Howard University students protest after financial aid scandal exposed

The student protest Thursday followed a statement this week from Howard University's president, in which he confirmed that he was alerted to a "misappropriation of university-provided financial aid funds."

WASHINGTON — Howard University students gathered in protest inside the administration building on campus, a day after the school confirmed a financial aid scandal that saw six employees fired.

The student protest Thursday followed university President Wayne A.I. Frederick’s statement Wednesday, in which he confirmed that he was alerted to a “misappropriation of university-provided financial aid funds” in December 2016. Outside auditor RSM investigated and reported the results to Frederick in May 2017, he said.

The university didn’t make the audit findings public until a recent anonymous post on Medium.com brought the scandal to light.

Student organizers of Thursday’s protest have put out a list of demands earlier this week that includes transparency.

“Time and time again, the administration and board of trustees has failed to act in the best interests of its students,” said the student group HU Resist in a statement. “As the primary stakeholders of the university, we want the power to determine its direction through democratization.”

Frederick responded with a statement on Howard University’s website early Thursday morning.

“I am listening to you and I am challenging my team to make the changes you are expressing a dire need to see,” the statement said.

Some are calling for Frederick to step down.

According to a statement from Frederick earlier this week, the auditor’s investigation 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, the employees pocketed the difference.

Frederick said six employees were fired in 2017 “for gross misconduct and neglect of duties.”

It’s still unclear how much was misappropriated, but Frederick said the money did not come from federal or donor-directed funds.

“My team is currently working with outside experts to assist us in exploring all options to recoup the funds,” Frederick said in another statement to students on March 28.

“I feel strongly that any dollar that is taken away from a deserving student due to malfeasance or fraud is unacceptable.”

The Howard University Student Association also released a statement in response to news of the financial aid scandal.

It reads, in part: “This matter is extremely disheartening because financial aid remains the primary barrier for Howard students to complete their education, and this theft serves a direct attack and insult to our community.”

WTOP’s Jack Pointer contributed to this report. 

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