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Watchdog: Follow the Money

Arizona community college may freeze veteran enrollment

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Education,Associated Press,Watchdog,Veterans Affairs,Arizona,Accountability,Follow the Money,Higher Education

TUCSON, Ariz. — Pima Community College may have to halt enrollment for military veterans due to problems with its record-keeping systems.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs requested last week an examination of whether the college should continue serving veteran students, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

The most recent audit shows PCC still is not complying with laws involving the use of tax dollars for veterans' education benefits, according to the VA. Forty errors were found in 45 files. The college's mistakes included failing to notify the VA if a student's status changed and not documenting if a veteran's previous education could affect continued eligibility.

PCC officials are accepting responsibility.

"The college dropped the ball. It's not acceptable," PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert said Friday, a few hours after the school opened its new Downtown Campus support center for veterans.

The school assured officials it would correct the problem when 29 violations of rules were found last year in 50 student-veteran files. The violations include not stopping the issuing of federal money when a veteran drops out, fails or takes classes that aren't approved as part of the study plan.

The Arizona Department of Veterans Services has been dispatched to send an inspector to the school. The department serves as the approving agency for state schools.

According to the college, 1,500 veterans attend classes there every semester through VA programs. These programs are monitored under strict regulations to ensure the funds are being used for their intended purpose.

Arizona Department of Veterans Services spokesman Dave Hampton said the inspector could end up recommending a 60-day freeze on all new veteran enrollments. The school could also be banned for at least a year from accepting veterans.

Either move would come at a time when the school is trying to boost enrollment. According to campus data, full-time enrollment dropped by 10 percent collegewide and as high as 14 percent at some campuses during the spring semester. PCC officials recently set up a task force to figure out potential markets to recruit to.

University of Arizona officials have been following PCC enrollment because most transfer students come from there.

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