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Colleges cry foul as Ed. Department names non-compliant schools.

After issuing a warning in July, the U.S. Department Education last month released a list of about 500 institutions that did not complete a survey of institutional data in 2002-2003.

In warning letters to 80 schools, the Education Department notified the institutions that they needed to submit data for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System survey or make a written appeal by Aug. 6.

Some institutions that received the letters and threats of fines expressed surprise at the first-time enforcement action.

"In the past, the feds never mentioned anything about it, so frankly we didn't think they cared. But they sure do," said J. Michael Meade, vice president and dean of student services at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich.

Meade said the action was heavy-handed at a time when most institutions are suffering from funding cutbacks. His school was fined $30,000 for missing the filing deadline on two sections of the IPEDS survey--the equivalent of a full-time teacher's salary for one semester. Henry Ford missed the filing deadline this year because of a software package that would not produce the right kind of reports, he said.

Another institution said its name appeared on the list of non-compliant institutions as a result of an error by the Education Department.

"All the information is in. We didn't miss any deadlines," said Tim Wynes, president of the Ohio Valley Community College District. "It's a glitch in their system, not ours." The district includes Ellsworth Community College, which appeared on the Education Department list.

The institutions singled out by the department in the warning letters were threatened with the loss of federal student-aid money and fines of up to $27,500 for each of the 10 reporting categories that they fail to address for the 2002-2003 academic year.

Institutions that receive student financial-aid funds under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 are required to complete the IPEDS survey as a condition of their students' continued participation in those programs. IPEDS collects data from approximately 9,600 postsecondary institutions about tuition rates, enrollment, finances, graduation rates and degree completion, financial-aid awards and faculty and staff compensation.

"As a user of the data, I can say it would be great if all colleges complied with the survey," said Alisa F. Cunningham, research director for the Institute for Higher Education Policy. "The data is used for research. It's the only major data set that gathers information from institutions rather than faculty."

Federal and state governments use data compiled from the IPEDS survey to make policy decisions about higher education. The number of schools failing to complete the surveys has grown each year, and the inspector general's office this year recommended that the department launch an enforcement action for the first time.

Many higher-education officials think the Bush administration might try to use the upcoming review of the Higher Education Act to establish accountability standards for colleges and universities. Under such standards, they fear, schools' receipt of student-aid funds could be made contingent upon demonstrable progress toward goals such as high graduation rates. Community-college leaders are particularly concerned about such one-size-fits-all gauges of success, as many students enroll at two-year colleges without intending to earn a degree.

"Some people have thought that as the government and Congress pushes for more accountability from colleges and universities as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that the IPEDS data will be a more important part [of increasing accountability]," said Paul Hassen, assistant director of public affairs for the American Council on Education.

Naming Names

Two-year colleges that were sent letters over their alleged failure to complete Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System surveys

* Allan Hancock College

* Alpena Community College

* Bainbridge College

* Bay State College

* Cankdeska Cikana Community College

* Career Technical College

* Chabot College

* Clinton Junior College

* Ellswortn Community College

* Fox Valley Technical College

* Ft. Berthold Community College

* Gogebic Community College

* Guam Community College at Barrigada

* Henry Ford Community College

* ITT Technical Institute (Arlington, Tex.)

* Longview Community College

* Monroe County Community College

* Nashville Auto-Diesel College

* New York Institute of Business Technology

* Northwestern Business College

* NTI-School of CAD Technology

* Pearl River Community College-Forrest County Center

* Polytechnic Institute

* San Jose City College

* Schoolcraft College

* Sierra College

* Southwest School of Electronics

* Southwestern College (Calif.)

* Taylor Business Institute (N.Y.)

* Tri-State Business Institute

* Victor Valley College

* Wayne County Community College District

* White Earth Tribal and Community College

Source: U.S. Department of Education
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Title Annotation:dateline Washington
Author:Hammer, Ben
Publication:Community College Week
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2003
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