State knew sanctions loomed if Title IV audit filed late

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State knew sanctions loomed if Title IV audit filed late
By Jake Jarvis, The Charleston Gazette-Mail

West Virginia’s public colleges will need to come up with about $245 million in the next month after the U.S. Department of Education slapped financial sanctions on the schools, said Paul Hill, chancellor of the state agency that oversees four-year colleges.

The sanctions, which affect the colleges’ access to Title IV funds, came after the state Department of Administration was late three years running in submitting an audit of incoming federal money.

State officials knew months in advance that if they were late submitting this year’s audit, the colleges would be sanctioned, documents obtained by the Gazette-Mail show. Hill’s agency, the Higher Education Policy Commission, which oversees four-year colleges, tried to go around the Department of Administration to submit its own audit information and prevent the colleges from getting into trouble.

“This could have undermined the institutions,” Hill said, adding that state officials are close to finding a solution.

The sanctions will be in effect for five years, and the Education Department can increase them at any time.

Most students pay for school with Title IV, a wide group of funds that include the Pell grant and federally subsidized student loans. In previous years, the federal education department would give schools the money directly, and the school would disburse that money to students, according to Jessica Kennedy, spokeswoman for the HEPC.

Kennedy said the sanctions require the schools to have that money up front, keep records of its dispersement, and then ask the federal department for reimbursement.

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