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MCU awaits news about student aid

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

  Leaders at Mid-Continent University remain optimistic amid some positive financial news, but the school continues to wait on notification from the U.S. Department of Education regarding its financial status.

The college had not heard as of Thursday from the Department of Education about a fourth round of student financial aid and grant paperwork, according to acting president Ken Winters. He said the school hopes to learn the status by next week, and the department is working to verify the academic records of about 200 students. 

"They are checking and cross-checking to make sure our data is perfect, but we continue to be optimistic that it will be approved," Winters said.

The school sent the documents to the regional office in Kansas City, Mo., on Feb. 24 and then sent additional paperwork on March 1. If approved, about $500,000 in funding would be made available.

The school would then send the larger sampling of about 1,800 students to free up the rest of some $9 million in federal money. The school's finance department is currently working on the second submission and will turn it over to the Department of Education following a decision regarding the first group, he said.

Mid-Continent did receive a compressed lump sump payment of $1.6 million, in lieu of the $150,000 regular monthly installments, from the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA), a public corporation and governmental agency established to improve access to higher education. The grant goes toward student tuition assistance, according to board chairman Tom Butler.

He said the school has used those funds to meet immediate expenses. Butler said officials aren't concerned about using the large sum to meet present needs because they are confident that the Department of Education paperwork will be approved.

Winters also continues to conduct a program review of the school's budget and expenditures, which could include reductions in staff through layoffs or salary reductions. Butler emphasized that after the school gets over the current financial struggles, officials will work to restore all cutbacks. The board gave Winters broad authority to act on behalf of the school's best interests.

"We have to take the steps that are necessary but are trying to minimize the impact of the cuts on personnel," Butler said.

Former president Robert Imhoff and wife Jackie Imhoff, former vice president for adult programs, have stepped aside from their positions but are still receiving salaries from the college. Robert Imhoff, who left officially on Feb. 24, would remain under contract through 2015. Jackie Imhoff's yearly contract comes up for renewal in June. 

Debra Hudson, who had served as the Mid-Continent vice president of academic affairs for several years, has been named to Jackie Imhoff's position as vice president of nontraditional program operations. She will also remain as the vice president in the academic affairs office, along with David Williams, who will serve as acting associate vice president of academic affairs.

The next regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting is May 17. Butler said the board will most likely meet in April or as soon as more information is obtained from the Department of Education.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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