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Feds Tighten Financial Monitoring of Bishop State

Feds Tighten Financial Monitoring of Bishop State

Amid reports of possible fraud, Bishop State Community College must show proof of student eligibility before it can receive federal student aid, say U.S. Department of Education officials. The change follows allegations that school employees have arranged for improper financial aid, including a case in which a 67-year-old disabled grandmother received a scholarship to play sports.

The Education Department had been providing the funding and allowing documentation to come later. But reports that some students receiving federal aid had not attended class prompted the change, which was announced late last month.

Education Department spokeswoman Jane Glickman says the college has been placed on a “heightened cash monitoring” status. The department has already ordered Bishop State to pay back $150,000 in Pell Grant aid following a review of the school’s books,
she says.

The change in policy comes amid an investigation launched by Dr. Thomas Corts, interim chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system. The probe was prompted by records that showed that Bishop State President Yvonne Kennedy, who is also a state representative, sent legislative funds to her private foundation in 2003.

Kennedy, who has headed the college since 1981, sent all of her legislative discretionary money — $94,000 — to the Bishop State Community College Foundation, which she created in 1993, state records show.

She had requested the state funding, saying the foundation needed the money to build a laboratory for culinary arts students at the college. But the foundation’s financial records don’t report the expense, instead listing all expenditures as scholarships to hundreds of two-year college students.

As for the new rules on federal aid, Kennedy says, “It will have an effect on the college, but one we will be able to handle. Our students will certainly not be deprived of a college education.”

Glickman says the federal government is not currently reviewing or auditing Bishop State.

— Associated Press

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