Multiple employees have resigned or have been fired from Howard University in the last six months amidst an internal investigation into improper tuition assistance grants being made to former employees in the school’s financial aid office.
Officials confirm that a story posted anonymously to the Medium network last night, implicating former Howard University Associate Financial Aid Director Brian Johnson and former financial aid student worker Tyrone Hankerson, is but a partial view of the school’s effort to resolve personnel issues and financial controls in the office responsible for overseeing accounts for more than 9,600 students at the flagship private black college.
Records and notes secured by the HBCU Digest reveal that the investigation into the office’s management and oversight began in August 2016 to audit all grants, stipends, and reimbursements awarded to university employees over a nine-year period spanning 2007-2016.
That audit revealed that a trend of disbursement irregularities that began in 2007, with grants being awarded after the conclusion of academic terms, to students not in good academic standing, and remissions for ineligible courses were among the flagged deposits.
A closer inquiry revealed several former university employees at the heart of most of the flagged disbursements. Derek Kindle, former HU director of student financial services and current director of financial aid at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was identified as the awarding party for many of the flagged grants, but was not implicated in any internal documents as a source of criminal behavior, or fired as a result of the investigation.
Interviews with four former students and personnel confirm that the full internal review concluded in September 2017 and followed a report from Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick to the US Department of Education about the discovered improprieties. Former bursar Doemini Mosley and former Donor Relations Manager Siah Willie, who received more than $100,000 in refunds to support travel and personal expenses which she claimed were related to academic work at the university, were terminated as a result of the investigation’s findings.
Former financial aid officers Anthony Montgomery and Teresa Julien were also terminated for illicit receipt or awarding of grants to ineligible employees, as a part of six total firings stemming from the investigation.
The internal review also coincided with a June 2017 conversation between Dr. Frederick and a yet-to-be-named Howard student who worked in the financial aid office and offered to give the president’s office information on the illicit disbursement to employees in exchange for an appeal of several grades which would allow clearance for graduation. The president’s office rejected the offer on the grounds that the university has already initiated its own investigation which yielded two of the names referenced in the Medium article.
And according to a source close to the financial aid office, Dr. Frederick also sought keep issues of academic concern separate from the investigation into financial impropriety.
In a statement released this morning, Dr. Frederick outlined the new controls established in the office to deter future fund mismanagement.
As part of these reform efforts, significant new policies and procedures have been implemented to strengthen Howard’s internal controls with respect to the awarding of financial aid, including:
• Annual budgets for each category of financial aid are now loaded into the University’s Banner student information system by the University Budget Office consistent with the University’s overall Financial Aid Budget.
• Approval for all awards of University Grants are now reviewed and approved by the Budget Office prior to being awarded by the Financial Aid Office
• Approval for all donor-designated scholarship awards are now reviewed and approved by the Controller’s Office prior to being awarded by the Financial Aid Office.
• Approval for all grant-funded financial aid are now reviewed and approved by the University’s Grant Accounting Unit prior to being awarded by the Financial Aid Office.
• Access to the Banner financial aid module has now been limited to a small number of appropriate senior University individuals, with adequate third-party review and appropriate segregation of duties.
• An annual reconciliation of awarded financial aid to approved financial aid is now being conducted.
• Management has established proper reporting relationships and segregation of duties within the Financial Aid Office.
• Management is in the process of hiring for all remaining open positions in the Financial Aid Office and enhanced training on policies and procedures will be provided both to new hires and continuing employees.
• A new Associate Provost for Enrollment Management and a new Chief Compliance Officer have been hired by the University.
University officials did not provide information on if the university has or intends to file criminal charges against the former students and employees involved in the case.