UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20202
In the Matter of
Docket No. 98-52-SF
LEE COUNTY HIGH TECH CENTER CENTRAL,
Respondent, Lee County High Tech Center Central, a vocational education center for students sixteen and older, participated in the student assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.See footnote 11 The Student Financial Assistance Programs (SFAP) alleges that Respondent was late in submitting a Student Status Confirmation Report (SSCR) to the U.S. Department of Education, as required by law. Such reports provide the data base necessary for SFAP to effectively administer the student assistance programs. By letter dated March 3, 1998, SFAP notified Respondent of its intent to fine Respondent $5,000 for this violation. Respondent appealed the proposed fine, and the parties agreed that the case should be decided on the written record.
SFAP alleges that on August 31, 1997, it sent Respondent an SSCR to complete within
thirty days. When Respondent failed to return the SSCR, SFAP sent the school reminder letters
on October 6, 1997, October 20, 1997, and October 30, 1997. SFAP alleges that Respondent
ignored the letters and failed to submit the report. SFAP's contentions are not supported by any
evidence, other than unsigned, undated, unverified form letters which it claims were sent to the
Respondent. See ED Exhibits 1, 2, and 3. SFAP alleges that it repeated the process described
above and on October 31, 1997, it sent Respondent a second SSCR to complete, followed by
three additional reminder letters dated December 8, 1997, December 22, 1997, and December 29,
1997. Again, SFAP offers no evidence to support these contentions. Since SFAP allegedly
heard nothing from Respondent, on March 3, 1998, it initiated this fine proceeding. On March
11, 1998, Respondent submitted the appropriate SSCR information.
Respondent contends that SFAP's exhibits should be given no weight since they are form
letters addressed to XYZ college and submitted without any verification that any of the letters
were sent to the Respondent. Although Respondent does not deny receiving warning letters from
SFAP concerning its alleged failure to submit the SSCR, its Financial Aid Officer, Ms. Charlotte
Rae Nicely, in a sworn affidavit, states that Respondent sent SSCRs electronically, as it was
urged to do by SFAP, on October 27, 1997, December 15, 1997, January 15, 1998, February 17,
1998, March 5, 1998, March 6, 1998, March 9, 1998, and March 11, 1998.See footnote 22 In addition, Ms.
Nicely states that she was in continuous contact with various Department officials whom she
names in the affidavit and was assured, at least on one occasion, that Respondent was complying
with the SFAP directives concerning the submission of SSCRs. Ms. Nicely states that she never
intentionally ignored SFAP's warnings and that she believed the electronically submitted reports
had been received. Respondent's Exhibit 2, ¶¶ 6-9.
Based on the evidence submitted by the parties, I conclude that the fine is not warranted.
SFAP's allegations are sufficiently rebutted by the affidavits submitted by Respondent.
Although SFAP had an opportunity to submit a reply brief, it never filed a reply brief or
otherwise made any attempt to rebut Respondent's affidavits. It appears from the evidence that
Respondent was urged to submit the SSRC electronically, and that it attempted to do so on
several occasions before the information was actually received by the Department. Although
Respondent does not deny receiving communication from SFAP that the SSCR data had not been
received, it made a good faith attempt to transmit the data which was eventually received by the
ORDERED, SFAP's proposed fine, contained in its notice of fine issued on March 3,
1998, is hereby vacated.
Frank K. Krueger, Jr.
Dated: September 2, 1998
A copy of the attached initial decision was sent by certified mail, return receipt requested to the