INSIDE HIGHER ED: U.S. Keeps Scrutiny of Risky Colleges Secret

Career College Central Summary:

  • The U.S. Department of Education is so concerned about the risk that dozens of colleges pose to students and taxpayers that it has curtailed access to federal money at those institutions — but it won’t say which ones.
  • Even as it pushes to make far more information about colleges available to consumers, the department is keeping hidden from public view its decisions to punish certain colleges with funding restrictions known as heightened cash monitoring.
  • At the end of last October, 76 colleges or universities were subject to the most stringent form of those restrictions, according to the department. Another 455 institutions, as of last August, faced a lower level of scrutiny.
  • But the department has refused to provide the names of those colleges because of the “competitive injury” it may cause them.
  • “Given the highly competitive environment in which these institutions conduct business, any public release of the confidential financial standing of these institutions will likely cause the institutions substantial competitive injury,” a department official, who declined to be named, wrote in an email to Inside Higher Ed on Tuesday. 
  • Such reasoning hasn’t stopped the department from publishing other information about colleges that might harm their reputation in the interest of protecting students. It annually publishes colleges’ financial responsibility scores and an array of other financial and price data. And last year the Obama administration began releasing the names of colleges under investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases.
  • Denise Horn, a department spokeswoman, said in a statement late Wednesday night that the department was considering releasing the heightened cash monitoring information, after months of requests from Inside Higher Ed.
  • “Education Department attorneys are reviewing the request for the list of institutions under heightened cash monitoring, and we hope to make a decision on its release soon,” she said. “The department is committed to being transparent with data so that institutions are accountable to both students and taxpayers.”

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