Six people were fired from Howard University for misappropriating financial aid grant monies in September of 2017.
On Wednesday March 28, following the release of a now-deleted blog post outlining the theft, Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick released a statement confirming that as a result of an investigation he launched, it was discovered that from 2007 to 2016, $1 million in financial aid university grants “were given to some University employees who also received tuition remission. The audit revealed that the combination of University grants and tuition remission exceeded the total cost of attendance. As a result, some individuals received inappropriate refunds.”
Read Frederick’s full statement.
In other words, half a dozen financial aid staff members took $1 million in grant monies they weren’t entitled to. Frederick stressed the money stolen was university-based grant and scholarship monies, not funds from the federal government, like Pell or federally-backed loan monies. Frederick had brought in two separate independent auditors to conduct the investigation and he’s reported all the findings to the US Dept. of Education. And added that while the six were fired, criminal prosecutions may come.
One of those employees was Tyrone Hankerson Jr. His social media appears to have been scrubbed but there are some images left you’ll soon see. Hankerson was living like a tycoon and flaunting his upscale monied-lifestyle on his Instagram and Snapchat, posts of his luxe life.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Howard University President Investigated His Financial Aid Office & Six People Were Fired for ‘Misappropriating’ $1 Million For Deserving & Needy Students
In February of 2015, Howard University president Frederick “initiated a proactive review of the Howard University Office of Financial Aid.” In December 2016 he was told “ there may have been some misappropriation of University-provided financial aid funds.” He alerted the Howard University Board of Trustees and outside auditors were brought in and an investigation was launched. In May of 2017 he learned the results: over a 9 year period $1 million in funds had been misappropriated. In September of 2017, the six were fired.
And while Frederick did issue a statement today about the firings, it only came after a now-deleted anonymous Medium blog post, that was smartly spirited by Hip-Hop Wired on to its website. But Heavy was able to locate screenshots of the blog.
The blog described the scandal: bogus grants were “created and awarded to financial aid employees who were also registered for University courses. In some cases, these employees qualified for tuition remission and therefore weren’t charged tuition for their classes. Despite this, they still received large grants and scholarships that exceeded amounts generally awarded to normal students. These grants almost always exceeded legally allowed amounts.”
The writer of the blog post alleged that in 2013-2014, Associate Director of Financial Aid Brian Johnson had his tuition paid and received need-based grants of more than $100,000 over a two year period.
Financial aid grants are earmarked for low-income students desperate for an education but cannot pay for it. There’s no mystery about that. Generally speaking, and this is not limited to Howard, many colleges and or universities provide need-based grants which are generally not huge: $1000 to maybe $5000 a semester if not a year on average. And $5000 is the high end. So when a student, or in this case a student who is also a full time administrator, receives university need-based grant money that’s supposed to go to students in financial need, in other words not federal grants or subsidized loans, in amounts like Johnson allegedly received – $35,000 in one year and $68,00 the next, plus tuition remission (free college classes) that should have been a giant red flag. Howard University’s financial aid eligibility guidelines show a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required for university grants.
The Medium blogger said people knew: “A current financial aid employee described the amount awarded to the former Associate Director as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘illegal.’ Total aid received by the Associate Director neared $200,000.”
And, a precursor that some called hyperbole and without context at the time, University trustee Renee Higginbottom-Brooks penned a 2013 letter cautioning the University should reorganize its management structure and tidy things up or, “Howard will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now.” The letter was leaked to the Chronicle of Higher Education who posted it describing the message as “ominous.”
Higginbottom-Brooks’ letter was referenced today in a number of social posts.
Johnson was not the only one who got paid. Of the six fired for last year for “gross misconduct and neglect of duties” was Howard University School of Law student and financial aid office employee Tyrone Hankerson.
2. Tyrone Hankerson Has Been Accused of Receiving $429,000 in Grants He Was Not Entitled To
A student and employee, between 2014 and 2017, Tyrone Hankerson was “repeatedly awarded a $65,000 ‘University Need Based Grant,’” the Medium blogger wrote.
“In 2014, Hankerson was awarded another $22,683 scholarship, labeled as a Mock Trial Scholarship. Sources who have been involved with the mock trial, including past leadership, say the team has never awarded a scholarship of that amount and wouldn’t even have had the budget to accommodate a scholarship of that amount.”
Reports estimate that in total Hankerson stole almost $430,000. He reportedly had a diminutive entourage that included a videographer.
Tyrone was among those fired from their posts in the Howard University financial aid office and while some have posted that he is no longer in school – “months away from graduation and the scam went south” – in an attorney statement, Tyrone claims he’s still attending.
What is clear is that Hankerson boldly flaunted his luxe hauls on social.
3. Tyrone Boasted on Social About His Opulence. Now His Accounts Appear Shuttered, But A Digital Footprint is Forever
“Another semester down, another bag secured,” he posted. #MovingRightAlong with money bags emoji.
Tyrone’s media accounts have disappeared, even his LinkedIn, but that doesn’t mean his images are not available. A prolific poster, Tyrone was said to flaunt his riches posing with expensive cars, pricey furs, designer bags, shoes and clothing.
Smoothly tailored and carefully groomed, he makes an impression. But the impression now is he abused his position in the financial aid office or was helped by someone there to do just that.
4. Tyrone Claps Back to Defend Himself Through His Lawyer
5. But People Were Not Having It, Especially in Light of a 2015 Article in Which He’s Featured Discussing the Plight of Needy Students
In an article posted to BillMoyers.com, Tyrone was quoted at length about the difficulty students face paying for college. He had words of wisdom given his experience working in a financial aid office. The cost to attend Howard full time, on campus for a year runs about $43,000.
At the time of this article, April of 2015, Tyrone was a graduating senior:
“Tyrone Hankerson …is in a particularly good position to see the impact of today’s student loan debt crisis firsthand – even though he has managed to head into graduation without student debt overhanging him personally. That is because Hankerson has a work-study position in Howard’s Office of Financial Aid. There, he deals directly with students trying to pay for their college education, and prepare for the debt that they are taking on. What he hears is heartbreaking,” the article reads. Tyrone said, “For many of my classmates, their families simply do not have the financial resources to pay for college…What I have witnessed in my role are determined students who try their hardest to find a way through.”
In the article, Tyrone told the reporter, “They sometimes work nearly 40 hours a week with full course loads; their parents take on loan debt that they cannot truly afford to repay; they sometimes get denied for parents-plus loans and find aunts, and cousins and grandparents to co-sign. They search high and low for scholarships, they take classes over the summer at cheaper rates so they can graduate on time, they take semesters off, and they come back, and sometimes, when all has failed them, they are left with no option but to give up.”
For some, this story stung.
Meanwhile, Frederick shared his frustration and dismay.
“While this has been a very difficult and disappointing situation, I know our campus community deserves better and I am committed to ensuring that each of our campus offices operate with integrity and are the best that higher education has to offer,” Frederick said of the century and a half-old university.
Some question the leadership.
Howard University has a long and proud tradition with alumni including Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, legendary writers Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, Rep. Elijah Cummings, actor Ossie Davis, renowned mathematician Kelly Miller, poet Paul Laurence Douglas, singer and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, Sen. Kamala Harris and the list literally goes on and on. Howard, a “high research activity institution” has 10,000 students in its 13 colleges. Howard University has produced four Rhodes Scholars, nine Truman Scholars, two Marshall Scholars, one Schwarzman Scholar, over 60 Fulbright Scholars and 22 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States.