On Tuesday, a whistleblower released records revealing that for over a decade, financial aid employees of Howard University had misappropriated financial aid funds. The allegations, published in a Medium post, have since been taken down.
Howard University President Wayne Frederick confirmed the news that financial aid misappropriation had occurred in a statement released on Wednesday, saying, "While this has been a very difficult and disappointing situation, I know our campus community deserves better."
According to Frederick's statement, an internal investigation found that from 2007 to 2016, several employees of the university's financial aid department awarded themselves phony grants and scholarships. These employees were already receiving full tuition remission, and by fraudulently awarding themselves additional scholarships they were able to pocket significant funds.
The Medium post alleged that the fraud may have totaled as much as $1 million.
While Frederick's statement does not directly address this specific claim, it does state that in September of 2016, six Howard University employees were fired for "gross misconduct and neglect of duties." Now, Howard is working on calculating the total amount of funds that were misappropriated, recouping what is owed and improving training for financial aid officials.
Instances like these are not unheard of.
In 2016, a 21-year-old financial aid employee of a post-secondary school in Baltimore plead guilty to stealing student loan payments from over 40 students. At Lone Star College in Houston, Texas, an employee diverted over $100,000 in federal student aid from unwitting students to personal bank accounts in her name.
In November of 2017, three women from Akron, Ohio, were indicted for defrauding the Department of Education of $1.8 million. "These defendants lied on applications or used stolen identities to steal money that otherwise would have gone to deserving students," said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman.
As students at Howard have expressed, the funds would otherwise have been awarded to deserving students. Architecture student Jamila Okera Jenkins tells The Washington Post that she is struggling to make ends meet. "I still have balances that I need to pay in order to graduate."
Jade Agudosi, president of the Howard University Student Association, tells the Post, "This isn't something outlandish or wild that we're asking for. We're asking for them to be transparent about what they're doing with our money."
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