Community College’s Controversial Partnership Draws Federal Scrutiny

"The U.S. Department of Education is investigating the use of federal financial aid at an Ohio community college that has come under fire for poor teaching quality and an unusual relationship with a for-profit company that recruits labor union members to attend the college for free," Inside Higher Ed reports. 

..."Wurst confirmed the college has received the letter, saying via email that program reviews 'are a routine function of the Dept. of Education [and] more than 100 were conducted for Fiscal Year 2020.'

However, Karen McCarthy, vice president of public policy and federal relations at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said that while some program reviews are conducted at random, many others are launched in response to specific concerns about an institution’s practices. McCarthy called the letter’s focus on the SRC relationship unusual.

'It sounds to me like the department definitely saw the press coverage of the issues going on with the accreditor and then said, ‘Hey, this might be something we want to take a look at,' McCarthy said. 'It does not sound like a random review to me … If they are super specific about one particular topic, it is sometimes because there’s some reason that they have suspicions that something might not be on the up and up.'

McCarthy said that federal student aid guidelines prohibit entities that participate in recruiting students from providing 'any commission, bonus, or other incentive payment based in any part, directly or indirectly, upon success in securing enrollments or the award of financial aid, to any person or entity who is engaged in any student recruitment or admission activity, or in making decisions regarding the award of Title IV, HEA program funds.'"

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Publication Date: 1/26/2022

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