Audit: BPCC gave students excessive financial aid refunds - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Audit: BPCC gave students excessive financial aid refunds

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BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) -

For the first time in years, the financial audit for the Bossier Parish Community College didn't come back clean, according to Louisiana Legislative Auditors. State investigators found issues with how the college handed out financial aid refund money.

Auditors found the college gave out, "an unknown number of refunds" to students. For example, out of a test of 19 student accounts, auditors found seven students received excessive refunds totaling to $40,151.00. Two of those 19 students were even able to still register for classes, even though they owed $18,873.00 to the school. 

"Well our concern is really that if the student is not due a refund, the university is giving them money that is essentially state money that is being issued to those students," said Legislative auditor Brad Cryer.

"It's not going to happen again," said BPCC Chancellor Jim Henderson, talking about what state auditors found in the audit.

"This is the first time we've had this significant of a finding [from BPCC] in a number of years, " said Cryer. 

According to auditors, the errors occurred because the community college staff was not familiar with a new accounting system. "In the college's efforts to disburse residual financial aid balances to students as quickly as possible, employees did not always determine the accuracy of the outstanding balances or whether students ever attended class and were due refunds," the report said. 

According to Henderson, at the time, the new accounting system lacked proper controls and couldn't ensure the right amount of refunds would go out. That left the school with a choice of waiting until the program was fully complete, or moving forward with issuing the refunds.  "I made the decision, we have to get the refunds to the students who deserve them, even though there is a calculated risk. The risk was that we don't have all the internal controls in place yet. I said, We've got to go ahead and do this, so these students can go ahead and attend school," said Henderson.
 
"It was an easy decision and one I'd make again tomorrow," he added. The schools decision doesn't mean that the students who received excessive refunds, get to keep the extra money. In fact, auditors recommend the school collect that money back and school leaders say they will. "It's an inconvenience to the students luckily that was a small blip in time and it's been corrected for the future," said Henderson.
     
State collection agencies have been tasked with getting the refund money back.

17 other colleges and universities also transitioned to the statewide accounting system. Auditors say the new system has also caused findings in audits at some of those schools, though un-related to excessive refunds.

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