GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed. GAO’s priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention. We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues. Below you can search only priority recommendations, or search all recommendations.

Our recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Moreover, when implemented, some of our priority recommendations can save large amounts of money, help Congress make decisions on major issues, and substantially improve or transform major government programs or agencies, among other benefits.

As of April 18, 2018, there are 5,184 open recommendations, of which 465 are priority recommendations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented.

Browse or Search Open Recommendations

Search



Have a Question about a Recommendation?

  • For questions about a specific recommendation, contact the person or office listed with the recommendation.
  • For general information about recommendations, contact GAO's Audit Policy and Quality Assurance office at (202) 512-6100 or apqa@gao.gov.
« Back to Results List Sort by   

Results:

Federal Agency: "Department of Education"

4 publications with a total of 4 priority recommendations
Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
Phone: (617) 788-0534

1 open 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.
Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
Phone: (617) 788-0580

1 open 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 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 reviewed its process for providing guidance to servicers. It has issued a few clarifications to servicers to help with consistency. In June 2018, Education reported that it would implement this recommendation through a broader redesign of its loan servicing system, which would streamline the process for communicating guidance and instructions, although the details of how that will be done have not yet been decided. Education needs to demonstrate that its new loan servicing system provides clear, sufficient, and consistent guidance to servicers to ensure program integrity and improve service to borrowers.
Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
Phone: (202) 512-7968

1 open 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. 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. 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 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. In June 2018, Education indicated the agency would continue to explore ways to address the recommendation, in light of these technical and legal challenges. 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, by taking advantage of natural experiments such as those that might arise from legal changes in the higher education area. Also, 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 higher education tax expenditures.