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Editorial: W.Va. is well-schooled in inefficiency

The Dominion Post of Morgantown:

“There can be economy only where there
is efficiency.”

That remark by a 19th century British statesman goes to the heart of many problems.

Despite some in the private sector’s penchant for wastefulness and disorganization, many claim government has a monopoly on inefficiency.

Though it’s uncertain who’s got the edge, there’s no debate about how significant the efficiency of government bears on competitiveness and growth.

Take West Virginia, for example— though you might not want to after you read this account.

State officials’ errors in audits for federal Title IV funds have resulted in late filings for three straight years. Title IV funds include Pell Grants and federally-subsidized loans, which most students rely on.

Might sound par for the course, but make no mistake: The U.S. Department of Education is smart enough to recognize financial irresponsibility. And it’s also, like most teachers, tough enough to level consequences for such irresponsibility.

This week, the state’s chief financial officer of the state’s Department of Administration received notice of a list of sanctions involving
Title IV funds.

Before, the federal department gave schools money and they disbursed it directly to students. Now, schools will need to generate that money themselves and seek reimbursement from the Department of Education later.

As you might imagine, that is going to impose one heck of a hardship on our state’s public four-year and community colleges, if not altogether undermine higher education here.

Though many state schools can boast of low tuition, financial stability is generally not their strong point. Not to mention, most students who qualify for Title IV funds and their parents are not exactly financially comfortable, either.

Of course, Gov. Jim Justice reacted with knee-jerk statements and declared, “When I find out who is responsible, heads will roll.”

That might appease some, but it does little to resolve the struggles colleges and students may soon face. These audits were not hours late or even days late, which would not mitigate these sanctions. They were due March 31 and were not received by the federal department until May 22 .

A temporary solution needs to be developed ASAP so this inefficiency does not cost students.

In the interim, the state needs to rewrite the book on how to ensure these financial reports are processed in a timely manner.

Otherwise, there may be no education.

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