Students Receiving Federal Aid Are Not Making Satisfactory Academic Progress

Tougher Standards Are Needed Gao ID: HRD-82-15 December 3, 1981

Each year, the government provides billions of dollars in financial aid to students seeking a postsecondary education. GAO visited 20 institutions of higher education and reviewed more than 5,800 randomly selected student transcripts to report on the academic progress requirements of federally funded student aid programs.

There are no uniform requirements among the three federal agencies who administer the major higher education programs regarding the satisfactory academic progress of students receiving financial aid. GAO found that many students receiving financial aid were not making satisfactory progress. This resulted mainly from school standards that allowed students to remain eligible for aid without proving that they were moving toward a definite goal, with adequate grades, and at a reasonable rate. In general, fewer instances of poor progress were noted among Veterans Administration (VA) aid recipients than Department of Education or Social Security Administration recipients due to the more stringent requirements set by VA. Nonenforcement of academic progress standards is a major problem. Nine of the schools visited were not enforcing their published standards. GAO estimated overpayments of about $1.28 million for schools which had not enforced their standards for Education aid recipients. Weak and nonspecific federal requirements have led to abuse of the student aid programs. Tighter academic progress standards would save federal funds now being paid to students not making satisfactory progress. With a uniform federal policy, schools would encounter fewer differences in the requirements for administering the agencies' programs, and federal agencies would be better able to coordinate their efforts in setting requirements and monitoring their enforcement. Also, students might be encouraged to enroll in programs which are more suited to their abilities.


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