FSCJ eliminating 12 financial aid positions

By Adrienne Moore, Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Seven weeks on the job and the new president of Florida State College at Jacksonville is making major changes.

FSCJ has been caught up in a financial aid scandal, with questionable spending by the former president.

Now 12 of 39 positions in financial aid will be eliminated, and a financial aid company will be brought to take over several functional areas in financial aid for the college. Large fines from the Department of Education are possible, and FSCJ President Cynthia Bioteau is hoping students won't be affected.

FSCJ said the 12 positions being eliminated are not necessarily because of anyone's roles in previous issues with financial aid problems at the school. The school is planning a more comprehensive review of staff to determine any contracts that may not be renewed next year. 

"Poor management, lack of training and decentralized decision making contributed to systemic problems with the department of financial aid," said Bioteau.

Two years ago, it became known that more than $4 million in student grants were handed out without proper background qualifications, and they were later recalled. That led to a whole shakedown at the school, from the former president to executive staff. Now the college is waiting to hear when and if the Department of Education will fine it.

"I'm hoping for the best, but it's been going on for so long. I'm not going to lie to you sir. I'll believe it when I see it," said FSCJ student Guy Culpepper.

Students are cautiously optimistic that the fallout over the financial scandal won't impact their pursuit of higher education or their pocketbook.

"I really hope that our financial aid will stay and be a process where it won't be an ordeal," said FSCJ student Kevin Hughes.

"We are currently scrubbing our budget, looking for any possible funds for repayment, making sure we do not impact the students' educational process," Bioteau said. "We do not know the repayment amount and if there will be any penalties accessed by the U.S. Department of Education, but I want to acknowledge that these could be substantial."

In her announcement Tuesday, she said the college is in touch with the DOE, working on the fines. If the schools has to, it will sell property to cover the cost, Bioteau said.

The college plans to outsource several functional areas in the financial aid department.

"This will be a comprehensive review," she said. "Jobs will be lost in the short term. I regret this deeply because we are dealing with human beings. We cannot allow this situation to go on any longer. Our college community deserves better."

Some students applauded these changes, saying anything is better than what's in place now.

"I'm very glad because hopefully the changes will make better changes and progress," student Jasmine Roberts said.

Bioteau said these are major changes but she sees no other course the college can take. She said the school is also looking at changes in how the vocational areas are also administered.

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