21 Pressing Questions Howard University Students Have On The School’s Financial Aid Scandal
Students are demanding answers, now.
March 30, 2018 at 4:06 am
Howard University has had a tumultuous week and students have looming questions that have yet to be answered.
In a post published anonymously using the username on Tuesday, Howard University officials were ousted for rewarding themselves grants and scholarships through the use of financial aid. The post revealed that between 2007 and 2016, employees who were also taking classes received tuition remission from the university and took advantage of the system by awarding themselves pocket money on top of this.
Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick confirmed in a statement that there was indeed a misappropriation of funds and that the employees involved were quickly terminated. Among them was Tyrone Hankerson, Jr., who has been accused of misappropriating financial aid funds for personal use while he worked at the university's financial aid office. Although Hankerson has claimed innocence, Twitter isn't having it.
“An investigation of individual employee actions was completed in September 2017 and as a result, six employees have been fired for gross misconduct and neglect of duties. We will refer this matter of criminal prosecution, as appropriate,” Frederick wrote.
According the the Medium post, which has now been removed, the total amount of money diverted adds up to over $1 million. Meanwhile, Frederick has blamed the Howard University’s debt problems on students who have not paid their tuition and housing bills, which, according to The Washington Post, puts Howard in a $22 million deficit. However, Frederick has said nothing on the fraud’s impact on this number.
On Thursday, Howard University students swarmed the administration building and chanted the lyrics to songs like "B***h better have my money." Blavity spoke with students at the school following the demonstration to get their reaction to the ongoing saga and gather the looming questions that have yet to be answered:
1. Why was the fraud kept secret by administration and has only come to light now, months later, because of a whistle blower?
2. Were the funds taken by employees diverted away from other students who needed financial assistance?
3. What steps have been taken to keep financial fraud of this degree from happening again?
4. Exactly how much money was taken and how long will it take for documents confirming this amount to be made public?
5. What legal action is currently being taken against the students/employees who embezzled money?
6. Why have the names of employees involved been kept anonymous?
7. How does Howard University plan on re-accumulating funds lost?
8. The Howard University Legacy scholarship was removed from aid options during the time administration knew of this scandal. Were lower-tier scholarships removed in order to reallocate funds lost?
9. How did the mishandling of funds affect the decision for Howard University to recently accept one of its largest freshman class sizes?
10. #HomelessAtHoward has been a reoccurring hashtag over the years as more and more students face a housing crisis stemming from there being far more students attending than beds in dormitories. What funds are being utilized to house and protect Howard students?
11. Students who have lost their scholarships are able to re-apply and state their reason for falling GPA scores that impact the scholarship’s renewal; however, students have reported deaths in the immediate family, and yet have not been re-awarded. How many students have their scholarships renewed each year and for what reasons?
12. How have tuition and fee payment plans evolved during the decade in which this scandal was taking place?
13. How has this fraud affected students getting funds dispersed to their accounts, including grants, scholarships and refund checks, on time?
14. The salaries of Howard University faculty have been released. As president, how does Wayne A. I. Frederick feel comfortable accepting over a million dollars a year when the Quad dormitory has had no hot water all semester, mold and cockroaches are rampant within all dorm buildings, sidewalks are falling apart, students are told their ‘tone and tenor is inappropriate’ for requesting advice on finding housing after each year’s new evolution of a housing crisis, campus WIFI is notorious for being sketchy, and Douglass Hall is on life-support?
15. What does the university do with large donations, like Diddy’s recent grant of $1 million?
16. Student financial aid office employee Tyrone granted himself $429,000 in awards over four years. What officials are responsible for overseeing scholarships, grants and other awards, and their dispersement to accounts?
17. Professors and students involved in work studies have been vocal about not receiving checks on time. What causes this delay?
18. What programs or awards have been affected by the $1 million lost due to embezzlement?
19. Many students have protested the university’s handling of this scandal; how will administration address these students and let their grievances be heard?
20. Will President Wayne A. I. Frederick be resigning and if not, how will he re-build trust between the Howard student to administration relationship?
21. As a private institution, does Howard University feel like it is above public scrutiny and communication?
Blavity has sent all of the questions above to a Howard University school official, who responded with already-released statements from the University regarding this matter and said that, "anything not covered in here, unfortunately, we will not be able to comment on."
An earlier statement from spokesperson Crystal Brown that was sent to Blavity read:
"Howard University takes seriously its responsibility to protect the privacy of our students and student records. Our institution is governed by, and strictly adheres to, the guidelines established under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Any employee responsible for violating FERPA would be severely disciplined, and very possibly terminated. There has been no authorized disclosure by the University of any information related to Mr. Hankerson, nonetheless we are concerned about this situation. We are taking a close look to see if we can determine the source of information published about him. In accordance with FERPA, we are not making any comments about the protected information of Mr. Hankerson or any other Howard University student."