December 6, 2023

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Diving Overview:

  • US Department of Education said Tuesday will use mystery shoppers to track whether colleges are misrepresenting themselves in areas such as graduation rates and job placement.
  • Shoppers will be one tool to “evaluate the recruitment, enrollment, financial aid and other practices of postsecondary institutions to help identify potentially deceptive or predatory practices used to recruit and enroll students,” the Education Department said. he said in a statement.
  • The agency said it may rely on the mystery shopper findings as evidence in ongoing college investigations or use them to initiate such reviews.

Diving statistics:

Biden’s education department has tried to dial back oversight of underperforming institutions.

Earlier this year, the agency he said it would be a craft a public list of “low financial value” programs that researchers took as a strategy to embarrass institutions. And just this month, the agency issued guidelines about how he intends to hold private college leaders personally liable if their institutions “do not operate in a fiscally responsible manner” and cost the federal government money.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Education restarted the enforcement wing The Federal Student Aid Office, or FSA, in 2021. Officials said Tuesday that the investment has “already paid dividends” as the agency launched fraud investigations at many institutions and fined and removed others from participating in the federal student aid program.

Many of the Biden administration’s accountability efforts have focused on for-profit colleges that the Education Department says have records of cheating students. Profitable sector refuted that the department should be fair and closely monitor all types of institutions.

Tuesday’s announcement by the Department of Education does not define for-profit institutions. But it does mention that the department will use mystery shoppers to track metrics that for-profit firms have come under fire for misrepresentation, such as the earning potential of their graduates and whether they are accredited.

“Schools that engage in fraud or misconduct are on notice that we may be listening and should clean up accordingly,” Kristen Donoghue, senior director of the FSA, said in a statement. “But schools that treat current and prospective students fairly and act within the law have nothing to fear from mystery shopping.”

Department he also warned Tuesday take more aggressive action against colleges that lie to members of the military and veterans about opportunities.

Some for-profit colleges have historically targeted military-connected students because their benefits didn’t apply to what’s known as the federal 90/10 rule. This rule requires for-profit colleges to derive at least 10% of their revenue from areas other than Title IV financial aid.

Benefits such as those from the US Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program and the GI Bill are not considered Title IV funding. This allowed for-profit colleges to apply that revenue to the 10% requirement, as did private funding sources. However, the Ministry of Education recently ended this practice through regulation.

The department said Tuesday that it is aware of allegations that some colleges told military-affiliated students that their GI Bill aid would cover the full cost of their education, only to later learn that it did not.

The institutions also incorrectly informed some of these students that they were approved for GI Bill benefits for specific programs when they were not, or offered a “military discount” that did not exist, the Education Department said.

And some students even reported that loans were taken out in their names without their knowledge, the agency said.

The Ministry of Education is now accepting tips from the higher education sector and the general public about violations of higher education laws and regulations.

“If the Department finds that an institution has misrepresented costs or funding to military-connected students or taken out loans in a prospective student’s name without that student’s knowledge or consent, it will address such violation and seek all appropriate corrective action,” the agency said. .

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