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The Education Department's efforts to combat fraud or waste in student aid, federal grants, and other department programs led to the recovery of more than $20 million in the second half of fiscal 1988, according to a report by the inspector general's office.

During that time, the office opened 168 investigations and closed 203 cases, which resulted in 116 indictments and 39 convictions, Inspector General James B. Thomas Jr. disclosed.

The report provides summaries of several major probes into alleged abuse of student-aid programs by institutions, as well as abuses or waste by states and school districts in other programs. Among other actions:

The Education and Justice departments filed a $366-million civil suit against Continental Training Services Inc., Superior Training Services Inc., and their officials, charging the truck-driving schools with submitting false documents to become eligible for student-aid programs.

The Hausman Computer Associates school of New York was found to be ineligible to participate in student-aid programs, resulting in the recommended disallowance of $24.1 million in aid.

Michigan was shown to have received $11.7 million in Chapter 1 money for which it was ineligible. The department recommended that the money be refunded.

Illinois's vocational-education program failed to account adequately for $16.9 million in federal funds. The department called on the state to refund the money.

Some of the Defense Departments's overseas schools for military dependents could be forced to close, if the Army follows through on a proposal to send units to Western Europe for short periods instead of keeping them there on a long-term basis.

The plan is designed to cut costs by eliminating the need to provide schools, moving expenses, and other services to many military families. Even though other branches of the military would be unaffected and not all Army personnel would be covered, the plan could cause some of the schools to be reduced in size or closed.

The 272 overseas schools have a budget of $815 million for fiscal year 1989.

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