Study finds broad frustration with higher ed regulations

One of the most common complaints was the difficulty in calculating how much federal assistance money should be returned to the Department of Education when a student drops out of school early. Survey respondents also cited difficulties in complying with the disclosure requirements for student enrollment, graduation rates, cost of attendance and student crime.

However, the Department of Education told GAO it receives few, if any, comments on how to improve the information collection.

The study examined Department of Education postsecondary-related “information collection requests (ICRs)” — a procedural step in the rulemaking process — that were submitted to White House for approval from August 2006 to October 2012.

Less than one-fourth of all the more than 350 ICRs during that time received public comment — and only 25 addressed burdens placed on schools, the GAO said. The department even offered the public a chance to comment on a retrospective of its current rules, which only received 30 comments. Only nine comments mentioned a “regulatory burden,” the report said.

“In addition, Education officials said some of the comments they receive about burden estimates are too general to make modifications in response to them,” the independent investigative office told lawmakers.

The GAO concluded its report with no recommendations to the agency on how to improve its regulations, but, in response, the department “sought clarification regarding types of federal requirements and additional information on its efforts to balance burden and benefits.”

The authors “provided clarifications and additional information, as appropriate,” the report says.