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Financial aid problems cost FSCJ $3.4 million

Flawed program improperly distributed financial aid, changed students' majors

Posted: March 24, 2014 - 5:11pm  |  Updated: March 24, 2014 - 11:54pm

Florida State College at Jacksonville must repay the federal government $3.4 million for improperly distributing Pell Grants and other financial aid through an automated program that changed students’ majors without their consent.

The repayment is significantly less than the $25 million school administrators said could be at stake after the problems were discovered in 2012. FSCJ has 45 days to appeal the DOE’s ruling.

“We will respond to the USDOE within the required 45 days,” said FSCJ President Cynthia Bioteau in a brief statement. “Our commitment to moving forward remains steadfast. Serving the educational needs of students in our community is a guiding principal for Florida State College at Jacksonville.”

The looming repayment was among the challenges immediately confronting Bioteau when she took over as president in January.

The college can apply for a payment plan to repay the $3.4 million. Otherwise, the school must pay the full amount back, or appeal the decision, within the 45-day window, after which interest will accrue.

Problems with the automated system came to light in late 2012 — months after the Department of Education slapped the school with a $515,000 fine for earlier revelations that the institution handed out
$4.2 million in federal loans or Pell Grants during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years to students who shouldn’t have received them.

The issue was also among several to be scrutinized under former FSCJ President Steve Wallace, who stepped down in 2012.

Federal rules say students cannot receive financial aid such as Pell Grants for classes that don’t count toward the degree or certificate they’re pursuing. But FSCJ automatically enrolled students in associate degree programs when they took certain classes so they were qualified for financial aid anyway.

In a November 2012 federal audit, the education department ordered the college to review files for all students whose courses of study “did not reflect the student’s program of intent” after the automated system chose a major for them.

The audit showed that of 30 cases reviewed, eight students wrongly received financial aid.

Ultimately, the federal government determined that FSCJ is liable for repaying about $1.9 million in financial aid costs for the 2010-11 school year and $1.5 million for 2011-12, according to the determination letter sent to college officials Monday.

Bioteau announced earlier this month that the school’s financial aid department is so troubled she plans to outsource significant facets of its operation to outside consultants for as long as two years until the problems can be fixed. At least 12 employees will be laid off.

Nate Monroe: (904) 359-4289

Comments (4)

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Starbuck
764
Points
Starbuck 03/25/14 - 02:29 pm
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0
Premium Member
Jacksonville will never shake

Jacksonville will never shake it's reputation as a third tier corrupt southern city until it actually stops being a third tier corrupt southern city.

Gatortales
262
Points
Gatortales 03/25/14 - 09:14 am
0
0
Premium Member
She should start with every

She should start with every administrator who approved these bogus grants. Almost every dean and administrator who approved these grants are still at FSCJ. However, their malfeasance caused 75 employees to lose their jobs, while their role in this fiasco was downplayed or ignored. If the new FSCJ President ever expects to gain credibility, everyone involved in the approval process for these grants should be terminated and never rehired at FSCJ, even in the capacity of scrubbing toilets.

Gatortales
262
Points
Gatortales 03/25/14 - 09:13 am
0
0
Premium Member
She should start with every

She should start with every administrator who approved these bogus grants. Almost every dean and administrator who approved these grants are still at FSCJ. However, their malfeasance caused 75 employees to lose their jobs, while their role in this fiasco was downplayed or ignored. If the new FSCJ President ever expects to gain credibility, everyone involved in the approval process for these grants should be terminated and never rehired at FSCJ, even in the capacity of scrubbing toilets.

PhDBlack
8791
Points
PhDBlack 03/24/14 - 07:00 pm
0
0
Premium Member
The 12 should start with the

The 12 should start with the campus Presidents.......well the ones that are still there...

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