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DSU still struggles with reporting student enrollment, audit finds

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Two years after a performance audit highlighted issues with inflated enrollment at Dickinson State University, improvements are still needed on how the school reports its student enrollment, a report recently released by the North Dakota state auditor shows.

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The operational audit, covering June 2011 to June 2013, found that DSU does not have proper controls for either student enrollment reporting or for determining student residency.

Regarding student enrollment, the report states: “Dickinson State University has not considered it necessary to adequately review the student enrollment reporting process and develop proper policies and procedures.”

The school had no procedures to document student admissions and enrollment, nor an independent review of enrollment numbers that are reported to the State Board of Higher Education and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. The audit offered recommendations to limit the school’s risk of reporting an inaccurate picture of its student body, which, as of this spring, stood at 1,404 enrolled students — one of the university’s lowest enrollments in years.

An audit conducted in 2011 that DSU artificially inflated enrollment numbers by counting people who attend workshops as enrolled students. The university’s president at the time, Richard McCallum, was terminated as a result of the findings.

Marie Moe, executive director of enrollment services and communication, said that since the audit was completed in spring 2013, the school has looked at the audit’s recommendations “in order to implement the process so that we are limiting error.

“We are constantly looking at the processes that are in place,” she said.

DSU, in its response to the auditor’s recommendations to strengthen its controls, agreed “that it is important to review (the) student enrollment reporting process.”

The university said it implemented new controls last fall “to ensure that enrollment statistics reported to both state and federal agencies were correct” through a two-step process that involves checks at the departments and an independent review by the Office of Institutional Research.

“We have documented the process and mapped out what that’s going to look like” as the new processes are used going forward, Moe said.

The audit found issues with student residency requirements as well.

In-state tuition for North Dakota residents was $5,718 for the 2012-13 academic year while out-of-state students paid $7,980.

The report states that “proper controls have not been established for student residency determinations” or changes in residency status.

DSU responded in agreement to the audit’s findings. It wrote in the report that it has developed processes for initially determining residency that follow the North Dakota University System’s requirements developed in 2013.

The audit was completed a year ago. The university “has ample time to get things straight (and) hopefully make those improvements,” before the next audit in two years, audit manager John Grettum said.

He said the report’s auditors “were pleased with the responses” they received from the university, and that they will “also be validating these responses” with the next audit to ensure the school follows through with addressing its issues with enrollment and residency reporting procedures.

Though DSU has room for improvement, it’s not alone. Auditors found similar problems throughout the university system, Grettum said.

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