Addressing Irregularities in the Disbursement of Financial Aid Funds

A Message from Sandy Shugart, Valencia College President

I’m writing to share information with you that you may see in the local news in the coming days. In August 2016, some irregularities in Valencia’s financial aid transactions were discovered and, after an immediate internal review, those irregularities were reported to law enforcement authorities as suspected fraudulent activity. As a result, Christen Christensen, assistant vice president, financial aid and veteran affairs, resigned and, since then, the College has been working in full cooperation with the Orlando Police Department (OPD) in support of its investigation.

Our District Board of Trustees was informed early and, though their desire was to be very transparent and publicly report this matter sooner, OPD officials asked throughout its investigative process that details of the case not be made public, as publicizing the information could compromise the integrity of the investigation. OPD has now completed the initial investigation and has forwarded its report to the state attorney’s office, charging Mr. Christensen with several felonies.

In the coming weeks, you may see news coverage and various reports about this incident. I want you all to know that this case did not involve any federal financial aid and was limited to a small percentage of the College’s institutional financial aid funds. Of particular note, it was the good work of one of our own colleagues who caught the discrepancies and reported it.

Since the time of the discovery, Valencia has performed an internal audit on our processes and has worked to strengthen internal controls by contracting with an outside consultant to thoroughly review our system and implement additional measures to prevent this type of fraud in the future.

Please know that, as a college, we take great precaution to ensure students who need financial assistance receive aid, and we will not tolerate any illegal activities or abuse within our systems. To that end, I ask that each of you remain aware and diligently act to report any fraudulent activity, or even the appearance of fraudulent activity. For more information in this regard, please consult Valencia’s Policy Against Improper Activities; Whistleblower Protection (6Hx28: 1-10).

While we are deeply disappointed when a colleague violates our trust, we remain committed to serving our students and our community with the utmost integrity and focus on their learning and success. Thank you for your continued service at the College and commitment to our Valencia values.

2 Comments

  • Guest said:

    Wow…For years, key players within that department, they knew what was going on and ignored the fraud? I do not think anyone was forced. I applaud Valencia for removing the face of the problem, but who was the real mastermind? There is something called a disbursement report that is reviewed prior to all funds being released to the business office for any unusual amount. It is used for check and balance. Until the key players are remove, the integrity of that department will be questionable. The department needs federal program review.

    AMWed, 10 May 2017 10:58:33 +0000Wed, 10 May 2017 10:58:33 +0000am17,10:58 am

  • Cynthia Santiago said:

    Guest, thank you for your comment. Valencia College takes such allegations very seriously and is committed to the highest standards of moral and ethical behavior. Valencia has a strict policy, which communicates that improper activities are strictly prohibited, institutes preventative measures to deter these activities and provides for the reporting and investigation of such activities. You can find this policy, Policy Against Improper Activities: Whistleblower Protection, here: http://valenciacollege.edu/generalcounsel/policy/….

    If employees or students see a crime/disruptive behavior occurring at any Valencia campus or location, they are strongly encouraged to report it, and may report it anonymously. Visit http://valenciacollege.edu/security/reporting.cfm for details.

    Since the allegations, there have been organizational changes in this area, and all employees within the department are aware of the proper controls and procedures as we move forward. A thorough review has been conducted, and additional controls have been incorporated. For example, the disbursement report reviewed weekly has been modified to account for a better view of ongoing funding of aid in this area. This, among other changes, will ensure we have a stronger control environment in this local financial aid fund.

    Again, we want to emphasize that the fund affected in this case was not a federal program fund. The College’s federal programs are routinely and thoroughly audited annually by the auditors from the Auditor General’s office.

    If you would like more information, please contact me at csantiagoguzman@valenciacollege.edu.

    PMFri, 12 May 2017 15:55:08 +0000Fri, 12 May 2017 15:55:08 +0000pm17,3:55 pm

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