Metropolitan State University has been overcharging students on fees and tuition and underpaying some faculty, according to an audit released today by the Minnesota Legislative Auditor.
The report identified the mistakes as part of a series of bookkeeping and financial controls breakdowns at the public institution based in St. Paul. Overall, state auditors found the institution “generally had adequate internal controls” but that problems in certain areas led to a “high-risk for errors,” the report said.
University president Sue Hammersmith generally agreed with the findings, but disagreed with some points auditors raised. She blamed some of the issues on high turnover and vacancies in the financial and human resources offices that have placed extra demands on remaining staff.
The institution, which is part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system, serves more than 9,600 students. Auditors found certain tuition and fee rates charged that MnSCU’s Board of Trustees did not approve.
For example, undergraduate students were charged a dollar more for online internet courses than the board authorized.
That totaled nearly $29,000 in payments that should not have been collected, auditors found. Students who took an art class paid $7.50 more than they should have under the legally approved tuition and fees. There were also some underpayments for courses.
Management of faculty compensation and leave calculations also had problems. One faculty member was underpaid by $14,150 and another by $1,064. They were among 31 faculty members whose compensation was reviewed. They also miscalculated sick leave and vacation time for several employees, which were among four findings that had been identified in past reviews.
Auditors had twelve problems they noted in findings. Other areas of concern included loose controls on university credit cards, failure to review receipts from its bookstore vendor, inaccurate tuition refund payments and breakdowns in tuition waiver processing. There also was concern raised about security access to financial systems.
Some of the issues identified had been mentioned in previous audit reports and were uncorrected.
Hammersmith said they are committed to financial transparency and would use the report by auditor James Nobles' office to improve their fiscal accountability.