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BCC Audit: four students were over-awarded Pell grants
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There was one black mark on an otherwise spotless audit report to Barton Community College’s Board of Trustees this week. However, college officials were mostly pleased with the audit and said steps have been taken to correct the checks and balances on student financial aid that temporarily allowed four students to be over-awarded over $2,000 in Pell grants. The money has been paid back, Vice President of Administration Mark Dean added.

Trustees approved the Fiscal Year 2019 audit on Tuesday, after a presentation from Certified Public Accountant Vickie Dreiling from the firm Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball. As usual, the college received an “unqualified audit” for the financial portion of its audit.

“We are giving the highest form of opinion that we can give on a set of financial statements,” Dreiling explained.

“The primary goal of an audit is to express an independent opinion on two aspects of the financial statements of the college: the financial statements are fairly presented, and they are in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles,” the audit report states.

However, the audit had a “reportable finding” in one area of student financial aid. Four students received more in federal Pell grants than they were entitled to.

Each time a student adds or drops a class after receiving a Pell award, the college staff should recalculate the awards. For the audit, a total of 40 Pell awards were examined and, from those 40, one student was over-awarded $761. After it was discovered, college staff found three additional students were over-awarded grants over the same period. Those three over-awards totaled $1,523.

“Four students were over-awarded a total of $2,284 in Pell due to them dropping one or more classes and not being reevaluated for a reduction in award per the college’s policy,” the audit report states. The college has developed internal controls that will assist in monitoring when Pell recipients add and drop courses so the award amount can be recalculated and adjusted if necessary.

Vice President of Administration Mark Dean noted, “every time students add or drop a class, you have to recalculate their Pell.” It becomes cumbersome because some students make multiple changes. “We had a student that added and dropped 30 classes in a day.”

Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said it is rare that the auditors are required to report a significant deficiency in internal control and compliance in the BCC audit. “I think it’s the first finding in about 15-16 years,” he said. “Financial aid has put together a correction plan. It’s the reason we have an audit.”

Dreiling added that the finding amounted to about $2,000 out of $8 million in financial aid awarded.

Since the over-awards were paid back and a corrective plan was submitted, BCC Board Chairman Mike Johnson said the error would have “no ramifications from the feds.”