Audits, Appeals and Actions

By Cara Young

Lone Star College is facing a $14 million dollar audit, and nobody is talking about it.

It has been recently revealed that the Lone Star College System has distributed about 14 million dollars in aid improperly by providing funds to students who were graduates of high schools not eligible to receive funding.  They are now facing an audit from the Department of Education. Outside of the recent press release providing this information and an article from the Houston Chronicle, no other information is readily available to students of the system. It has also proven difficult to find any additional information through traditional channels such as Student Services, on-site staff or standardized student emails.

It is difficult to say if the lack of communication is based on the idea that no official in the LSC system has enough information themselves to possess a working knowledge of the incident or that it is not something at the forefront of the minds of the people it could most closely effect. Students tuition prices, professors miscellaneous expenses, faculty and even vendors made available for campus events depend on the current financial climate the institution is currently situated. If informed of this issue students might have been left to wonder,

  • What does this mean for students financial capabilities and what stack of “good” debt might they have to acquire in order to attend an institute of higher education in the coming semesters?
  • What department will feel the tightening of purse straps most harshly and will campuses still in recovery find the constraint too much?
  • What consequences will the students now deemed ineligible and the reputation of the college system that provided them funding now stare down?

Questions such as these may go unanswered with holiday pressure sinking in quickly and it might be a bit too late put in the necessary level of attention this issue requires.

After what seemed like countless hours on hold with six different call centers, several fruitless office visits and several dead-end emails, contact with LSC’s Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Mott was finally made via Helen Clougherty, Vice Chancellor, Chief of Staff/Board Liaison. From this encounter, some good information finally trickled down.

Mott confirmed that the Lone Star College System was indeed being audited by the Department of Education. A formal inspection of the college’s accounts had been launched. However, Mott added that an appeal had been filed with the DOE within the deadline period. As it is impossible to look at every single financial aid case that comes across the desk from the time period the DOE is speculating the occurrence took place, 2012-2016, a statistical sample was taken and “For about a third of those students, we did find documentation that they were correctly awarded financial aid. After submitting the appeal, we are now working to review all 6,160 records.”

Mott continued to say that there would be no adverse effect on students who received funding while eligible and that despite the extra man pow no doubt needed to pour over records, it shouldn’t affect students applying for financial aid this or in future semesters. While the audit is sure to take a toll on the corporate offices of LSC and its personnel over the coming joy season, Mott assured that “No impact on school budgets from the DOE liability is expected.”.  Extracurricular activities and staff are not set to be cut by the unexpected liability because the LSC reserve funds will be footing the bill.

While things are said to be well in hand, the waters ahead are still uncertain and it may be a comfort to the students who are depending on the credibility of the institution in question to be aware of the situation. At least in the instance where students are provided information, even if they ignore that information, has resulted in the student being given a choice as to the course of action they wish to take and in turn made responsible for it.

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