Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Federal audit of CFCC: what it means, CFCC’s response and what’s next

A review of Cape Fear Community College's student aid program revealed several issues. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY CFCC)
A review of Cape Fear Community College’s student aid program revealed several issues. (Port City Daily photo/COURTESY CFCC)

WILMINGTON – Last week, Cape Fear Community College received notice from the Department of Education.

The audit, officially known as a “program review,” was performed by the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office of the Department of Education (DOE) in February. Program reviews are part of the FSA’s routine oversight operations; the reviews are performed randomly, using samples of aid forms from colleges and universities.

This review was the FSA’s first time looking at CFCC’s student aid program, according to Rachael Nadeau, spokeswoman for the college. The preliminary program review examined the funding paperwork for 30 students and found issues with more than half.

Students agree to the terms of student aid, but colleges are also on the hook to repay unused federal funding.
Students agree to the terms of student aid, but colleges are also on the hook to repay unused federal funding.

CFCC did not make the audit immediately available, citing an ongoing relocation of college offices.

The primary concern cited in the audit, according to Nadeau, was the college’s ability to track students who were “unofficially” withdrawing. These are students who earn non-passing grades because they have stopped going to classes, as opposed to failing assignments.

Such students often owe refunds of student aid money they have received. Refunds are paid to the college, but the college must in turn refund the money to the FSA – for that reason the federal government requires colleges to maintain records of students that unofficially withdraw.

According to Nadeau, CFCC has 60 days to respond to the FSA review. CFCC is gathering information about its student receiving aid (including data on enrollment, selective service and student counseling mandated for struggling students receiving aid).

“We are currently gathering data and preparing a response to the Preliminary Program Review Report, and it is a very complex process as you can imagine,” said Nadeau.

It is not clear if potential oversights by CFCC will lead to the college owing refunds to DOE.

Nadeau stated that “[CFCC] is hesitant to speculate on any amounts, that may potentially be owed, prior to receiving the Final Program Review Report from the DOE.”

The FSA’s final evaluation of CFCC’s student aid program is due at the end of June. Nadeau said there would be more information about potential actions or changes at that point.

Related Articles