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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 9, 201312:00 PM EST

FSCJ to repay $5 million in student aid fees

by: Joe Wilhelm Jr.

The Florida State College at Jacksonville board of trustees Tuesday addressed the repayment of more than $5 million in improperly dispensed student aid funds, reviewed its lab fee structure and approved the contract for an interim president in its first meeting of the year.

FSCJ Acting President and Provost Judith Bilsky informed the board Tuesday the college has 45 days to repay $5,030,725 to the U.S. Department of Education for improper use of the Pell Grant program. The college had budgeted $4.7 million to address the issue, but Steve Bowers, vice president of administrative services, assured the board that staff would be able to “find” the additional $300,000 within the fiscal 2013 budget.

“You can just absorb $300,000?” asked Randy Shoemaker-Crump, board trustee.

Bowers said that with a $150 million budget, he was sure the $300,000 could be found.

He also said staff is looking for ways to recover about $261,000 in annual costs through an update of student lab fees. According to Bilsky, the board’s policy requires that the school review student lab fees every three years, but a review hasn’t been conducted since 2005.

“Student lab fees allow for the recovery of sponsor and professional resources,” said Bilsky.

Bowers explained that the college was trying to average the cost increase over the next three years and not allow the updates to be delayed too long to avoid large increases.

Bowers said the increase equated to a 10 percent increase of fees over the seven-year period that has elapsed without an evaluation.

“That’s on top of the tuition increase we approved (in 2012)?” asked Karen Bowling, trustee.

Bowers replied it was.

The board approved the update of about 200 fees Tuesday by a 6-2 vote with trustees Bowling and Tom Bryan in opposition.

Bowers informed the board that about 300 more fees were under review and would be continually presented over the next six months.

The board also approved the contract of interim President Willis Holcombe, who receive a $270,000 annual salary. It also voted to conduct a performance evaluation annual in June.

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