College appeals decision on loans Sojourner-Douglass wants aid restored

September 11, 1990|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

Administrators of Sojourner-Douglass College are appealing an order to terminate the school's student grant and loan programs by the U.S. Department of Education, a department spokesman said.

The appeal was filed last Friday, two days before the termination was to take place. The appeal also covers a $220,000 fine for improperly administering federal aid.

The appeal will be considered by a department administrative law judge, a department official said. No hearing date had been set.

The U.S. Department of Eduction ordered a halt of federal student aid and grant eligibility for Sojourner-Douglass Aug. 16 after President Charles W. Simmons failed to answer a department subpoena for 50 student transcripts.

The four-page termination notice also cited "serious deficiencies" the college's administration of federal student funds and outlined a list of alleged violations. Federal officials also accused the college of failing to submit reports detailing how it allocated and spent financial aid money over the past eight years.

Simmons did not return repeated phone calls about the appeal.

Sojourner-Douglass is a small private college in East Baltimore on 500 N. Caroline St. in the former Dunbar Elementary School. Simmons said in an interview last month that the college has graduated 400 students since it opened in 1972 as an affiliate of Antioch College. The school became independent of Antioch in 1979.

Termination of student financial aid and grant eligibility could have a severe impact on the college because more than 65 percent of its approximately 235 students depend on federal aid to attend Sojourner-Douglass, Simmons said. The programs that would be denied are: Pell Grants, College Work-Study, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Stafford Loans, Supplemental Loans for Students and PLUS.

The college has been plagued with high default rates on student loans -- the second highest in the state in 1989 -- since it opened.

Those high rates have sparked audits of the college, Simmons said, that in the past have resulted in federal orders to repay $659,752 to the government and private lenders. Auditors said the refunds were based on over-calculation of money that students were eligible for and a failure to return student aid money after students dropped out of college.

The fines have been reduced through numerous appeals by Simmons. The fines remain unpaid, said Molly Hockman, director of audit and program review at the Department of Education's office of student financial assistance.

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