Regents review financial aid fixes at CSN

The College of Southern Nevada continues to tackle its financial aid challenges.

But some believe the issues at the college go beyond the financial aid arena.

On Nov. 22, college officials received preliminary results of a report that’s being prepared by Evans Consulting Group, a financial aid firm that was hired by the college in mid-October to take a look at its financial aid department.

Those preliminary results show the need for personnel changes, personnel assessment, work flow analysis, monitoring, improved communication, as well as the need to address technological constraints and limitations.

“We are moving to the long-term fixes for this with the various actions that we are taking,” CSN President Michael Richards said.

The college’s financial aid issue came up during the state’s Board of Regents’ meeting Thursday. The Regents discussed the financial aid audit findings for all institutions for fiscal year 2012-13. The audit was conducted in August by an outside firm, Grant Thornton, LLC. The findings had been reviewed by the Regents Audit committee, which asked the board to ratify and adopt the findings, conclusions and actions.

The independent auditor reported 18 separate federal awards findings and questioned costs for CSN, Truckee Meadows Community College, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute.

The most severe findings were reported at CSN. However, Richards said most of the findings are the ones the college had already identified via Pro-Education Solutions, the firm that conducted a review for each of the last two years the college overpaid and underpaid thousands of students. The college is going to have to pay the U.S. Department of Education the $1.7 million it overpaid to students in those two years.

Richards told the board the college began to take action in August to address this issue. College officials have corrected several policy issues and made staff changes.

More staff placements can take place after the college receives the full report from Evans Consulting Group in the next couple of weeks, Richards said.

“But we are moving ahead with some personnel changes, systematic training… and monitoring,” he said. Officials are also putting in place a communications plan focused on customer service.

Officials plan to hold town hall meetings in the spring semester, he said.

On Monday, the college also heard back from the U.S. Department of Education and federal officials are asking for more verification, Richards said.

Renee Yackira, vice chancellor for administration and operations at the Nevada System of Higher Education, said officials continue to look into the matter and are trying to verify information with other sources.

Regent Rick Trachok asked Richards if there are problems within his administration.

Richards responded by saying no and adding that personnel changes have already occurred.

“I would’ve anticipated your answer to be ‘Yes’,” Regent Allison Stephens said. “What we are addressing here is accountability. Clearly there was some problem with leadership at some point. I would like to see some accountability.”

At least one student has reached out to Stephens concerning CSN.

Regent Cedric Crear said he has received a number of requests to meet with people to discuss issues at CSN that are unrelated to each other.

“I’ve met with four people regarding issues, financial aid was one of them,” he said. “There’s more issues going on and I think it’s important to address them.”

Contact reporter Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.

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