A recent state audit of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette found some issues when it came to reporting procedures about student loans and federal funding.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s report released June 29 states that, for the second consecutive year, the university did not have adequate controls in place to ensure returns of Title IV (federal student aid) funds were accurately calculated as required by federal regulations.
Auditors looked at a sample of 25 students out of 564 who were evaluated for return of funds. Three students, representing 12%, had an incorrect withdrawal date, which caused UL Lafayette to incorrectly calculate the percentage of the payment period completed.
This appears to be a result of not having adequate procedures in place to identify the correct withdrawal date for all students, so auditors recommended that management strengthen controls to ensure that all return of funds calculations are performed accurately and in compliance with federal regulations.
UL management outlined a plan of corrective action.
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Auditors also found that UL failed to inform students and/or parents receiving Federal Direct Loans of their right to cancel all or some of their loan disbursements and the procedures and time by which they had to notify the institution.
In a sample of 40 Federal Direct Loan disbursement transactions that were evaluated, 11 students and/or parents, representing 27.5%, did not receive automated emails notifying them of these rights.
This failure to inform results in noncompliance with federal regulations and could have an impact on students’ and/or parents’ decision-making, according to the audit.
Auditors recommended that management strengthen controls to ensure that all borrowers of Federal Direct Loans receive the required information, and university leaders outlined a plan of corrective action to implement.
Also for the second year in a row, the school did not have a formal documented risk assessment or related safeguards to address the minimum requirements of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act standards for safeguarding student information within the 2020-21 award year.
While the school has information technology policies and practices that require employee training, a documented disaster recovery plan, and more, but management has not performed a formal documented risk assessment including safeguards to address identified risk as required by federal regulations.
As a result, there is an increased risk for unauthorized disclosure, misuse, alteration, destruction or other compromise of student information and results in noncompliance with federal regulations.
And the university did not adequately implement controls to ensure compliance with certain reporting requirements for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).
The U.S. Department of Education required separate Quarterly Public Reporting for the Institutional Portion and Student Aid Portion, and auditors called for the university to implement a review process that will identify errors in quarterly and annual amounts reported for HEERF.
The university also did not have adequate controls in place to ensure personnel expenses and effort charged to federal Research and Development (R&D) awards accurately reflected work performed and did not adequately monitor sub-recipients of the R&D Cluster programs.
Auditors tested a sample of 25 transactions from a population of 22,636 payroll and non-payroll expenses charged to R&D grants.
For 11, or 44%, of the payroll transactions, UL Lafayette was unable to provide documentation to show that personnel-related expenses, totaling $11,482, were supported by time and effort certifications to ensure the accuracy of budget estimates charged to federal awards as required by federal regulations.
And with no after-the-fact review to ensure the accuracy of personnel costs and effort charged to the awards, the university could not ensure compliance with the requirements of special tests and provisions related to key personnel effort.
A bright spot in the 2022 audit is that the school has resolved findings from last year’s audit-related to inappropriate system access and changes in enrollment status not reported.
Contact children’s issues reporter Leigh Guidry at Lguidry@theadvertiser.com or on Twitter @LeighGGuidry.