June 15, 2022
The U.S. Department of Education mistakenly made available about $73 million extra in federal coronavirus relief money to 24 colleges, a new government watchdog report found.
The department’s Office of Inspector General, which reviewed funding disbursements from April 2020 through August 2021, said the Education Department duplicated grants to the institutions, most of which did not accept the money. No grant funding was misspent, the Education Department said.
The inspector general said the erroneous grants represented less than 0.1% of the more than 30,000 awards the Education Department made, but that it should still tighten procedures to prevent similar oversights in the future.
Congress provided colleges about $76 billion in federal coronavirus aid in three spending packages. The most recent was the American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, which provided roughly $40 billion for colleges.
This funding was key in helping keep colleges financially afloat amid the pandemic. It also insulated state budgets during the economic crunch and likely prevented lawmakers from drastically cutting public higher education spending.
However, the Education Department’s methods of sending the money to colleges have sometimes proven flawed.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office, a Congressional watchdog, in July 2021 said the Education Department had not “effectively designed and implemented procedures” for identifying improper grant awards. The GAO reviewed more than 4,700 colleges’ funding and estimated about 5% of institutions had been given more aid than originally allocated.