Second College of Southern Nevada official resigns amid financial aid woes

One of two top administrators assigned to clean up financial aid troubles at the College of Southern Nevada has resigned, saying the college isn’t providing resources to do the job.

Brad Honious, associate vice president for financial aid, told the Review-Journal in an email that his resignation was effective Wednesday.

He is the second administrator to resign in less than a month as the school grapples with problems related to under- and over-payment of federal financial aid to hundreds of students in the past two years. The college blames the mistakes on human error.

Honious, who joined the CSN administration last spring, had no involvement with the financial aid mistakes but was given the job of repairing the damage — without adequate resources to accomplish the task, he said.

“The college needs to take responsibility for the financial aid mess,” he said. “There are only 29 staff members in an office which should have 43 to 48…. The technology is inadequate and there is no training. Quite frankly, CSN doesn’t have the administrative capability to properly manage a financial aid program.”

K.C. Brekken, spokeswoman at CSN, confirmed Honious’ resignation. Dan Morris, executive director of business services, is directly overseeing financial aid at this time.

Honious’ departure follows the resignation of Santos Martinez late last month. Martinez, who oversaw financial aid, quit a day before the college made its financial aid problems public. CSN has not detailed Martinez’s resignation, except to say that it was not connected to the financial aid problems.

Because of the errors, the college must pay back the U.S. Department of Education $792,399 for over-payments during the 2011-12 school year, according to records obtained by the Review-Journal.

Honious also said an organizational change that would have him working with Patty Charlton, senior vice president for finance and administration, was an issue. Morris also reports to Charlton.

“Once they moved financial aid under (Charlton) I knew my days were numbered,” Honious said. “I just couldn’t work for her as she created a hostile work environment for me. She would talk down to me and demand I have staff stay late, work weekends, and she even told me they needed to eat their lunch at their desk.”

Charlton wasn’t available to comment Thursday, but in a statement, Brekken said addressing the financial aid problems is a top priority.

“Employees in the financial aid department and elsewhere at CSN have been asked to go above and beyond until the final verification of award files is complete and the problems that led to these errors (are) addressed,” she said. “(Charlton) and staff from business operations, finance, financial aid and other areas of the college have been working many extra hours.”

Requests for these additional efforts have complied with state and Nevada System of Higher Education regulations, she added.

Honious, who started work at CSN on March 1, said he was not made aware of any major issues before taking the job. Three days later, the bombshell was dropped on him.

“I could have fixed things, but they wore me down,” he said. “I was in the hospital for three days for stress and fatigue and when I returned to work they didn’t back off a bit.”

He said that both he and Martinez did their best, but were not given adequate resources or support.

“All resources requested have been provided to the financial aid department, including additional software and staff,” Brekken said.

She said everyone can agree that there has been a history of inadequate staffing in this area and other areas of the college because of attrition, hiring freezes and limited resources.

College officials said they became aware of the problems after an independent review requested by the Department of Education. Recurring errors, such as filing outdated federal financial aid applications, likely prompted the deeper review.

A review of the 2012-13 school year hasn’t been completed and the amount the college will have to pay for that year remains unknown. Students who were shorted in financial aid will be paid by the college, which will then be reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Education.

CSN has an enrollment of more than 38,000 students on three campuses in the Las Vegas Valley and in online courses. It disbursed $71 million in federal financial aid in 2012-13.

Late last month, college officials said financial aid disbursements this fall semester were not going to be affected by the financial aid woes. However, Jazmin Garcia, a second-year student at CSN on Thursday morning, said she did not receive her disbursement, which was dated for Wednesday.

The financial aid office needs to “shape up,” she said.

“It’s very annoying,” the 20-year-old said.

Brekken said students’ financial aid is being disbursed as planned, but additional quality assurance methods are in place to protect accuracy of awards.

“There are some students who have been selected for verification by the U.S. Department of Education who may have their disbursements delayed,” she said. “As our processor, ProEducation Solutions, completes these verifications, CSN then processes those funds.”

The college is in the process of contracting with a firm with expertise in financial aid to assist college officials with its processes, policies, operations, structure and training in this area, Brekken said.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (702) 383-0440, or yamaro@reviewjournal.com.