CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s public colleges need $245 million in the next month after U.S. education officials put sanctions on them for Title IV programs for federal student grants and loans, according to state higher education officials.

Records obtained by The Charleston Gazette-Mail additionally show state officials knew for months that if they were late submitting an audit of incoming federal money for a third-straight year, West Virginia’s colleges and universities would face sanctions.

State Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Paul Hill said officials may loan from the treasury and return it later. He said larger schools have enough cash to avoid significant problems. West Virginia University and Marshall University officials said they’re still figuring out what to do, since they had just learned of the sanctions.

Higher Education Policy Commission spokeswoman Jessica Kennedy said the U.S. Department of Education usually gives schools the money so they can distribute it to students. Under sanctions, schools pay up front and request federal reimbursement.

The sanctions will last five years. They affect pots of money that include the Pell grant and federally subsidized student loans. U.S. education officials have usually reimbursed institutions in about two weeks when colleges have been under similar sanctions, Hill said.

Gov. Jim Justice has promised to find out who is responsible for the error. Then, “heads will roll,” he said.

West Virginia’s five-member congressional delegation also sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday, asking her to reconsider the sanctions.

“The people who will be harmed most by these sanctions are the low income students who rely on federal financial assistance to attend colleges,” the letter states.

Hill said he wasn’t worried that this year’s audit would be late again, but then the Consolidated Public Retirement Board didn’t finish putting together retirement liability information until just before Christmas.

Documents show Hill learned in early March the state would be late in sending in its audit information, which was due March 31.

Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail,