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Howard University students demand answers in financial aid scandal

Students gather for a sit-in at Howard University.

Howard University students protested on Thursday following news that six university employees were fired for “double-dipping” financial aid.

An outside auditor found last year that university employees misappropriated financial aid funding over the course of nine years. Some university employees were receiving grants from the school to attend classes, while also receiving tuition remission, the investigation found, earning more money than their education cost and pocketing the difference. The university did not disclose the specific amount of money that might have been misappropriated.

The public did not find out about allegations of financial misconduct until Tuesday, after a blogging platform Medium posted an expose which has since been deleted.

Students are demanding answers, and some have called for University President Wayne A.I. Frederick to resign. Jessica Brown, a Howard alumna, spoke to CNN affiliate WJLA saying that she is heartbroken. “You have students who dream about going to Howard, whose families risk everything.”

“The investigation found that from 2007 to 2016, University grants were given to some University employees who also received tuition remission,” Frederick confirmed in a statement released Wednesday.

“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.”

Frederick says Howard has made reform efforts following the investigation. “Significant new policies and procedures have been implemented to strengthen Howard’s internal controls with respect to the awarding of financial aid,” he said. The reforms include new procedures for grant approvals and a way for students to access information on the annual budgets for each category of financial aid.

The employees implicated by the investigation were fired for “gross misconduct and neglect of duties,” the statement adds. The terminated employees have not been publicly identified due to protocol measures, Howard University Spokesperson Alonda Thomas said.

The outside auditors hired by the University delivered their findings in May 2017, while Howard University was in the midst of their own internal investigation. The University’s investigation began in December 2016 and lasted through September 2017, when an investigation of individual employee actions was completed and the six employees terminated.