Audit Finds Student College Fees Need More Controls; ANALYSIS FINDINGS Schools Give Inaccurate or Incomplete Details; Use Funds for Purposes Other Than They Were Originally Approved For
Jones, Walter C., The Florida Times Union
Byline: WALTER C. JONES
ATLANTA - The $239 million in mandatory student fees charged by the state's 35 public colleges and universities should be better managed to ensure the money is spent on programs that benefit all students, state auditors concluded.
A 46-page analysis released late Wednesday by the State Department of Audits and Accounts at the request of the Senate Appropriations Committee detailed instances where fees were not approved by the Board of Regents, as required, and others where the information schools submitted to the board was inaccurate or incomplete.
"We found that the Board of Regents' student-fee policies allow significant discretion on the part of each ... institution regarding the use of student-fee revenues," the auditors wrote. "As such, they provide little assurance that fees are used in a manner that benefits the entire student body to the greatest extent possible even though all students are required to pay these fees."
In four cases, the mandatory fees were not going to the originally approved purpose.
At the University of Georgia, for instance, auditors noted that students voted in 1989 for a $50 fee per semester to fund construction of the Ramsey Center recreational facility. The materials given to students at the time said the fee would end when the debt on the facility was paid in 2013, but the school intends to keep charging the fee and use $2.5 million to pay for renovation and expansion of the Tate Student Center. Students were only allowed to vote on an additional $25 fee per semester for the Tate improvements.
In eight instances, student advisory panels never signed off on the fees before they took effect, even though regents policy requires student input.
At three of the seven schools examined in detail, auditors found lax documentation for expenditures, including funds for ineligible programs and cash advances to faculty members and excessive travel payments.
The regents responded to a preliminary draft of the report by promising to use the information to revise internal controls and update some policies at this month's meeting. …