Reporter’s notebook

ED to use secret shoppers

The U.S. Education Department (ED) announced on Tuesday that it will use “secret shoppers” to help make sure colleges are adhering to rules governing federal student aid programs.

Secret shoppers will “evaluate recruitment, enrollment, financial aid, and other practices of postsecondary institutions to help identify potentially deceptive or predatory practices used to recruit and enroll students,” ED said in a release. 

Specifically, the shopper will look for misrepresentations regarding the transferability of credits, job placement rates, completion and withdrawal rates, graduates’ future earning potential, career services, the cost of attendance, the amount of federal student aid, and accreditation status, along with any other practices that may violate the laws and regulations governing an institution’s participation in the federal student aid programs, the department said.
ED added that findings from secret shopping may serve as evidence to support an ongoing investigation or review, or provide a basis for opening a new investigation or review.

The department also issued two other enforcement bulletins to protect students. First, ED warned schools that it will “act aggressively” when it finds misrepresentations made to servicemembers and veterans by schools. Second, ED announced a way to submit tips about potential violations of federal student aid programs. 

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.
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