Internal GAO Assessment of Career College Report Counters Senator Harkin’s Spin

Yesterday, a Daily Caller story cited an internal GAO self-evaluation document that catalogued what went wrong during the development of the GAO’s report on the career college sector.

Later in the day, Senator Harkin, who requested the original GAO report, that was later heavily revised, released what appears to be the internal GAO document reference in Daily Caller story.

The e-mail, which Senator Harkin’s office describes as coming "from one member of GAO’s FSI team to another", demonstrates the rushed, haphazard and flawed process through which the original GAO report was developed. It also suggests that additional documents exist and that they may provide clarity on the process through which the GAO report was developed.

Despite Senator Harkin’s attempts to spin the internal GAO document in a favorable light for him and GAO, the document is a complete condemnation of the process through which the GAO report was developed.

Below are 11 direct quotes from the internal GAO document. Particularly appalling is the admission in the document that, “because a summary of X of 15 schools was requested, we then went back and stretched whatever we could find to come up with a number for the testimony.

This was done in haste and is where most of our corrections come from.” Repeatedly the term “15 out of 15 schools” has been cited as justification for the U.S. Department of Education’s gainful employment regulation, as well as referenced in media coverage and editorials, and used as the basis of legal action by state Attorneys General. It is now clear that “15 out of 15” was manufactured by stretching whatever the GAO could find.

The full memo, released by Senator Harkin, is available online: http://ed-success.org/pdf/FSImemo.pdf

  • “Because a summary of X of 15 schools was requested, we then went back and stretched whatever we could find to come up with a number for the testimony. This was done in haste and is where most of our corrections come from.”
  • “On the for-profit schools job, some statements that made it into the report were not supported in written documents, but were not caught during referencing.” 
  • “The for-profit schools job was in some ways an anomaly due to its extreme short time frames.” 
  • “Given the short time frames of the job and volume of undercover work performed, this engagement was at a higher risk from its initiation.” 
  • “Due to the short time frames and other systemic issues, the details included in some bullets and roll up of overall numbers was not 100 percent accurate.” 
  • “That error was compounded by the limited time that (REDACTED) and I had to review documents.” 
  • “I take responsibility for not listening to all 60 hours of audio and checking those files with what was summarized in write ups.” 
  • “The team’s unwillingness to say no to additional insertion of details at the end of a job created several of our most obvious inaccuracies.” 
  • “At the end of this job, we were asked to throw in summary level numbers for graduation rate questions and accreditation questions. While all tests were designed to attempt to get answers to these questions, we all understood that the nature of undercover work would not ensure that 100 percent of the tests addressed each specific area.” 
  • “Too often we cram referencing into a very compressed schedule and press our references to complete the task under short time frames.” 
  • “We feel that all staff should receive some level of training on the “dos and don’ts” of undercover work.”

About the Coalition for Educational Success
The Coalition for Educational Success includes many of the nation’s leading career colleges, serving more than 350,000 students at 478 campuses in 41 states. Career colleges provide training for students in 17 of the 20 fastest growing fields. The Coalition advocates for policies that support wider access to higher education, particularly for non-traditional students including full-time workers, workforce returners, working parents, minorities and veterans.

ENHANCED ONLINE NEWS

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of
avatar