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CSN: Financial aid errors affect hundreds of students

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Updated: 8/27/2013 2:26 pm
LAS VEGAS — College of Southern Nevada President Michael Richards announced major changes to the college’s financial aid operations Tuesday.

Because of human error in the financial aid verification process, CSN has become aware that it has over-awarded and under-awarded federal financial aid to hundreds of students in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

The college was made aware of the processing errors during a third-party assessment of award files taking place this summer, as requested by the U.S. Department of Education, for the 2011-12 year. CSN contracted with ProEducation Solutions in March to accomplish this task. As a result of these problems coming to light, CSN requested ProEd conduct a similar assessment in June for 2012-13, which is being finalized at this time.

Once the total amount over-awarded is determined, CSN will pay back the funds immediately, as required, to the U.S. Department of Education, using non-state funds.

CSN has also contracted with ProEd for the verification process for the 2013-14 year. These awards have now been reconciled and students will receive accurate disbursements for this academic year.

In a smaller number of cases, CSN under-awarded federal financial aid to students. The college will process these corrections and funds will be distributed to the students. CSN will receive reimbursement for these awards from the federal government.

The processing errors occurred for several reasons, including missing documentation, a miscalculation of the cost of attendance for some students attending part time and a lack of adequate quality assurance measures to ensure accuracy when staff members review student financial documents to determine amounts for which they were eligible.

“My first goal is to protect students who would have had no way of knowing that they received an inaccurate amount of aid,” Richards said. “My second goal is to make significant changes in our financial aid department to enhance confidence and accountability of this critical unit of the college. For too long, this department has experienced management transitions and limited staffing as demands for student financial aid escalated.”

Richards said he assigned Senior Vice President of Finance & Administration Patricia Charlton to work with Associate Vice President for Financial Aid Brad Honious to address problems in the office and make organizational and operational changes as needed. Honious, a veteran of Valencia College’s financial aid department, began at CSN in March.

In addition, the college is soliciting proposals from national higher education organizations with financial aid expertise to provide immediate support for the financial aid department and to ensure the highest quality of service and reliability as CSN overhauls this department.

— From news release
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