State: Touro erred in student aid awards

Touro College Touro College

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Touro College owed the state more than $313,000 for incorrectly certifying students for the tuition assistance program known as TAP, state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli's office announced Friday.

State auditors disallowed five TAP awards in a review of a statistical sample of 200 randomly selected awards because the students either lacked evidence of a U.S. high school diploma or equivalent, or exhausted the number of times they were allowed to receive the assistance.

Touro repaid the money to the Higher Education Services Corp., the state agency that runs TAP, said Melvin Ness, vice president and chief financial officer for Touro College.

"We go out of our way to stay in full compliance as best we can," Ness said. The disallowances were "within an acceptable margin of error," he added.

Two cases involved students from foreign high schools, another two involved students from private, religious domestic high schools. A fifth student applied for a seventh TAP award, when he/she was only eligible for six, according to the audit.

A statistical projection to the entire population resulted in a total disallowance of $292,302. The state also disallowed 10 awards totaling $21,363 based on a review of other awards from outside the statistical sample.

The audit was conducted over a three-year period that ended June 30, 2006. During that time, the university received $54 million in TAP awards.

Annually, the state pays Touro College about $18 million in TAP awards, Ness said.

Touro, based in Manhattan, has a total enrollment of 19,000 students with campuses in Bay Shore and Central Islip.

New York State spends about $900 million annually on TAP, which is among the largest state-sponsored entitlement student-aid programs in the nation, second to California.

TAP awards are grants that students do not have to pay back. To qualify, students must have graduated from a U.S. high school, earned a GED or passed a federally approved test as defined by the commissioner of the state Education Department.

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