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Accounting errors found at Metro State

  • Article by: BRAD SCHRADE
  • Star Tribune
  • January 20, 2012 - 11:27 PM

Metropolitan State University has been overcharging some students on fees and tuition and underpaying some faculty members, according to an audit released Tuesday by the Minnesota legislative auditor.

The report identified the mistakes as part of a series of bookkeeping and financial control breakdowns at the public institution, which is 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 agreed for the most part 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, 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 $1 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 approved tuition and fees. The auditors found underpayment for some courses.

There were also problems with management of faculty compensation and leave calculations. One faculty member was underpaid by $14,150 and another by $1,064. They were among 31 faculty members whose compensation was reviewed. The system also was found to have miscalculated sick leave and vacation time for several employees, errors that had been among four findings identified in past reviews.

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. Concerns also were raised about security access to financial systems.

Some of the issues identified had been mentioned in previous audit reports and had not been corrected.

Hammersmith said Metro State is committed to financial transparency and would use the report by Legislative Auditor James Nobles' office to improve fiscal accountability.

Brad Schrade • 612-673-4777

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