Several employees from Howard University have been terminated following the conclusion of an ongoing internal investigation that found evidence of misappropriated financial aid funds allegedly totaling $1 million.
Past and present HU students took to social media in an uproar on Wednesday morning, after an anonymous story was shared on Medium that included screenshots of records supposedly serving as proof of the theft accusations. The anonymous revelation (which has since been removed), paired with the overwhelming response from both the student body and alumni, prompted an almost immediate response from the University's leadership.
HU President Wayne A.I. Frederick issued a detailed statement in response to the news, sharing specifics about the findings of the internal investigation and confirming that a total of six university employees have been fired for "gross misconduct and neglect of duties."
"In accordance with my commitment to continuous progress, in February 2015, I initiated a proactive review of the Howard University Office of Financial Aid to ensure the office was providing the best support to our campus community," president Frederick said in the statement. "As part of this process, I was alerted in December 2016 that there may have been some misappropriation of University-provided financial aid funds."
Upon learning of the misappropriation suspicions through the routine review of the University's Financial Aid Office, Frederick says he worked together with the school's Board of Trustees to launch a thorough internal investigation.
"I immediately informed the Board of Trustees, and together we moved swiftly to begin an internal investigation. The University immediately engaged an outside auditor (RSM) to determine whether there had been any misappropriation of Howard University funds by staff in the Office of Financial Aid or elsewhere and if so, the magnitude of that misappropriation. The auditors completed their investigation and reported the results to me in May 2017.
The findings of the investigation corroborated concerns that students say they have long been suspicious and vocal about over the years.
"The investigation found that from 2007 to 2016, University grants were given to some University employees who also received tuition remission," Frederick continued. "The audit revealed that the combination of University grants and tuition remission exceeded the total cost of attendance. As a result, some individuals received inappropriate refunds. Note that University grants are institutional funds used to help support students with student charges. They are not federal funds or donor directed funds."
In the wake of the gross misappropriation findings, Fredrick also confirmed that measures for ensuring something like this "never happens again" have been put in place. Revisions to the current review and approval process for financial aid funding prior to being sent to the Financial Aid office are as follows:
- 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.
University management is also "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."
With regard to the terminated employees, president Fredrick says the University "will refer this matter for criminal prosecution, as appropriate."