Government Watchdog Previously Found Colleges’ Online Program Arrangements Have Limited Oversight
WASHINGTON – On Friday, House and Senate education leaders wrote a letter urging the Department of Education to increase its oversight of online program managers (OPMs)—third-party companies that help colleges run and recruit students for online academic programs—to ensure they are not engaging in abusive recruiting practices.
In May 2022, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office released a report that found the Department of Education does not have the information it needs about colleges’ arrangements with OPMs to conduct oversight.
“The GAO report confirmed the current higher education accountability system, the triad of the Department, state authorizers, and private nonprofit accreditors, lacks adequate oversight of OPM arrangements, especially considering the significant amount of federal funding flowing to OPMs,” the Members wrote.
OPMs often provide recruitment services for colleges and receive a cut of the tuition revenue when they enroll students—raising questions about their compliance with the ban on abusive recruiting practices under the Higher Education Act.
“It is clear how these arrangements may create incentives for OPMs to guide students to less selective, more expensive programs, at all levels of higher education. There has also been litigation and reporting accusing OPMs of using aggressive recruiting practices, including the targeting of low-income and minority students, the type of abuse the incentive compensation ban was intended to prevent,” the Members wrote.
The letter was signed by House Education and Labor Committee Chair Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN).
To read the full letter, click here.
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