Howard University Employees Fired For Misusing Funds For Poor Students

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An external auditor found several university employees received grants in addition to discounts on tuition that amounted to more than the total cost of tuition.

 

 

 

Howard University President Wayne Frederick confirmed six of the university’s financial aid officials had misappropriated student funds earmarked for low-income students for almost 10 years.

The announcement came after an anonymous whistleblowing blogger published two online reports, accusing university employees of abusing financial aid funds amounting to $1 million between 2013 and 2017, in a now-suspended Medium post. The blogger also accused senior officials of covering up the fraud since May 2017.

An external auditor found several university employees received grants in addition to discounts on tuition that amounted to more than the total cost of tuition. This allowed the employees to receive “inappropriate refunds” which they pocketed.

Tuition remissions allow eligible employees and their dependents to receive discounted tuition at Howard. Full-time working students, who are eligible to receive remission, can take two classes each semester for free. Tuition at the university for the 2017-2018 school years was $12,061 per semester, excluding board and lodgings.

Frederick did not name the employees who were involved in the financial scandal but the name of student-employee Tyrone Hankerson is being tossed around. Allegedly, Hankerson received $429,000 from the funds marked for low-income students.

In wake of the scandal, Frederick released a statement about the firings.

“While this has been a very difficult and disappointing situation, I know our campus community deserves better and I am committed to ensuring that each of our campus offices operate with integrity and are the best that higher education has to offer,” he said.

The president also admitted he became aware of the fraud in December 2016, shortly before the internal investigation. He did not however give the total amount of money that was used. Frederick also list down the new school measures which would prevent future financial aid misappropriation.

The new revelations come in wake of a series of problems at Howard.

Early this month, Frederick got a lot of flak over his response to a student who emailed him, pleading for help securing a spot in the university housing — which are reportedly few. He told the student her “tone and tenor” were “inappropriate.” In January, Howard’s spring semester classes were delayed for over a week because of problems with the university’s heating system. In May 2017, five women filed a lawsuit against the university for not taking notice of sexual assaults on campus and punishing rape victims who dared to speak out.

Frederick was also criticized for meeting with President Donald Trump in 2017, an act which some students thought was a betrayal considering the president’s rhetoric against African-Americans.

Tyrone Hankerson has also spoken out after the recent accusation, claiming his innocence.

“Please know that I have done nothing illegal or wrong. When the truth comes out, it will be confirmed that I followed all rules and protocol with the approval of the, then, financial aid officers in any grants, scholarships or awards given to me as a student who attended class all year round and traveled abroad,” he told ABC News. “[…] It is very sad that in an attempt to attack the current leadership of the school, a portion of my financial profile was illegally shared with media outlets, without any conversation or approval from me or my legal team.”

 

However, many students have expressed shock and outrage over the accusations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some said they felt betrayed by the university as the employees helped themselves to financial aids while underserved students struggle to pay 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.

A senior at Howard, Juan McFarland, said he was not surprised to learn of the fraud.

“We’ve had suspicions about mishandling of funds based on how many people always never received their financial aid on time,” he said, “and also based on how many fees were added to our accounts out of nowhere.”

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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