Report Calls for Improved Oversight of Colleges

April 13, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education’s system for monitoring colleges for fraud and other problems is inadequate and needs to be retooled, says a new report by the Center for American Progress.

The department’s efforts to see whether colleges are following existing laws and regulations are not useful in capturing systemic fraud or misconduct, especially at for-profit colleges, the report says.

The report -- titled “Looking in All the Wrong Places” -- is based on an analysis of more than 6,000 pages of audit documents that were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. It was written by Robert Shireman, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, and Elizabeth Baylor and Ben Miller of the Center for American Progress.

Among the problems outlined in the report is that audits of colleges by the federal government and auditors hired by the colleges are too narrowly focused on the minutia of how financial aid is disbursed at the expense of broader and more pressing concerns, such as whether a college is misrepresenting information to students.

The report also makes a series of recommendations for how the department should improve its oversight of colleges, such as paying bonuses to federal investigators who uncover misrepresentation, boosting investigative resources and focusing federal audits on colleges’ performance.

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