CLC Staffers 'In Cahoots' on Scholarships Official: 4 Financial Aid Employees Granted Funds to Ineligible Students

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Byline: Bob Susnjara By Bob Susnjara

Four College of Lake County financial aid office employees elected to resign or were transferred to other jobs after it was discovered they improperly awarded scholarships to students, school officials have confirmed.

At least 11 ineligible students received the scholarships for the fall 2011 or spring 2012 semesters, said Richard Anderson, chairman of the board at Grayslake-based CLC.

Nearly $11,400 in scholarship money was involved, CLC President Jerry Weber said. The individual scholarship amounts ranged from $250 to more than $1,700.

It's believed some of scholarship recipients knew the CLC workers who approved their applications, officials said.

"It's extremely serious," Anderson said. "People (employees) were kind of in cahoots with those students."

Two workers resigned because of their involvement with the scholarships, and two others were disciplined and transferred to other CLC jobs. The financial aid boss at the time has left the school for family reasons, officials said.

Weber said one of the wrongly awarded scholarships went to a school employee, who was told to repay about $630.

School officials detailed the case after the Daily Herald, through a Freedom of Information Act request, recently obtained letters sent to students stating they were "erroneously awarded" the scholarships.

"In some cases," Weber said, "the funds had not been given out and the financial aid was canceled. In cases where the award was given out, the college is requiring repayment.

"Our investigation certainly raised the question of personal relationships and collusion affecting a number of the 11 awards," he said.

Weber and Anderson said the case started to unfold early this year when a controller's office employee discovered the scholarship awards in question as a matter of a standard financial control process.

Eleven employees were interviewed as part of CLC's internal investigation, Weber said, and it became apparent four workers were involved in approving the scholarships for the ineligible students.

Weber said the information was presented to George Carpenter, who was CLC's interim police chief at the time. He said Carpenter decided what occurred was a school policy violation -- not a criminal matter -- and that the board should handle it.

CLC Trustee William Griffin said he was disappointed in the employees' actions, particularly because he believed some had bright futures at the school. He said having a high level of scrutiny in financial matters is important at CLC, which he likened to a big business.

"As a $100 million operation, we have to make sure we have controls in place to prevent this type of thing from happening again," Griffin said.

Evelyn Schiele, CLC's executive vice president of marketing and public relations, said another layer of approval is now in place for any scholarships awarded to college employees. …