in servicer requirements, if implemented as Education described, would meet the intent of the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help address Education's strategic goal of providing superior customer service to borrowers, and to strengthen oversight of the Direct Loan program, the Secretary of Education should ensure the new unified borrower complaint tracking system includes comprehensive and comparable information on the nature and status of borrower complaints made to both Education and servicers, to allow Education to track trends and better manage the program to effectively meet borrower needs.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that it will conduct communication and awareness campaigns to ensure borrowers know of the existence and purpose of the feedback system, which includes comprehensive and comparable information on the nature and status of borrower complaints about servicers. One of the communication channels used will be through the servicers. In addition, the agency reported that it will establish a common borrower experience and common branding in the requirements for the ongoing student loan servicing solicitation by, among other things, requiring the creation of a single web portal clearly labeled as representing the agency. Through that system, all borrowers will be ale to access information, make payments, apply for benefits and manage their accounts. When implemented, this new platform, in conjunction with FSA's Feedback System, will collect complaint information at FSA comprehensively.
    Recommendation: To help address Education's strategic goal of providing superior customer service to borrowers, and to strengthen oversight of the Direct Loan program, the Secretary of Education should evaluate and make needed adjustments to Direct Loan servicer performance metrics and compensation to improve assessment, including using baseline data, and alignment with Federal Student Aid's strategic goals aimed at superior customer service and program integrity, and to ensure that the assignment of new loans to servicers takes program compliance into account.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would evaluate existing and alternative performance metrics and compensation strategies as part of the ongoing student loan servicing procurement. The agency noted that the results of this evaluation, along with information gleaned form other market research conducted in the context of the procurement and proposals submitted by prospective vendors, will be reflected in future servicing contracts.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct Education's Office for Civil Rights to more routinely analyze its Civil Rights Data Collection by school groupings and types of schools across key elements to further explore and understand issues and patterns of disparities. For example, Education could use this more detailed information to help identify issues and patterns among school types and groups in conjunction with its analyses of student groups.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that it already analyzes its civil rights data in some of the ways we recommended, and in light of our recommendation, will consider whether additional analysis could augment their core civil rights enforcement mission. Education noted that it often uses the type of analyses GAO recommended, when appropriate, to inform its internal civil rights investigations, and makes the data available to researchers and other stakeholders outside the agency. While these efforts are encouraging, our recommendation emphasizes that the agency itself more routinely use the civil rights data across key data elements to help it identify disparities and patterns among groups and types of schools. Such an analysis could enhance the agency's current efforts and ultimately improve the agency's ability to target oversight and technical assistance to the schools that need it most. Education reported in December 2017, that this recommendation would be implemented by September 2018. At that time, we will await documentation of its analyses by the school groupings as specified in our recommendation.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To strengthen management of the Direct Loan Program and ensure good customer service for borrowers, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to review its methods of providing instructions and guidance to servicers, identifying areas to improve clarity and sufficiency, and ensure consistent delivery of instructions and guidance to ensure program integrity and improve service to borrowers. For example, the Department could consider implementing a detailed, common servicing manual for the Direct Loan program.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed with this recommendation and has reviewed its guidance to servicers, as of October 2016. It has issued clarifications to servicers in several areas. In addition, the Department had been in the process of an acquisition for a new loan servicing solution but, as of December 2017, is in the market research phase of its acquisition process. While the final strategy for the acquisition has not been decided, FSA says it intends to ensure that this recommendation is incorporated into the final solicitation. Upon resolution of its acquisition strategy, Education needs to demonstrate that its final contract for a new loan servicing solution is structured to provide clear and consistent instructions and guidance to servicers to ensure program integrity and improve service to borrowers.
    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: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should develop a risk-based, cost-effective strategy to verify that states are implementing a process for assessing whether any teacher preparation programs are low-performing.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported adding additional questions about states' processes for identifying low-performing and at-risk programs to its annual state data collection form. The Department reported that this revised data collection form was submitted to OMB in April 2016 and was still undergoing OMB review as of September 2017. In the meantime, Education reported that it is conducting a temporary risk-based monitoring approach to determine how states report information on low-performing teacher preparation programs. GAO will monitor Education's efforts to finalize and implement these initiatives.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should study the usefulness of Title II data elements for policymakers and practitioners, and, if warranted, develop a proposal for Congress to eliminate or revise any statutorily-required elements that are not providing meaningful information.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that its regulations published in October 2016 included new Title II data elements related to program quality. However, this action is distinct from our recommendation to assess whether existing fields required by law should be eliminated or revised. During our review, Education officials noted that such data elements could only be eliminated or revised through legislation, rather than regulation. Therefore, we continue to believe that it would be valuable for Education to review the existing data elements required by law and submit a proposal to Congress to eliminate or revise any of these fields, if warranted.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should develop and implement mechanisms to systematically share information about teacher preparation program quality with relevant Department of Education program offices and states (including state Independent Standards Boards).

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May, 2018, Education reported that it will convene an internal across-office sharing meeting on teacher preparation programs among relevant Department offices in 2018. Based in part on this meeting, Education said that it will determine whether there would be sufficient benefit to having an external sharing meeting with states. GAO will monitor Education's continued efforts on this topic.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki,
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance participation in and strengthen management of federal student aid programs for teachers, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to explore and implement ways to raise awareness about the TEACH Grant and the loan forgiveness programs.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its initial response, Education noted that Federal Student Aid disseminates information about these programs through various channels, such as its website, social media, and materials posted to the Financial Aid Took Kit. Annual in-person training is also provided, as well as online guidance on these programs to Financial Aid Officers at Title IV institutions. In September 2017, Education provided an update of the steps it has taken to increase awareness of the teacher loan forgiveness program. However, documentation is needed to demonstrate that the initial correspondence with borrowers, servicers' websites, and exit counseling include information on both programs.
    Recommendation: To enhance participation in and strengthen management of federal student aid programs for teachers, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to take steps to determine why participants are not able to meet TEACH Grant service requirements and examine ways to address those challenges.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, Education reported that, as a result of its 2016 survey to TEACH Grant recipients whose grant had converted to a loan, the agency determined that grantees faced challenges with recertification, including that the existing certification form was too confusing. To help borrowers, Education plans to create three different forms to help both completers and non-completers meet program certification requirements. We will close the recommendation when the forms are finalized and available to grant recipients.
    Recommendation: To enhance participation in and strengthen management of federal student aid programs for teachers, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to review the underlying cause of the known erroneous conversions to ensure steps Education has taken are sufficient to address the problem, and establish time frames for transferring the approximately 2,600 loan conversions currently with other loan servicers.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its initial response, Education noted it has already taken steps to implement this recommendation, such as a comprehensive assessment to identify the causes of the conversions and the grants affected. After identifying the reasons, the agency worked with current grant services to ensure accuracy and make sure they understood program requirements. ED will also work with recipients to resolve issues related to grants that were converted in error. In September 2017, Education provided documentation that the loan conversions were transferred to one servicer in December 2014. GAO is requesting additional documentation on the assessment Education and the servicer conducted on underlying causes of the erroneous conversions.
    Recommendation: To enhance participation in and strengthen management of federal student aid programs for teachers, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to review the TEACH grant-to-loan conversion dispute process and disseminate to appropriate audiences clear, consistent information on it, including that recipients have an option to dispute, how to initiate a dispute, and the specific criteria considered in the adjudicating process.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its initial response, Education noted steps it has taken to address this recommendation. For example, the agency clarified the TEACH grant conversion dispute process, detailing the specific set of criteria under which FedLoan Servicing is authorized to convert loans back to grants. In September 2017, Education reported that it included new language when it corresponds with TEACH grant recipients. However, the information was not included on the servicer's website. We will consider closing this recommendation once that information is provided.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen Education's oversight of accreditors through the recognition review process, the Secretary of Education should draw upon accreditor data to determine whether accreditors are consistently applying and enforcing their standards to ensure that the education offered by schools is of sufficient quality. For example, Education could systematically use available information related to the frequency of accreditor sanctions or could do additional analyses, such as comparing accreditor sanction data with Education's information on student outcomes, to inform its recognition reviews.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education agreed with this recommendation, noting that it is committed to identifying ways to use data about and from accreditors in its oversight. As of December 2017, Education has taken steps to track the number of accreditor sanctions issued by each accrediting agency. Education previously noted that this information will then be used to focus their limited resources on those accrediting agencies with extremely low or high sanction rates, to strengthen its oversight of accreditors. In 2018, Education reported that it tracks accreditor sanctions and is aware of the number of sanctions when conducting agency reviews. They found no correlation between the number of sanctions an accrediting agency levies against its accredited institutions and compliance or noncompliance with the Criteria for Recognition, so this is not a useful tool. The agency will continue to track accreditor sanctions. To close this recommendation, Education should show that it has used this sanction data to inform its discussions of accreditor recognition. For example, it would be helpful to see the agency's analysis on the lack of correlation between the number of accreditor sanctions and compliance/noncompliance with the recognition criteria or see any other analyses Education has done with the sanctions data it has collected, beyond the number of sanctions.
    Director: J. Christopher Mihm
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Recognizing that moving toward a more customer-oriented culture within federal agencies is likely to be a continuous effort, the Secretary of Education should direct Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer, to improve Federal Student Aid's customer service standards and feedback review, to: (1) ensure standards are easily publicly available, (2) develop a feedback mechanism that includes guidance or criteria for service providers to elevate customer feedback to identify the need for and to make service improvements.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: We emailed Department of Education in June 2017 for an update on the status of this recommendation. Once a response is received we will update this recommendation.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Based on GAO's review, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Special Education Programs to assist its oversight of dispute resolution, take steps to improve the comparability of parental involvement data while minimizing the burden to states, and use the data for better management decision making. Steps to consider could include establishing and requiring that states follow standard data collection and analysis procedures.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In FY15, Education reported that the IDEA Data Center, in relation to the parent involvement portion of the audit, has continued review of its parental involvement indicator to collect information related to data collection methods, results, and improvement activities. It also began reviewing existing sources for information on how parent data are collected and best practices/exemplars that are publicly available. In April 2017, Education reported it would direct Parent Technical Assistance Centers and other Education-funded centers to work together to develop and disseminate materials to assist states in analyzing and using parental involvement data to improve the provision of special education services. We believe this effort could help individual states improve methods for analyzing and using parental involvement data. However, we await documentation that such materials were developed and distributed. Also, it is unclear how it would improve the comparability of parental involvement data across states and allow Education to accurately assess states' performance on this IDEA indicator. In February 2018, Education reported that it has taken or plans to take steps to improve the quality of parental involvement data it requires states to collect, including webinars and online tools on data quality, among other resources. However, Education acknowledged that these actions are not likely to improve its ability to assess and compare states' performance on parental involvement under IDEA primarily because data collection methodologies vary across states and produce data that are not generally comparable. As we reported in 2014, without comparable data across states, Education lacks important performance information on parental involvement under IDEA, which limits its ability to oversee states' dispute resolution activities, such as monitoring and assisting states with low performance on parental involvement in relation to other states. We will continue to monitor Education's efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Director: Carol R. Cha
    Phone: (202) 512-4456

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure the effective management of software licenses, the Secretary of Education should develop an agency-wide comprehensive policy for the management of software licenses that addresses the weaknesses we identified.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2018, the Department of Education stated that the department is working to streamline its software management process through the revision of its current Software Asset Management and Acquisition Policy directive, and IT Governance guidance. The policy is expected to be approved by the department by July 2018. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ensure the effective management of software licenses, the Secretary of Education should provide software license management training to appropriate agency personnel addressing contract terms and conditions, negotiations, laws and regulations, acquisition, security planning, and configuration management.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2017, the Department of Education (Education) reported that the department's initial training was designed to familiarize the community with the various requirements and mandates highlighted in the latest version of its software management directive and policy. Although the training covered a wide variety of topics, it did not specifically address software license contract terms and conditions, laws and regulations, and security planning. According to Education, the release of the revised Software Asset Management and Acquisition directive will appropriately address these areas. In April 2018, the department reported that the policy is expected to be approved by July 2018. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address the recommendation.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen Education's oversight of the loan rehabilitation process, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to take steps to improve its collection agency call review process. For example, Education could take steps to ensure that quarterly rehabilitation call reviews are completed, establish procedures for monitoring collection agency corrective actions, and utilize call review results to inform its oversight of collection agencies activities.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education concurred and reported that it has taken a number of steps to strengthen its call review process. Education reported it conducted a review of rehabilitation calls with a specific focus on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. The results of the review indicated certain collection agencies were not consistently acting in the best interest of borrowers, taxpayers, and the government. As a result five collection agency task orders were allowed to wind down in April 2015. Education also reported that as of April 2015, the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) increased call monitoring on rehabilitation calls from 20 a quarter per collection agency to at least 20 per month per collection agency. FSA secured a third party vendor in September 2015 to assist with its call monitoring efforts with the expectation that the vendor would be responsible for reviewing an additional 2,500 calls per month. Education also committed to conducting on-site reviews of each collection agency at least annually beginning in December 2015. GAO will close this recommendation when Education provides monthly data on call reviews conducted by FSA and its third-party vendor from April 2015 to the most recent month available and documentation of the on-site reviews of collection agencies that FSA has conducted since December 2015. Education did not provide an update for fiscal year 2017.
    Director: Brown, Kay E
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to help inform federal, state, and local initiatives to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse by school personnel, the Secretary of Education should lead an effort, in collaboration with the Secretary of HHS and the Attorney General, to leverage resources, expertise, and capacities across the departments to determine the most cost-effective way to disseminate federal information so that relevant state and local educational agencies, child welfare agencies, and criminal justice entities are aware of and have access to it.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2016, the Department of Education reported that on November 16, 2015, the Office of Safe and Healthy Students within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education convened a meeting with federal partners to explore ways in which the agencies can better support states and to devise dissemination strategies for sharing information and providing technical assistance in the most cost- effective ways to state and local educational agencies and child welfare agencies, and ensure that resources are accessible to the various stakeholders. It noted several next steps including creating and implementing a Federal dissemination plan for the new adult sexual misconduct guidance, repository of federal resources, and for information on all state-level mandates and policies addressing adult sexual misconduct in schools. GAO will consider this recommendation closed when the department provides timelines for the completion of these activities and documentation of their completion. The agency did not provide an update on the agency's progress in FY17.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To provide federal policymakers information on the relative effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures, the Secretary of Education should take advantage of opportunities presented by recent and anticipated substantive program changes to sponsor and conduct evaluative research into the effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures at improving student outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) has made some progress toward sponsoring and conducting evaluative research into the effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures at improving student outcomes, as GAO recommended. For example, in June 2014, Education signed an agreement with the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to share data for the purpose of policy development and research. In particular, the agreement allows the agencies to coordinate their data to understand the relationship between Title IV student aid and tax benefits, and to model the effects of potential policy changes. Education officials noted the office of Federal Student Aid is also working with Treasury to generate outcomes data by institution and make that information publicly available. In June 2016, Education officials stated their website would be updated with these new data by the end of the year. In addition, in fiscal year 2014 Education launched the Enterprise Data Warehouse and Analytics (EDW&A) project to provide internal and external stakeholders, including researchers, timely and accurate access to centralized Federal Student Aid data and analytic tools. Education officials said that the agency is in the process of improving EDW&A for a variety of purposes, including research on Title IV program effectiveness. In July 2016, through the Education Research Grants competition, Education's Institute of Education Sciences awarded two grants to researchers looking at the impact of interventions related to applying for federal student aid on college enrollment, attendance, and degree completion. While sponsoring this research represents an important step toward understanding specific financial aid interventions, Education has identified a critical research gap in the area of linking higher education financing to student outcomes, and more evaluative research may be necessary to strengthen the evidence related to key federal strategies and programs. Although Education awarded several grants to evaluate the effectiveness of higher education programs and interventions, most of the studies do not focus on federal assistance. In 2018, Education noted that it would not be possible to conduct this evaluative research because researchers could not assign students to a control group in which they would not receive the higher education benefits, and Education does not have the authority to expand student financial aid programs to test the effectiveness of the programs through a pilot study. Quasi-experimental designs would also be inadvisable, according to Education, because students who do not receive federal student aid may be different than those who do receive the benefits, and it would not be possible to control for such differences. In addition, Education noted that to study tax credits, researchers would have to work with the IRS to access tax information. GAO believes that Education could engage in other efforts that result in research on the effectiveness of Title IV programs and federal higher education tax expenditures. This could be achieved through taking advantage of natural experiments such as those that might arise from legal changes in the higher education area. In addition, Education could plan research with Treasury, as appropriate, given existing data sharing agreements. GAO encourages Education to ensure that its data-sharing and future grant efforts result in actively sponsoring or conducting evaluative research on federal higher education assistance programs, and make plans to use the information in future policymaking, as appropriate. Making these data-sharing and research efforts a priority will help policymakers make fact-based decisions on the merits and value of various federal assistance efforts. To fully implement this recommendation, Education needs to ensure that its efforts result in evaluating the effectiveness of Title IV programs and federal higher education tax expenditures.