U.S. Dept. of Education Places Northern On Watch List:
NNMU Has Addressed Audit Concerns
Editors Note: A portion of the research for this article was taken from information in the March 31″Inside Higher Ed” article titled “Cash Monitoring List Unveiled”
ESPAÑOLA – Tuesday, March 31the U.S. Department of Education publicized a list of 560 of colleges and universities whose financial aid it has restricted due to concerns over maintaining proper compliance with federal fiscal requirements.
Two New Mexico institutions are on the list, including Mesa Lands Community College in Tucumcari and Northern New Mexico University in Española. In comparison, Minnesota found 43 of their public institutions on the list.
Ted Mitchell, the undersecretary of education for the federal Department of Education said in a press statement that colleges may be placed in this system of cash monitoring for a variety of reasons, some of which are more serious than others. Some institutions were placed on the list for reasons as simple as being late in filing their audit, while others are on the list for more serious concerns.
When contacted about this report, Northern New Mexico University Vice President for Advancement, Ricky Serna stated that “Northern was placed on the status of “Heightened Cash Monitoring 1” in August 2014 because of late audits from fiscal years 2010 and 2011.” Serna added that all audits have now been completed. “There was a time when the institution was catching up and did three audits in one year to catch up with past shortcomings. Those audits have been completed but in accordance with federal regulations we were placed on heightened cash monitoring” Serna said.
US Department of Education guidelines stipulate that any institution that is late in filing audits for two consecutive years is automatically placed on a heightened monitoring status.
In a follow-up interview Jacob Pacheco, Director of Financial Aid at NNMU confirmed that the heightened monitoring status would have no impact on student assistance. The University is now current on all audits. Serna added that the most recent audit completed for fiscal year 2014 had no findings including on any federal funding including federal grants and federal student aid.
Students attending NNMU should not be impacted by this heightened status. Pacheco said that the only effect of this status is that the university draws down the cash disbursements after they have already been disbursed to students, rather than before.
Eighty-four percent of NNMU students or about 610 individuals receive some form of federal PELL Grant assistance.
The late/missing audit scenario seems to be a common reason for many of the public institutions around the country being placed on this list. Mitchel with the Department of Education stated that as an example “That appears to have been the case for 43 public colleges and universities in Minnesota, all of which were on cash monitoring with the designation of “audit late/missing.”
The federal department will maintain this monitoring status for the upcoming fiscal year and pending continued compliance and clean audits NNMU may be removed from the list.