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College to pay $4 million for financial aid violations

MT. VERNON, Ga. (BP)–After months of intense negotiations, hopeful predictions and key leadership changes, Brewton-Parker College has reached an out-of-court settlement with federal officials over claims that the school misappropriated financial aid grants in recent years.
For Brewton-Parker, a Baptist affiliated college in Mt. Vernon, Ga., major terms and conditions of the agreement include:
— The college agrees to pay the federal government a total of $4 million with a cash payment of $2 million due within 30 days. The balance will be paid in eight quarterly payments of $250,000, plus interest at 5.232 percent. The school’s property will secure the debt.
— The college will develop and implement a corporate integrity program involving Title IV and other student aid programs and undergo semiannual compliance reviews through the end of 1999.
— The college will regain advance payment status for federal funds if the compliance reviews show no significant finding of non-compliance defined by a 5 percent error rate. The school’s financial affairs office must operate separately from the financial aid function, which will be managed by Financial Aid Services of Atlanta throughout the compliance review term.
— The Department of Education will release the college from all further liability in the pending civil case and dismiss the action upon full payment of the settlement and continued compliance. In event of default, DOE retains the right to seek further recoveries and penalties, including debarment from federally funded educational programs.
The crisis that brought attention to the school came to light last year when the federal government joined a lawsuit filed by Martha Faw, former assistant financial aid director.
The action claimed that funds were inappropriately distributed to unqualified students and that Faw’s requests for school officials to correct the problems were ignored. Faw also claimed she was improperly terminated as a result of her persistence.
Faw, who stands to receive payments from a wrongful termination settlement as well as the “whistle blower” role in the larger suit, plans to donate more than $200,000 to establish a scholarship fund according to statements in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In November, Y. Lynn Holmes, president of Brewton-Parker through 14 years of unprecedented expansion, announced his resignation, saying it was “in the best interest of the college for me to step aside at this time.”
Trustees immediately named W. Starr Miller, a longtime educator and former BPC president, as interim and pledged to resolve the financial aid crisis. Miller led in a reorganization of the administration and the reduction of the school’s budget.
David R. Smith, vice president for institutional advancement at Wayland Baptist University in Texas, was elected as the new president during an April trustee meeting. He will begin service June 1.
J. Robert White, Georgia Baptist Convention executive director and a member of the presidential search committee, praised Smith’s election as “no less than a great decision,” noting that the new president “understands the treasured witness of Baptist colleges and is devoted to aggressive, Christian leadership for Brewton-Parker into the 21st century.”
Smith, reached at the Plainview, Texas campus he will soon depart, expressed appreciation for those who have “worked tirelessly” toward the settlement. “Their efforts allow me to assume my responsibility with the cloud of uncertainty lifted.”
He asked Georgia Baptists to join him in “making Brewton-Parker a better place and to remember the college’s leadership as you pray.”

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  • John D. Pierce