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Howard University admits to 9-year financial aid scandal

FILE -- The Howard University Campus at sunrise in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — Howard University confirmed Wednesday that six employees have been fired for “misappropriation of funds” in its financial aid department.

President Wayne A.I. Frederick’s statement came 10 months after university officials learned about that misappropriation and one day after an anonymously sourced web article alleging misconduct.

“I was alerted in December 2016 that there may have been some misappropriation of university-provided financial aid funds,” Frederick said in the statement. “From the moment I was alerted that there may have been a misappropriation of funds, I have taken this situation extremely seriously.”

Frederick did not indicate how much exactly was misappropriated.

An outside auditor, RSM, was hired to investigate, according to that statement. They found that from 2007 to 2016, university employees who received tuition remission also received grants. The combination of these actually exceeded the total cost of attendance. As a result, they pocketed the difference.

The audit was completed and reported to Frederick in May, he said in the statement, and he reported the matter to the Department of Education in July. The six employees were fired “for gross misconduct and neglect of duties” as part of an employee investigation that ended in September.

“We will refer this matter for criminal prosecution, as appropriate,” Frederick said.

Frederick pointed out that such university grants are institutional funds used to support students with charges. “They are not federal funds or donor-directed funds,” he said.

Another outside firm has been brought in to determine if any misappropriation of federal funds has occurred.

Frederick also outlined reform efforts in the statement “to ensure this never happens again.”

As reported in The Washington Post back in April 2017, Howard University had put in place strict financial aid policies because of about $22 million in uncollected tuition. Students were required to “have a zero balance to register for classes or pay a third of their outstanding bill and be enrolled in a payment plan,” the Post wrote.

“While this has been a very difficult and disappointing situation,” Howard’s president said Wednesday, “I know our campus community deserves better and I am committed to ensuring that each of our campus offices operate with integrity and are the best that higher education has to offer.”


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