VA Student Financial Aid: Management Actions Needed to Reduce Overlap in Approving Education and Training Programs and to Assess State Approving Agencies: GAO-07-384

Aloise, Gene
March 2007
GAO Reports;3/8/2007, p1
Government Document
In fiscal year 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid approximately $2.1 billion in education assistance benefits to more than 470,000 beneficiaries and about $19 million to state approving agencies (SAA) to assess whether schools and training programs offer education of sufficient quality for veterans to receive VA education assistance benefits when attending them. Qualified individuals--veterans, service persons, reservists, and certain spouses and dependents--receive benefits through a number of education assistance programs for the pursuit of various types of programs, such as a degree program, vocational program, apprenticeship, or on-the-job training. The Departments of Education (Education) and Labor (Labor) also assess education and training programs for various purposes, primarily for awarding student aid and providing apprenticeship assistance. In 2006, under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, Education provided nearly $77 billion in student aid in the form of both grants and loans. The Department of Education assesses and certifies postsecondary institutions for participation in Title IV programs through various oversight functions to ensure that these schools meet federal administrative and financial requirements and that they are accredited and licensed. Similarly, under the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937, the Department of Labor is authorized to formulate and promote the furtherance of labor standards to safeguard the welfare of apprentices. Given each agency's role, the potential of duplicative efforts among federal agencies has been a congressional concern. In 1995, GAO reported on this matter and concluded that there was a substantial amount of overlap between the efforts of SAAs and the other federal agencies. In light of continued congressional interest in this issue, we have now answered the following questions: (1) What changes have occurred in state approving agencies' duties and functions since 1995? (2) To what extent does the SAA approval process overlap with efforts by the Departments of Education and Labor? (3) What, if any, additional value do the SAA approval activities bring to VA education benefit programs? Since 1995, legislative changes effective in 2001 created additional responsibilities for SAAs, including promoting the development of apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs, providing outreach services, and approving tests for occupational licensing. From fiscal years 2003 to 2006, SAA funding increased from $13 million to $19 million to expand services and support the additional responsibilities. However, funding is scheduled to decrease beginning in fiscal year 2008. Many education and training programs approved by SAAs have also been approved by Education or Labor, and VA and SAAs have taken few steps to coordinate approval activities with these agencies. In addition, information is not available to determine the amount of resources spent on SAA duties and...


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