Audit finds massive irregularities in college student aid

[private]An internal audit of the financial aid office at Albany State University has uncovered financial irregularities that resulted in the improper award of more than $470,000 in financial aid and loans to at least four students.

The audit was launched in August after Stephanie Lawrence, who had just assumed the job of director of the financial aid office, brought the situation to the attention of internal auditors.

The audit report, which was finalized last week, found that the funds were awarded to Albany State students who also worked in the university’s financial aid office.

The irregularities involved students who were not making satisfactory academic progress (SAP) and should have had their financial aid terminated. The audit report said the students appealed the cutoffs multiple times and were wrongly allowed to continue drawing financial aid.

According to the audit, “470 Financial Aid appeal letters were reviewed. Based on this review, 94 of the appeals were determined to be questionable or unacceptable and lacked the appropriate supporting documentation resulting in a large over-award.”

“The investigation revealed serious misconduct on the part of several of our employees,” said Art Dunning, Albany State’s interim president. “We have taken appropriate disciplinary action with the involved employees.”

The names of the students and any information that might identify them were redacted from the version of the audit report released to the public, but the findings included:

“Student 1” was awarded more than $270,000 in federal student financial aid. Of that total, $242,844 was financial aid award less payment for tuition and fees. The balance was money the student received in the form of a debit card to use for “education-related expenses.”

“Since the Fall of 2010, [Student 1] was suspended from receiving further financial aid a total of ten times for failing to meet Satisfactory Academic Progress,” the report said. “[Student 1] appealed the suspension and on each occasion the petition for appeal was granted. It should be noted that of the ten appeals submitted, a copy of the petition for the appeal could not be located for two.”

A person identified as [Student 2] has $155,000 in student loans and “has not made any repayments to date.”

A person identified as [Student 3] has enrolled in ten classes since the fall of 2010 and has withdrawn from most of them. During that same period, [Student 3] was awarded loans amounting to $63,309.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Albany State , Art Dunning , financial irregularities , internal audit , student loans