Exclusive: Niagara County Community College to undergo federal education review next week

College officials say program review is routine
Posted at 4:35 PM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-19 19:31:03-05

7 Eyewitness News has learned exclusively that auditors from the federal government will travel to Niagara County Community College next week for a three-day investigation of college procedures.

NCCC confirmed Thursday that the U.S. Department of Education will perform a Federal Program Review, which could lead to fines or other penalties if it uncovers problems.

“The Department of Education opens reviews and audits of colleges across the country that receive federal aid routinely, and they also parachute into a college when they have reason to suspect that federal money man be being mishandled,” said Michael Stratford, a reporter for POLITICO who covers education.

Federal officials will be in Sanborn next Tuesday through Thursday and sources say they may also be looking at the college's Culinary Institute in downtown Niagara Falls.

College officials declined to speak on camera but by phone they did not seem worried about the new federal scrutiny.

“It's really kind of a standard thing that they do to all colleges,” said NCCC spokeswoman Barbara DeSimone. “It's nothing out of the ordinary.”

Sometimes, that is the case.

But this morning a spokesman for the federal education department told 7 Eyewitness News that regulators also open reviews after getting tipped off to problems.

Stratford said it could range “from something as benign as not turning in paperwork to the government on time to something more serious, like someone in the financial aid office is mishandling or embezzling money, and everything in between.”

Reviews like this also cover federal Clery Act reporting, which deals with crimes on campus, including those of a sexual nature.

NCCC was criticized this summer after it failed to alert students in July about a reported rape on campus.

The man suspected of committing the rape was charged with attempting another assault on campus just two weeks later. 

At this point, there are no allegations of any wrongdoing on the part of NCCC, and school officials are projecting a "business as usual" attitude ahead of this review.

But our sources say there is some last-minute scrambling going on to make sure everything is in order.

Are you a current student at NCCC, or do you have more information that you think we should know about? Contact Investigative Reporter Charlie Specht at Charlie.Specht@wkbw.com.