SMWC not required to pay back $42 million in student aid

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SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College was found eligible to participate in federal student aid programs in 2005 to 2010 and is not required to return $42-million in student aid as determined by a resolution reached with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).

The DOE last week reversed its initial finding on the compliance of SMWC with regard to distance education funding.

“This is an affirmation that we were always compliant,” President Dottie L. King, Ph.D. stated, “We continue to focus on the future by embodying a spirit of student-centered academic innovation, faith and leadership to transform ourselves and to benefit our communities.”

More than nine years ago, an audit by the Office of the Inspector General of the DOE found that SMWC was allegedly not in compliance. After a more thorough review of the initial findings by the DOE, including the records of regular and substantive interactions between students and academic staff during the years audited and the favorable findings of SMWC’s accrediting agency regarding its academic model, the College has been deemed in full compliance with applicable law.

SMWC challenged an audit issued in 2012 by the OIG in which it concluded that the College was not eligible to participate in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 programs and improperly received $42-million in Title IV student-aid funds from 2005 to 2010, because it claimed that 50 percent or more of its students were enrolled in correspondence courses.

While the College considered its online courses to be telecommunications courses during this period, the audit concluded they were correspondence courses.     


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