oversight

The Basic Educational Opportunity Grant Program at Holliston Junior College

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-02-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                         DOCUMENT RESUME
00136 - [A0751254]

(The Basic Educational Opportunity Grant Program at holliston
Junior College]. B-164031(1); HRD-77-45. February 15, 1977. 4
PP.
Report to Commissioner of Education, Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare; by Gregory J. Ahart, Director, Human
Resources Div.
Issue Area- Education, Training, and Employment Erograms (1100).
Contact: Human Resources Div.
Budget Function: Education, Manpower, and Social Services=
    Research and General Education Aids (503).
Organization Concerned: Department cf Labor; eollistcn Junior
    Coll., MA; Massachusetts: Div. of Employment Security;
    Office of Education.
Authority: Higher Education Act of 1965, us amended, title IV-A
     (20 U.S.C. 1070ae). Education Amendments of 1976 (P.L.
    94-482). 45 C.F.R. 190.2(e).

          The Holliston Junior College Basic Educational Grant
Program, which provides grants to needy students enrolled in a
special secretarial program, was reviewed in response to charges
of abuse of the program. Findings/Conclusions: As of June 1976,
the college bad awarded 248 Basic Grants, totaling about
$238,000, to students enrolled in what appeared to be an
ineligible secretarial program established in June 1975.
Holliston introduced the special secretarial program to provide
welfare mothers with a marketable skill. The failure of the
progr;,m to lead to a degree or certificate made the Progran
ineligible. In addition, for a program to be eligi.'le, it mlust
be of a- least 6-months duratioL; a semester at Holliston was 15
weeks long. Holliston has changed the program to include 30
credit hours of study, which leads to a certificate, and has
made the program satiJfy the 6-month criteria. Recommendaticns:
The Office of Education should determine if the college
circumvented the Basic Grant eligibility criteria and whether
restitution should be made to the Federal Government. The Office
of Education should also determine whether the changes made in
the special! secretarial program bring it into compliance with
Basic Grant eligibility criteria. (SW)
,-. 4)                  UNITED STATES GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
 OX                               WASHINGTON, D.C.   20548


   HUMAN RESOURCES                                                   7
       DIVISION                                              FEB 1


         B-164031 (1)

         The Honorable
         Commissioner of Education
         Department of Health, Education,
           and Welfare

         Dear Mr. Commissioner:

              In response to cha ges of abuse regaLding the Basic Edu-
         cational Opportunity Grant (Basic Grant) rrogram (authorized
         by title IV-A of the H'gher Education Act of 1965, as amended
         (20 U.S.C. 1070a)) at Folliston Junior Collegr, Holliston,
         Massachusetts, we reviewed the college's grant program which
         your agency administers to provide grants to needy students
         enrolled in eligible postsecondary educational programs.

               In summary, we found that as of June 1976, Holliston Jun-
         ior College had awarded 248 Basic Grants totaling about $238,000
         to students who were enrolled in what appeared to be an ineli-
         gible secretarial program which had been established in June
         1975.

         BACKGROUND

              To apply for a Basic Grant, students forward their com-
         pleted applications to a central processor, the American Col-
         lege Testing Program, which uses a Basic Grant need analysis
         formula to determine the eligibility of the applicants. Stu-
         dents receive eligibility reports which they submit to the
         school they wish to attend. The schools' financial aid
         officers then determine the Basic Grant award amount from an
         Office -f Education payment schedule. The school in turn bills
         the Office of Education for awards made to students and either
         credits the student's account or makes direct payments to the
         student when the furlds are received. At the time of our re-
         view, a student could receive up to $1,400 for each academic
         year. The Education Amerdments of 1976 (Public Law 94-482)
         raised this limit to $1,800 for 1978-1979.

              Holliston introduced the special secretarial program
         to provide welfare mothers with a marketable skill. The
         program was developed in cooperation with a work incentive
         coordinator for the Massachusetts Division of Employment
         Security.


                                                                 HRD-77-45
B-164031 I1)

      The Work Incentive Program is designed to provide cer-
tain rec:pients of assistance under the aid to families with
dependent: children (AFDC) program with training and employ-
ment oportunities and with such supportive services as are
necessary to move them from welfare dependency to economic
self-sufficiency through Meaningful jobs.
     The Work Incentive Program is administered at the
Federal level jointly by the Department of Labor and the
Department of Health, Educationi, and Welfare. State and
local welfare agencies are responsible for referring all
appropriate AFDC recipients to nearby State employment ser-
vice offices for enrollment in the Work Incentive Program
and for providing supporting services.
CERTIFICATES WERE NOT AWARDED TO PARTICIPANTS
IN THE SPECIAL SECRETARIAL PROGRAM

      The Code of Federal Regulations (45 C.F.R. J90.2(e))
defines an eligible Basic Grant program as "a program of
training at an institution of higher education which ***
le.ads to a degree or certificate." A discussion of this
section of the regulations with the Basic Grant program
director, at Office of Education headquarters, confirmed
that the failure of a program to lead to a degree or cer-
tificate is, in and of itself, enough to make the program
ineligible.

     Since inception of the special secretarial program at
Holliston, none of the 248 AFDC mothers (mostly Work Incen-
tive Program referrals) enrolled in the program have been
awarded certificates. In order for a student to be eli-
gible for a certificate at this school, the student must,
among other things, have completed a minimum of 30 credit
nours of study.  The special secretarial program, until
recently, never offered A0 hours of course study.  In
fact, about 87 percent of the AFDC recipients never accumu-
lated more than half of the 30 credit hours required for a
certificate.

QUESTIONABLE LENGTH OF THE
SPECIAL "ECRETARIAL PROGRAM

     The Code of Federal Regulations (45 C.F.R. 190.2(e))
also defines an eligible Basic Grant program as a program




                               2
B-164031 (1)

of training at an institution of higher education which
"is of at least 6 months duration."  In commenting on this
section of the regulations, the Basic Grant program director
confirmed that a program to be eligible must be of at least
6-months' duration and that its eligibility would be question-
able if a high percentage of students did not complete this
minimum requirement.

     Of the 248 AFDC recipients enrolled in the special
secretarial program at Holliston, 215, or about 86 percent,
rnver enrolled in a course of study beyond one semester.
A semester at Holliston is 15 weeks long--far short of the
6-month Basic Grant eligibility requirement.

     Although a second semester program is offered at one of
the five campus locations, very few of the AFDC recipients
enrolled. Only 24 of the 248 enrolled for the second semes-
ter full-time and part-time (6 of whom did not complete it).
Most AFDC recipients after completing the first semester,
seek employmient oil their own or through the school or Divi-
sion of Employment Security placement office. In fact, offi-
cials at the Division of Employment Security advised us that
they attempt to place the AFDC recipients before the end of
the first semester.

     Three factors which indicate that the special secretarial
program consisted of only one semester are:

     1. Most recipients attended only the one-semester
        course.

     2. Holliston's president issued an August 1976 letter
        to the Division of Employment Security stating
        that the one-semester program was being offered
        to provide marketable skills to work incentive
        mothers.

     3. The school catalog for the 1976 spring semester
        identified the special secretarial program as
        a one-semester program.
SCHOOL AND AGENCY COMMENTS

     We *. scussed our   findings with Holliston Junior College
officials and they agreed with us.  They stressed the success-
ful placement rate they have experienced with the one-semes-
ter program. They felt that a program of this duration should




                                 3
B-164031 (1)
not be overlooked as a means of helping ADC recipients get
off the welfare rolls becaLuse it equips them with a marketable
skill for employment at the earliest possible time. Hollis-
ton officials also stated that the program, has now been
changed to include et least 30 credit hours of study--thus lead-
ing to a certificate and that it now consists of 2 semesters
of 15 weeks each--thus satisfying the 6-rDnth criteria.   The
program is being offered at all five campus locations. We
were also advised that in August 1976 the school notified
former students of the special s¢rcetarial program that they
were eligible to continue their education and to complete the
requirements for a certificate.

     We also discussed the matters in this letter with the
regional commissioner, Office of Education, and he stated
that the Office of Education had requested that the HEW
Audit Agency undertake a review of these and other matters
at Holliston Junior College.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDA T ION.

     The Basic Grant eligibility criteria, or at least their
intent, appear tu have been circumvented at Holliston Junior
College by awarding Basic Grants to students in a noncertifi-
cate, 15-week program. We recommend that the Office of Edu-
cation, in its consideration of the matters discussed in this
report, determine if this did occur and if Holliston Junior
College should make restitution to the Federal Government.

     We also recommend that the Office determine whether
the changes made in the special secretarial program bring it
into compliance with Basic Grant eligibility criteria which
require, among other things, that (1) training at an institu-
tion of nigher education lead to a degree or certificate and
(2) the program be of at least 6 months' duration.

       We would like to thank you for the courtesies extended
to us during this review. We would appreciate being advised
of tkbx actions taken on these matters.

                                  Sincerely yours,




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