WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 27, 2010 -
This hearing is about the Government Accountability Office’s recent findings concerning the Department of Education’s oversight and monitoring of federal funds intended to support low-income and minority-serving institutions. Federal funds flow to these institutions primarily through programs authorized under Title III and Title V of the Higher Education Act. I look forward to hearing about GAO’s examination of the Department’s efforts to ensure taxpayer funds are spent appropriately.
The diversity that currently exists within the American higher education system is part of what makes our education system the envy of the world. The institutions that receive funds through these programs serve some of the most vulnerable students and those students perhaps in most need of a postsecondary education. These students come from either low-income, first-generation or minority families and are often underserved in the higher education system.
As a result, it is important to ensure the institutions being attended by these students are using federal taxpayer dollars wisely. I am concerned by the GAO’s findings that there still exists a lack of proper oversight regarding how program dollars are being spent. The institutions these programs are intended to support are already under-resourced and may need additional assistance understanding all the parameters that go with receiving a federal grant. To ensure the success of these institutions, it is critically important every federal dollar is spent properly.
I recognize GAO did find the Department of Education has made some improvements in response to previous reports of fraud and misuse of funds. However, I am concerned that as Congress has increased taxpayer support for these institutions, the Department has not also increased its monitoring and oversight. Through its investigations, GAO found misuse of federal funds at four of the seven institutions they visited, including one institution recommended by the Department as a “model grantee.”
Our country is facing a difficult economic time and just this week the federal debt passed an historic $13 trillion. This year alone, we are expected to run a federal deficit of $1.5 trillion. For many Americans, including many low-income or minority students, higher education is the way to a better life.
Congress recognized the public good advanced by providing federal assistance to institutions that serve under-privileged students and spelled out how support was to be allocated to ensure students benefit from a quality education and taxpayers have confidence limited federal resources are spent wisely. It is important the Department of Education do its part to ensure these institutions are acting in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law.
I look forward to hearing what steps the Department has done since the release of this report and with that, I thank the Chairman for holding this hearing and I yield back.
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