July 26, 2011

University of Baltimore lost track of unused student aid, failed to collect overdue tuition and didn’t verify residency

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By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

The University of Baltimore lost track of $350,000 in unused loan and scholarship checks, did not take steps to collect overdue tuition, and did not always verify that students were eligible for reduced in-state tuition, according to state auditors.

University of Baltimore

Photo by Daniel Lobo

The report, released Monday by the Office of Legislative Audits, revealed ongoing financial control problems at the university. Four of the six findings came up in an audit of the university three years ago.

Peter Toran, the university’s vice president of planning and external affairs, said that they had been aware of some of the issues for some time.

“More importantly, we’ve already instituted changes to make some corrections,” he said.

While auditors studied the university, they found that 284 scholarship refunds and student loan checks worth about $350,000 had not been cashed by their recipients. Payment had not been stopped on the uncashed checks, and the university was not sure which lenders and scholarship programs the funds had come from.

Legislative Auditor Bruce Myers said this finding is unique to the University of Baltimore. University officials started invalidating uncashed checks and finding the origins of the money after the problem was pointed out to them.

Auditors also found that $1.1 million in funds from students was past due, and the university had taken no measures to ensure it got repaid. Accounts that are not paid 150 days from the end of the semester are supposed to be transferred to the state’s Central Collection Unit.

In a sample of 14 delinquent accounts, auditors found that three of them – with a total of $21,300 owed to the university – were never referred to the collections agency. All of these accounts should have been transferred to collections more than six months before. Additionally, five of the students with account balances – totaling $27,200 – were allowed to register for classes in the next semester.

Problems in collecting adequate documentation to award students Maryland in-state tuition were also noted in the report. In fiscal year 2010, 383 students were re-classified as Maryland residents, receiving a $6,753 break on tuition and fees per semester. When auditors looked at 14 of those, they found that there was not enough documentation for four of them, and two of them were incorrectly classified as Maryland residents.

Other findings include:

  • Duties to initiate and approve invoices were given to the same people, meaning they could possible make up fictitious recipients and process them undetected.
  • Computer system security was inadequate.
  • Nobody independently verified grades, and documentation from the dean authorizing some grade changes was missing.

University of Baltimore is not the only higher learning institute that was scrutinized recently. The Office of Legislative Audits also published an audit last week of the University of Maryland, College Park.  At the flagship campus, auditors found problems with paperwork about faculty workload, sick leave and sabbaticals; contracting issues; and the need for more control over leases and databases.

All state agencies and universities are audited every three years.