The U.S. Department of Education Announces Secret Shopper Program

The U.S. Department of Education has announced that the Enforcement Office of Federal Student Aid will be launching a secret shopper program targeting predatory institutions.

Secret shopping involves trained individuals posing as potential students to investigate whether an institution is engaging in deceptive practices.

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) will use secret shopping as a way to protect students from institutions that make false claims or promises about their programs or services. It is another way to monitor postsecondary institutions’ compliance with the laws and regulations governing their participation in the federal student aid programs.

The program will focus on identifying institutions that misrepresent their job placement rates, graduation rates and other critical information that students need to make informed decisions about their education.

This program will also provide additional support for students who have been victims of fraud or other deceptive practices by institutions that participate in federal student aid programs. The Department of Education will work with state and local agencies to identify institutions that are engaging in fraudulent practices and take legal action against them.

This move is part of the Department’s broader efforts to ensure that institutions receiving federal student aid programs are transparent and accountable to their students.

This announcement follows recent efforts by the Department to improve transparency and accountability in higher education, which have included implementing new regulations to protect students from predatory practices by for-profit colleges and other institutions.

By using secret shopping and other tools, the Department hopes to ensure that students have access to accurate information about their educational options and can make informed decisions about their future.

Students are encouraged to be wary of claims that seem too good to be true and can report any suspicious activity by institutions or their representatives through the Department’s fraud website at

If you have any questions surrounding the secret shopper program, please contact the Schneider Downs Higher Education Industry Group at [email protected].

About Schneider Downs Higher Education Services

The Schneider Downs Higher Education industry group is a dedicated team of experienced professionals specializing in serving institutions from high schools to universities. Our experience in audit and assurance, tax advisory, technology and data and more allow our professionals to stay ahead of the latest trends, developments and challenges within the education sector and provide timely and practical solutions to our clients. 

To learn more, visit our Higher Education Industry Group page. 

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