EDITORIAL: CSN’s financial fallout

The College of Southern Nevada’s financial aid problems are so deep, the school is incapable of fixing them on its own. Higher education officials need to start asking how, exactly, the mess got this bad in the first place.

Last month, the school disclosed it had overpaid and underpaid hundreds of students’ federal financial aid over the past two years. The Review-Journal’s Yesenia Amaro reported Friday that the college must repay the U.S. Department of Education nearly $800,000 for overpayments to students during the 2011-12 school year. The bill for last year is still being calculated.

Santos Martinez, the college’s financial aid chief, called it quits a few weeks ago. Last week, one of the administrators tasked with making the department functional resigned as well. Brad Honious, associate vice president for financial aid, said he quit because the college doesn’t have the staff or technology to turn things around. In an email to the Review-Journal, he also said Patty Charlton, senior vice president for finance and administration, created a hostile work environment and was too demanding, even asking staff “to stay late, work weekends” and “eat their lunch at their desk.”

It’s hard to know who’s sicker after reading those comments, the tens of thousands of Southern Nevadans who are unemployed or underemployed and desperately want full-time work with benefits, or the hundreds of thousands of private-sector workers who’ve been doing more with less for years.

In his email, Mr. Honious said there are “only 29 staff members in an office which should have 42 to 48. … The technology is inadequate and there is no training.” So adding 20 more untrained workers would fix the problem? Perhaps, instead, there’s been a massive failure of leadership.

College spokeswoman K.C. Brekken said CSN is contracting with a firm that has expertise in financial aid to help with the cleanup. Cha-ching. We can’t wait to see the total bill for this mess.

At this point, Nevada System of Higher Education officials and elected regents can’t trust CSN to right the ship. The college is in need of supervision — and accountability.

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