Grambling Finances in Order for 2nd Year in a Row, Legislative Audit Certifies – Oct 2, 2003
Positive Audit Essential for SACS Accreditation
GRAMBLING, La. – For the second consecutive year, Grambling State University has received an unqualified audit opinion, the highest mark possible from the state Legislative Auditor’s office. Officials are hopeful that this major step forward will assist Grambling in its bid for re-accreditation in December.
The 2003 financial and compliance audit report was released today by state auditors following an exit interview with GSU and University of Louisiana System officials.
“We’ve seen significant improvement in the environment at Grambling State University,” said Bill Scott, the state auditor in charge of the Grambling audit.
University of Louisiana System President Dr. Sally Clausen said she was relieved with the news but not surprised. “It’s like going to the doctor for a check up. If you eat well and exercise, you certainly hope to get a good report. A lot of people have worked very hard to achieve this good report today. Now we move on to the next challenge, that of securing Grambling’s re-accreditation.”
Grambling Acting President Dr. Neari Warner said it is gratifying to receive these results during the university’s 102nd Founder’s Week. “Achieving this unqualified audit is yet another milestone toward the emergence of a ‘new’ Grambling State University. It also serves as testament that Grambling is moving in the right direction toward more accountability and productivity,” Warner said.
“Vice President Billy Owens and his staff are to be commended for the exceptional job they have done in bringing order to the financial operations at the university,” Warner said. “This accomplishment, along with the increase in enrollment, the increase in accredited programs, and the completion of the new residence hall, should send the signal that GSU is poised to move to unprecedented heights of excellence and achievement.”
The legislative audit is considered a crucial step in Grambling’s efforts to retain its accreditation with the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) when it meets in December.
Grambling is in its final year of SACS probation, which began in December 2001. Last year, after the university received its first unqualified audit opinion in five years, the accrediting body extended the university’s probation and continued its accreditation for “good cause” for one additional year to determine the “University’s ability to sustain its financial stability.” According to SACS rules, an institution can remain on probation for a maximum of two years. This December marks the end of the two-year probation.
“Without SACS accreditation, Grambling students would not be eligible for federal financial aid. In other words the university could lose about 92 percent of its students,” Clausen said.
“The University finance team, led by Vice President Owens, worked under an extremely accelerated timeframe that provided the Legislative Auditors with financial statements five weeks earlier than other public universities. As a result of their efforts, the Legislative Auditors were able to complete the audit prior to the SACS deadline,” she said.
The audit released today noted that 13 of the 14 findings identified in the 2002 audit report had been corrected. The one repeat finding involves the need to hire an outside agency to collect past-due receivables. Grambling is now in the process of hiring two individual agencies to proceed with collections.
There were three new findings this year involving the appointment of a records person for state archives and history, the submittal of unclaimed property to the state, and accountability for all moveable property.
“These issues in the report need to be addressed and resolved so you don’t have problems in the future,” Assistant Legislative Auditor Robbie Robinson said.
He said there has been a sharp improvement in Grambling’s accounting practices since Owens took over the university’s financial operations in 2001 and began assembling his staff. “The audits have had big problems in the past. The records are now available and in proper condition for auditing,” he said. “When everyone does their job, this is what results – an unqualified opinion,” Robinson said.
Grambling’s finance team has worked to stabilize the University’s finances by implementing several new strategies including strengthening internal fiscal controls, writing new policies, fully implementing the new BANNER computerized financial database for campus-wide use, and establishing a debit card system for students to access their financial assistance.
“Obviously the entire board is pleased with this major step forward. Now our responsibility is to continue to support Grambling as it addresses other issues important to remain nationally competitive,” UL System Board Chair Gordon Pugh said. “The real challenge is still ahead with the Commission on Colleges decision in December.”
Dr. Curtis Baham, Grambling Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chairman of the university’s SACS Self Study Committee, said, “We plan to include the audit prepared by the Legislative Auditor in our report to SACS. It supports our position that we meet requirements and should continue the accreditation that we have enjoyed over the years. We are committed to sustaining this status for many years to come.”
The full audit report is available on the Office of the Legislative Auditor’s website at http://www.lla.state.la.us/fc/gsu03.pdf.
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