Howard University fired six employees for “gross misconduct and neglect of duties” after school authorities discovered that financial aid money was misappropriated. The terminations came 10 months after the Washington D.C. based university learned about the misappropriation, and one day after an anonymous online article alleged misconduct.
Howard University, a federally charted, private, coeducational, predominantly black university in Washington, D.C., confirmed that six employees were fired for “misappropriation of funds” in its financial aid department.
School president Wayne Frederick said he was told back in December 2016 that there may have been “some misappropriation of university-provided financial aid funds,” and launched an internal investigation.
Howard University discovered that for a nine year period, stretching from 2007 to 2016, some employees who received tuition benefits to cover the costs of taking classes also received university grants. The combination of which exceeded the actual costs of attending the school. Pocketing the difference meant the employees were embezzling from Howard University.
According to a statement from Frederick, “I was alerted in December 2016 that there may have been some misappropriation of university-provided financial aid funds. From the moment I was alerted that there may have been a misappropriation of funds, I have taken this situation extremely seriously.”
Frederick did not say how much money was misappropriated. But, the anonymous post on Medium.com, which has now been suspended, said financial aid employees at Howard University stole nearly $1.0 million in funds.
“We don’t have a final amount but we are working with our outside experts to ensure every dollar is accounted for and the university will exercise all of our options to recoup the funds,” said Alonda Thomas, a spokesperson at Howard.
Frederick went on to say that the school would “refer this matter for criminal prosecution, as appropriate.” He also said reform efforts were put in place to “ensure this never happens again.”
Back in April 2017, The Washington Post reported that the cash-strapped university implemented strict financial aid policies due to around $22.0 million in uncollected tuition. Students were required to “have zero balance to register for classes or pay a third of their outstanding bill and be enrolled in a payment plan.”
On top of that, enrollment at Howard has also fallen in recent years, further exacerbating tuition revenue.
The financial aid scandal left students feeling betrayed. The grants came from institutional funds that help low-income students pay tuition. Well paid employees were double dipping financial aid as students faced years of paying off their loans.
“I’m actually on the verge of transferring schools because I can’t afford to stay here because a grant was taken away from me,” one student said.