Increasing Transparency and Accountability for Students

Higher education remains the most important investment any person can make in their future. In the several months I’ve been at the U.S. Department of Education, I have had a number of conversations with students and families that have inspired me to double down on our commitment to making college more affordable and accessible. A big part of our work toward that goal has been to increase both the quantity and quality of information that students, families, borrowers and the public have about higher education.

Today we are taking another step to increase transparency and accountability. We are releasing a list of colleges and universities that are on what we call Heightened Cash Monitoring. There were about 560 institutions on this list as of March 1. The list has been released to members of the press that requested it, and will be published on the Department website in the coming days and updated on a regular basis.

Heightened Cash Monitoring is a step that our Federal Student Aid office can take with institutions to provide additional oversight for a number of financial or federal compliance issues, some of which may be serious and others that may be less troublesome. Institutions may be on this list for a variety of specific reasons – for example, late financial statements, outstanding liabilities, accreditation issues, concerns about a school’s financial responsibility or possibly severe findings uncovered during a program review. For each institution that is on Heightened Cash Monitoring, we are also providing information as to why.

Heightened Cash Monitoring is not necessarily a red flag to students and taxpayers, but it can serve as a caution light. It means we are watching these institutions more closely to ensure that institutions are using federal student aid in a way that is accountable to both students and taxpayers.

Transparency and accountability are priorities for our entire Administration, and this Department and the Federal Student Aid office are no exceptions. We are taking a thoughtful approach to considering what data and information makes sense to provide publicly. Today’s decision follows our own discussions along with those we have had with multiple stakeholders, including news organizations.

From the start of the Obama Administration, we at the Department of Education have been committed to increasing transparency across the spectrum. We have worked to provide more – and better quality – data, including:

We also continually release a wealth of information aimed at helping students and families make smart decisions about where to go to college, including a comprehensive set of data about each institution on College Navigator – which contains enrollment, cost, graduation rates, students’ default rates, and campus security information. In addition, the Department already discloses a number of other pieces of information that can point at an institution’s financial health and other accountability metrics, including Default Rates, Clery Act Reports, 90/10 Reports, Foreign Gift and Contract Reports, Financial Responsibility Composite Scores and Final Program Review Determinations. And, of course, we have undertaken a historic effort to increase transparency and accountability for career colleges through our Gainful Employment regulations.

We have made enormous progress in providing information that helps students, families and borrowers. But we know we still have further to go, and we’re committed to pushing for greater transparency. Every single day we take seriously our commitment to doing more for students, and every action falls within that goal.

Ted Mitchell is the Under Secretary of Education.

8 Comments

  1. Absolutely this should be implemented. The truth is that college is expensive and represents a huge investment on the part of the student or the student’s parents. It is important to be aware of the reputation of the school, financially or otherwise, so you can make a wise decision about where to study. Of course it won’t help if a school is badly managed and you will never know this, but it is a good first measure.

  2. Even though I work at a for profit institution, it is my opinion that VA benefits should absolutely be counted as federal student aid. Counting these benefits would protect them from unnecessary borrowing and prevent abuse. Not counting them means that all federal financial aid, Pell and loans alike are pocketed and their true federal award significantly exceeds their cost of attendance (tuition and fees are already fully paid by the VA under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, then federal aid is awarded presumably to cover the very same costs in addition to “indirect costs”). This can easily exceed $10,000 per semester in pocketed financial aid – aid not going to tuition and fees but for unrelated personal expenses. Unfortunately, some veterans take advantage of this. Our only tool at the school is to try to discourage this and advise the student about their repayment obligation. Income based repayment and public service loan forgiveness only exacerbates this problem.

    Veterans have earned their benefits which allows them not to worry about covering education related expenses with loans, but do not need this additional hand out on top of it, nor should taxpayers foot the bill for the excessive awards which are often abused.

  3. I would like to see a universal code system used for classes listed under degrees. I had to switch schools because the Nursing Program at the school I attended for my prequites had a limited acceptance rate and did not want to wait an entire year to finish my AS degree in Nursing. I switched schools and was told that I had to repeat classes because they used a different set of codes. After I was harrassed by a teacher for my ADHD. I decided to switched schools. I have a to repeat another class. This is very costly and time consuming repeating classes and seems to be a way for these schools to charge me and Finacial aid more money. The healthcare system uses a universal set of codes when billing patients. Why can’t the educational system do the same. Especially when they are bill government finds such as Finacial aid and VA. This could save the government, me and the tax payers a lot of money and people can complete their degrees and go to work to support their family and boost the economy. I have heard the reason was because the class are a different levels. I have had to repeat enough classes to tell you that AP1, AP2 and the other classes did not differ on any material content except the books which cost me around $400 @ class. Help protect the people that are trying to change their lives for the better from this school code scam.

  4. Our university submits a 50 percent letter of credit in order to qualify as a financially responsible institution. Therefore, we are not under Heightened Cash Monitoring.

    Please explain the reason we have received this email. And confirm that our institution does not appear as being under Heightened Cash Monitoring.

  5. Transparency is great and all going forward but what about those of use that are struggling to pay back the loans given to schools that promised promised promised and broke them all and are now closed. I signed up with a local school because they promised an internship which was then retracted halfway through my education because of problems with students going to these jobs. I was promised that the credits would transfer to state schools if I decided to further my education which I found out later was not true. I was promised that they would provide job leads for life and that was not true. Partly because they are closed now but the leads they provided were jobs that didn’t require their degree. I was already invested and to walk away meant I didn’t have a degree and still owed loans back so I stayed. But it became very obvious that the school was taking money from students who were simply there to get their loan payment because shortly after the loan came out classes were reduced in half. Now their practices damaged their reputation so greatly that good students like myself went else where and they closed their door. So now I am stuck paying back a ridiculous loan amount back which now prevents furthering my education on a damaged degree all based on the assumption that a school wouldn’t lie. All of which doesn’t matter now because they don’t exist.

  6. Can I please receive a report of the colleges on the Heigthened Cash Monitoring list please. We are fixed income investors holding bonds in numerous institutions around the US. Thank you for your assistance.

  7. Hi. Where can I find a listing of “500 colleges and universities your agency is concerned about and has placed under increased financial oversight.” Thanks, Warren Jenkins

    PS I trust I won’t have to do a FOI or Congressional.

  8. I am a partner/vice-president of the Portage County Gazette in Stevens Point, WI. Please send me the link to the list of colleges and universities on the Heightened Cash Monitoring effort.
    Many thanks.
    Jim Schuh

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