HOUSTON — The state Veterans Commission last week suspended Houston Community College’s eligibility to certify new veteran students enrolling in the college system for the spring semester.
The suspension, which is “for a period of not more than 60 days,” comes in the wake of poor marks during an annual audit conducted by the Texas Veterans Commission, according to a memo from HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado obtained by The Texas Monitor.
“Several discrepancies were noted that included failure to promptly certify students and to report to the VA within 30 days when a student terminates, withdraws from, or changes hours,” the memo reads.
Normally, HCC offers a series of programs designed to help veterans, ranging from testing assistance, help affording books, housing, and job placement.
The suspension does not apply to VA students currently enrolled at HCC and services will continue for that group, officials said.
The suspension marks another speed bump for the college, which has been beset by one of its trustees pleading guilty in a bribery scandal.
The college has also seen its nursing program suspended recently.
The Texas Veterans Commission audit appeared to take trustees, and some key HCC staff, by surprise.
“I’m not happy about it,” said HCC Trustee Robert Glaser, who chairs the board’s audit committee. “I heard about this just recently through an email. I reached out to our external and internal auditors and they hadn’t heard about it either, so I was concerned about that.”
Glaser said that the college system’s veterans program had problems in 2013, but had scored good marks for the past few years until now.
“It’s a high profile program and we should be on top of it,” Glaser said. “I’m disappointed there’s a discrepancy. All I can do as a board member and a committee chair on this is to push the administration to give us some answers. I would like to hear the plan going forward so something like this doesn’t happen again.”
HCC Trustee Dave Wilson shot off an email to Maldonado when he received the chancellor’s memo on the program.
“Words cannot express how disappointed I am in your leadership ability after receiving your Memorandum advising that the College cannot enroll new veteran students for the Spring semester,” Wilson wrote in part. “The time for scapegoating subordinates has come and gone. This is 100% your responsibility.”
HCC Trustee President Eva Laredo said she is looking forward to getting more details about what went wrong.
“We are moving forward and whatever is wrong we’re going to fix it,” Laredo said. “I’m very pro-veteran and we’ve always done so much for them.”
College officials told The Texas Monitor that HCC is working on a plan to quickly get out of the suspension.
In addition, Maldonado’s memo suggested that there would be disciplinary measures taken at the HCC Trustees meeting Tuesday in connection with the program and the audit.
“An update regarding personnel changes will be held in Closed Session on December 12,” the memo reads in part.
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.