Pima College prohibited for 60 days from enrolling military vets

2014-03-22T00:00:00Z Pima College prohibited for 60 days from enrolling military vetsBy Carol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Pima Community College has been banned from enrolling military veterans for at least 60 days while it tries to correct widespread record-keeping problems that led to the sanction.

Meanwhile, indications surfaced Friday that veterans may not be the only ones affected by the college’s failure to properly track the status of its students.

The Arizona Department of Veterans Services took the rare step this week of imposing the ban on new military enrollments after PCC neglected for two years straight to follow federal rules for aid payments to student veterans.

Schools are required, for example, to promptly notify the Department of Veterans Affairs when a student veteran quits, flunks out or takes courses that aren’t part of an approved program of study.

PCC’s failure to properly track such cases caused the VA to wrongly dispense tens of thousands of aid dollars last year to veterans who didn’t qualify.

About 1,500 veterans attend the college each semester.

The VA recently asked the state veterans agency to intervene after PCC promised last year to fix the problems but didn’t follow through.

Current student veterans aren’t affected by the ban.

PCC now has 30 days to provide the state veterans department with a corrective action plan. The state also will make spot checks to see if fixes are occurring by the end of 60 days.

The ban technically expires in mid-May, but PCC can’t resume military enrollments until sometime after June or July when state officials are due to make a final inspection.

If fixes aren’t made, the school could face a further ban of at least a year.

PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert vows it won’t come to that.

The college already has added personnel to the area responsible for record-keeping, and other changes are in the works, he said in a news release Friday.

“We will move quickly to rectify the deficiencies and take steps to ensure they are not repeated,” he said.

15 mistakes in 40 files

Also on Friday, a different state agency found similar record-keeping problems for nonveteran PCC students who receive Pell Grants, Perkins loans and other federal student aid.

Arizona’s auditor general recently tested 40 files for such students and found 15 mistakes.

Most were cases in which PCC failed to notify the federal student loan system within 30 to 60 days when a student’s status changed.

“As a result, lenders may have provided students with larger loans than they were qualified to receive, and loan repayment terms and conditions may have been affected,” the state audit report said.

The state auditor recommended fixes to ensure proper reporting to the student loan system.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@azstarnet.com or 573-4138.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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