State audit: $17 million in college scholarship awards unclaimed -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated at 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2013.

About $17 million in Maryland need-based college scholarships went unused last year after a “higher than anticipated level” of students rejected awards or were ineligible for them.

According to an audit by Maryland’s Office of Legislative Audits, $17.2 million in funding that was appropriated for scholarships was not spent. The unspent funds could have helped 7,800 students on the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s 31,000-applicant waiting list, the report said.

The office’s report on the commission was released to the public Wednesday. The commission did not use the accumulated scholarship funds from students who were offered scholarships but were later found to be ineligible, or turned down the award.

Commission spokesman Gregory P. FitzGerald said the funds went unused because the commission saw a “higher-than-anticipated level of cancellations” for the awards, but there is no definite cause behind the cancellations.

The Need-Based Student Financial Assistance Fund was created in 2011 to account for rejected or canceled awards in the state’s budget, the report stated. Unused funds from the previous year roll over to the next year.

The fund’s balance was $9.9 million in June 2011 and $17.2 million in June 2013.

The financial need-based awards include the Educational Excellence Awards, available for high school seniors and undergraduate students. Awardees must maintain satisfactory grades to renew their application for the awards. Grants for graduate students and professional school students also are available to students who demonstrate need and are studying certain subjects.

FitzGerald said $14 million of the fund’s $17.2 million balance will be appropriated to offer awards to more students on the waiting list. The commission plans to award about $81 million in need-based scholarships in fiscal year 2014, though $135 million already has been offered to students. In fiscal year 2012, the commission awarded $81.4 million in need-based grants and scholarships to students.

The commission will be “actively engaging the institutions, streamlining the process, and communicating earlier with students and parents to get more aid to students,” FitzGerald said.

Montgomery College spokesman Marcus Rosano said the school’s admissions team is reviewing the audit before it comments on the state’s findings.

scarignan@gazette.net