Audit: Columbia State Community College Disregarded Law on Student Aid Funds


Officials at Columbia State Community College did not timely return Title IV funds for students who withdrew from classes before those classes ended, according to an audit Tennessee Comptrollers released this week.

Comptrollers said they reviewed a sample of 60 students who received Title IV Student Financial Assistance during the 2017-2018 award year.

“We found that the college did not perform its Return of Title IV Funds calculations timely for 44 of 60 Title IV aid recipients tested (73.3 percent),” Comptrollers wrote.

“These calculations were performed from 48 to 140 days after the withdrawal date, or three to 95 days late.”

Per law, school officials must return any unearned aid to the Department of Education within 45 days of the date the institution determined the student withdrew.

The school’s interim financial director, whom auditors did not name, blamed not having enough staff for the problems. This official also blamed staff turnover.

Comptrollers aid the college also did not comply with the requirements of the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program.

They said they reviewed the time sheets for 66 of 79 Federal Work-Study students for the years ended June 30, 2018, and June 30, 2017, which revealed the following 12 instances of noncompliance (18.2 percent) and federal questioned costs of $341:

• Nine FWS students tested reported working during class times. The students were paid a total of $87 for working during class times, which represents federal questioned costs.

• One FWS student tested was paid twice for the same hours worked, which represents federal questioned costs of $91.

• Two FWS students tested reported hours exceeding the maximum on the signed contract. The hours exceeding the maximum contract hours totaled $163, which represents federal questioned costs.

According to the Vice President of Student Affairs, these errors were due to the lack of continuous and/or updated training for supervisors and student workers, as well as a lack of documentable training of new supervisors acknowledging their awareness of the policy,” the audit quoted college officials as saying.

Comptrollers have recently described similar problems at other colleges in the state.

As The Tennessee Star reported last year, officials at the Memphis-based Southwest Tennessee Community College did not report fraud to state officials as the law required. They may have wasted money through their Federal Work Study program.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Columbia Community State College” by Columbia Community State College. 





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