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State audit criticizes Morgan State for lack of scholarship oversight

Morgan State University awarded scholarships of incorrect amounts because of lax review procedures, according to a state audit released Thursday.

A review of five athletic and three honors scholarships in the 2009-2010 academic year found that four students received too little money and two others received too much. No one checked the amounts dispensed by the financial aid office against those offered in the original scholarship letter sent to students, the audit said.

In its response to the audit, the university said that beginning this fall, supervisors will perform monthly checks to make sure students receive the scholarship amounts they were promised. It's hard to know how large the problem was, because the audit examined only a small number of scholarships. But the university awarded a total of $8.5 million in athletic and honors scholarships in 2009-2010.

In a July 15 letter to the state's office of legislative audits, Morgan President David Wilson said the university had made "significant progress" by moving from 17 items of concern in the last state audit three years ago to 10 items of concern this year. "It is our intention to continue to improve upon this for the next audit," Wilson wrote. "Specifically, our goal is to have none of the current audit findings repeated in the next audit."

The university also did an inadequate job of making sure that scholarships were terminated when students no longer met eligibility requirements, the audit said. A review of 17 honors scholarships that began in fall 2009 found that three students continued to receive money after falling below the required course load of 12 credits per semester.

In response, the university said it will add credit hours to its scholarship monitoring reports and conduct independent reviews to find any scholarships that should be discontinued.

The audit, which covered a period from February 2007 to March 2010, also criticized the university for keeping poor records of grant collections, noting that a $1.5 million gap existed between accounts receivable records and the university's automated collection records.

In its response to the audit, the university blamed the $1.5 million gap on a sluggish conversion to a new grants billing system. The discrepancy between the records no longer exists, the university said.

The audit noted that the university should stop using the same employee to process accounts receivable and collection records because it would be too easy for the employee to misappropriate funds. The university said it has separated those duties in response to the audit.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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