Harford Community College receives praise for clean audit

An audit of the previous fiscal year and goals for the next five years were discussed at Tuesday night's Harford Community College Board of Trustees meeting.

Maryland law requires all community colleges to complete an annual audit of its financial statements, accounts and accounting procedures. The latest HCC audit was a clean one, according to HCC officials.

Accounting firm LarsonAllen was contracted by the board to complete the audit and then report the formal opinion of the college's financial statements. The audit was for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The auditor's formal opinion, or the summary of results, found there were no significant deficiencies in the college's financial statements or major federal award programs, there were no instances of material noncompliance, no findings or questioned costs in this year's or the previous year's major federal award programs. HCC was "determined to be a low risk auditee," according to the statement.

Steve Rosa, who was present on behalf of LarsonAllen, said that he "can't overemphasize how difficult that really is" for a school to not come up with any findings during an audit. He also commented how the financial aid program is "a major risk area" for those being audited and the firm "put a lot of focus on it."

The college's total revenues, as stated in the audit, for fiscal year 2011 were $41,249,697. Another $3,084,103 was transferred from the "rainy day" fund into the general operating fund, making the total revenues and transfers $44,333,800.

HCC's total expenditures were $44,333,800. Because the community college is a nonprofit, its revenues cannot exceed its expenditures, but since what was spent was more than what was brought in, the funds were transferred from the school's savings into it's general fund.

The board unanimously accepted the audit's results, acknowledging the report and will now be forwarded to the county and state for review.

Performance reports

2011 marks the beginning of a new five-year reporting cycle for Maryland community colleges under the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and the board was asked to approve the 2011 Performance Accountability report, as well as update benchmarks, or goals, for the upcoming cycle.

All campuses need to establish new numerical benchmarks for each five-year cycle, the upcoming one being 2011 to 2015. These benchmarks, or five-year goals the school sets for itself, are based on national or state data and strive for 20 percent improvements or to reach the national or state average in each one.

The Performance Accountability Report includes the college's progress in achieving each benchmark, explanation of any lack of progress made by the school, actions that will be taken to improve, answers any questions raised by Maryland Higher Education Commission, a description of college services to the students and actions to contain costs.

Benchmarks updated for the upcoming cycle were developmental completers after four years, graduation and transfer rate after four years, annual enrollments in online courses, high school enrollment, minority student enrollment and successful persister rates after four years.

Developmental completers are students who complete their developmental course work within four years at the school. Based on cohort years, those when a student enters a group or course for completion, HCC hopes to increase the percentage of completers by .5 percent each year. The average of completers is 48.3 percent.

The school wants to increase graduation and transfer rates for students after four years, as well as improve annual enrollment for online courses by 3 percent annually.

Between 2006 and 2010 online course enrollments increased on average 17 percent annually. The benchmark was set at only 3 percent, however, because, as HCC President Dennis Golloday put it, "It can't go on at that rate forever."

High school enrollment, students who are taking courses at HCC while still enrolled in high school, have also had a big increase since 2006 — 13 percent on average annually. The new benchmark was set at 5 percent based on fall enrollment.

Benchmarks for minority student enrollment compared the total number of students at HCC and the number of non-white minorities on campus. The increase of total student enrollment has risen more slowly than that of minorities (6 percent versus 9 percent), so the benchmark was set at a 3 percent annual increase for total enrollment and 6 percent for minorities

Successful persister rates after four years — those who have graduated, transferred or are still enrolled — compared the total number of students enrolled and the number of African Americans on campus. The benchmark was set for a 3.5 annual increase for African Americans so both rates could reach a 77 percent success rate for the 2015 cohort year.

The board approved the commission's performance accountability report and updated benchmarks for 2011-2015.

Nursing building design

The board of trustees also authorized a contract with Hord Coplan Macht, an architectural firm in Baltimore, as the best bidder to provide architectural/engineering services for the new nursing and allied health building.

The building will be two stories and about 45,000 square feet. It will house classrooms, laboratories, lab support space and offices need to support credit and non-credit programs.

Fifteen firms originally submitted their qualifications for the project and were narrowed down to six. The six companies gave oral presentations and were then evaluated and rated on their proposal. Five were asked to give bids and Hord Coplan Macht had the lowest at $799,630 and highest score out of the oral presentations.

In other business at Tuesday's Board of Trustees meeting:

There was an academic report and presentation on science, technology, engineering and math division, or STEM, initiatives.

The goal of the college's STEM Education Coalition is to increase the number of students choosing to pursue degrees in one of the four subjects.

HCC officials said 520 students have declared a major in either science, technology, engineering or math for fall 2011. The STEM Coalition also wants to ensure students are prepared to be successful in their college career and help support degree completion.

The coalition speaks at various schools and has the Tech Needs Teens programs, which is geared to exciting middle schoolers about STEM. There is also an annual STEP-UP (STEM Trends In Enrollment and Persistence for Underrepresented Populations) program in the summer, which is free to students and open to incoming STEM majors.

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