ERIC Number: ED483232
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Feb
Distance Education: Improved Data on Program Costs and Guidelines on Quality Assessments Needed To Inform Federal Policy. Report to Congressional Requesters. GAO-04-279
US General Accounting Office
Over a decade ago, concerns about fraud and abuse by some correspondence schools led to federal restrictions on, among other things, the percentage of courses a school could provide by distance education and still qualify for federal student aid. This study reviewed the extent to which the restrictions affected schools? ability to offer federal student aid and the Department of Education?s (Education?s) assessment of the continued appropriateness of the restrictions. It also looked at the extent to which accrediting agencies evaluated distance education programs, including their approach for assessing student outcomes. Researchers reviewed both quality control approaches for distance education?federal restrictions on the size of distance education programs and accreditation reviews of distance education courses. They also reported on issues related to the demographic characteristics of distance education students and the use of distance education by Minority Serving Institutions. Data came from Education and other experts on how many of the over 6,000 postsecondary institutions had been affected by these provisions or might be affected in the future. They interviewed officials at Education responsible for assessing distance education issues and reviewing monitoring reports. The study focused on the policies of seven accrediting agencies that were collectively responsible for over two-thirds of all distance education programs. Researchers evaluated the extent to which agencies assessed student learning outcomes using criteria developed in past work addressing performance and accountability issues. Overall, while federal restrictions on the size of distance education programs affected only a small number of schools? ability to offer federal student aid, the growing popularity of distance education could cause the numbers to increase in the future. Fourteen schools were either currently adversely affected by the restrictions or would be affected in the futurees varied in the extent to which they included distance education programs in their reviews of postsecondary institutions. All seven had policies for reviewing these programs, but the policies varied. They also differed in the extent to which they included an assessment of student outcomes in their reviews. Three appendices include study scope and methodology, comments from the Department of Education, and GAO contacts and staff acknowledgements.
Descriptors: Distance Education, Federal Aid, Quality Control, Educational Quality, Minority Groups, Program Evaluation, Outcomes of Education, Higher Education, Student Evaluation
U.S. General Accounting Office, 441 G Street NW, Room LM, Washington, DC 20548. Tel: 202-512-6000; Fax: 202-512-6061.
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A