Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Morris Brown's Financial Aid Practices under Federal Scrutiny

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Morris Brown's Financial Aid Practices under Federal Scrutiny

Article excerpt


Federal authorities are investigating the possible misuse of millions of dollars in student financial aid at Morris Brown College, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported late last month. Morris Brown obtained federal grants and loans for students who were ineligible for aid, according to U.S. Department of Education records obtained by the newspaper through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Morris Brown must repay $5.4 million to the federal government because it hasn't proven the aid went to the right students between 1995 and 2002. It owes more than $1 million to the state. The federal review began in April 2001. A department review during the 2000-2001 school year showed discrepancies that could have led to the school getting $3 million more than it was due. If the state can't justify the discrepancies, it will have to return that money as well.

Records show a Morris Brown employee in January downloaded $8 million in federal aid using the school's computer network without notifying the department.

Most schools access federal funds as they process student aid applications. But Morris Brown had been instructed to ask for federal permission six months before the incident because of its history of mismanaging student aid.

Bishop Frank Cummings, chairman of the trustees board, said the board didn't know of the severity ofthe school's financial problems. He said he repeatedly asked Dr. Dolores Cross, then the school's president, about them but was told everything was fine.

"When I found out they had drawn that ($8 million) ... I hit the ceiling," Cummings says.

After the withdrawal, the department required Morris Brown to provide student loans with its own funds then seek reimbursement - a restriction rarely placed on a college.

The Georgia Student Finance Commission, the state agency overseeing financial aid, received dozens of calls as far back as 1994 from students and parents complaining about financial aid problems at the school. …

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