VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Wednesday morning officials at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College announced the private college is finally being recognized as Title IV compliant, Title IV being responsible for federal student aid.
Due to this recognition, the college does not have to repay the federal government $42 million in student aid.
In 2009 a routine audit lead to classification complications for the college’s online program.
The Office of the Inspector General found that SMWC was allegedly not complaint with the Title IV funding for distance education or online courses.
According to President Dottie King, the OIG did not accept the online program’s classification, which became an issue with the Higher Education Act.
“There’s a provision that if you deliver correspondence courses to more than fifty percent of your students by head count,” explained King. “Then you are not eligible to participate in the Title IV program.”
The college classified it’s online program as telecommunications, which is Title IV eligible.
“The Higher Learning Commission is our crediting body, we had to prove to them that we’re telecommunications,” said King. “And we have.”
As a result of the miss-classification, in 2012 the IOG required SMWC to pay back $42 million dollars in student aid from 2005 to 2010.
SMWC challenged the audit, and after meeting with the Department of Education, it was determined the college had to repay only $7.7 million.
“We continued to work on it and we always knew that we were fully eligible to participate in the Title IV program,” explained King. “And we believed that we would prevail and so we continued to make our argument.”
After working with attorneys for nine years, spending $800,000 in legal fees and making countless trips to Washington D.C., the DOE reversed it’s initial findings.
On Oct. 23, an official Order of Dismissal was received from the DOE, meaning the college was Title IV compliant, properly classified and did not have to repay the $42 million.
“It’s a total vindication of the school and that feels good. And it’s just one less thing to worry about,” said King. “Because I have some positive things to do.”