SMWC won't have to repay $42 million in aid after audit findings reversed

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College challenged an audit saying the school wasn't in compliance with a law that would've required repaying $42 million in aid.

Posted: Oct 30, 2019 10:45 AM
Updated: Nov 1, 2019 8:21 AM

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College will not have to return $42 million in federal student aid, as determined by a recent resolution with the U.S. Department of Education, according to an announcement the school made Wednesday morning.

The school challenged an audit by the Office of the Inspector General of the DOE that found SMWC was not in compliance with a particular requirement and should not have received $42 million in student-aid funds from 2005 to 2010. At the time, the audit concluded SMWC was not eligible to take part in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 programs and funding because more than 50% of its students were enrolled in correspondence courses.

After a review through the college’s challenge of the audit in 2012, the college has been deemed in full compliance with applicable law.

“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.”

According to federal education information, “…A correspondence course is a home-study course provided by a school under which the school provides instructional materials, including examinations on the materials, to students who are not physically attending classes at the school.”

To be eligible for Title TV student-aid funds, the government says no more than half of a school’s regular students may be enrolled in correspondence programs, and no more than half of a school’s programs may be offered through correspondence study.
SMWC considered the courses in question telecommunications courses, which don’t have the same 50% requirements. However, the audit found the courses were correspondence courses.

In a release, SMWC said its online program began as the Women’s External Degree program in 1973, making it one of the earliest distance education programs in the nation. In 2005, the College expanded access to its undergraduate distance program to men.

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