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DSU violated numerous policies, audit finds

Dickinson State University is out of compliance with numerous policies, according to the results of a performance audit conducted by the Office of the North Dakota Auditor released Friday. It also possibly inflated grades.

The report gave recommendations for improvement, but no consequences for noncompliance.

Grade inflation is suspected because of a high amount of "A" letter grades being assigned, according to the report.

It found all 85 students in three classes received an "A." Three other classes had only one student in each class that did not receive an "A" according to the report.

The report is "disappointing," said Bill Goetz, North Dakota University System chancellor.

Steps are under way to bring DSU back into compliance, said Marie Moe, DSU director of university relations.

"We looked at the tuition and fees areas ... scholarships and waivers," said Gordy Smith, who managed the audit. "Those are the biggest areas that I think need attention."

The report identified special tuition rates established for classes in 2009 and 2010 that were lower than the resident tuition rate.

"For example, in the fall 2010 we identified a $50 charge for a one credit class. The resident tuition rate was $179.40 per credit," according to the report.

This, along with waiver of fees, was done without approval from Goetz, which is not compliant with SBHE policy, according to the report.

It recommended DSU make changes to some student fees. Some of the money gathered from fees is allocated to areas that do not relate to the charge, according to the report.

"For example, we identified application fees were used to pay over $13,000 for food, beverages, and other supplies used for spring 2010 and spring 2011 commencement-related activities," the report said. "Also, over $3,000 was expended on plants and flowers for these commencement activities.

"DSU personnel indicated while the board policy requires an application fee to be charged, there is no information related to the use of the fees."

Some fees are not disclosed to the students, since tuition and several fees are charged as one to dual credit high school students. DSU staff said charging fees this way simplifies billing and alleviates questions from parents and students, according the report.

The report also recommended DSU ensure student fees are charged for services supported with the fees. DSU should ensure fees charged to dual credit students are fully disclosed, according to the report.

DSU was also out of compliance with SBHE policy that states consulting or other contract services estimated at $100,000 or more must be purchased through a formal request for proposal process.

"Various offices and departments appear to be procuring services with no oversight or requirement to include personnel with appropriate procurement experience," according to the report.

DSU was unable to provide contracts entered into, according to the report.

"It's certainly disappointing to have to read an audit report like this with the number of recommendations that were made," Goetz said.

However, he is pleased with the "thorough review," and confident in DSU President D.C. Coston's leadership.

Smith said the State Auditor's Office will revisit DSU in 18 to 24 months to check DSU's progress.

"We go in and make a report up called a follow-up report and we would give that to the Legislature also," he said.

Goetz said timelines will be established to have DSU back into compliance.

DSU began to reorganize this week to address some issues in the report, Moe said.

"I believe that improvement reaching excellence is a continual process, so we will continue to take steps forward to address these concerns," she said.

Goetz said DSU's issues were internal.

"They were issues that I was not aware of," he said. "It's impossible to be made aware of them until an audit like this is conducted. It's the conduct of operations, the judgment that employees working in these areas were using, it was the culture that (former DSU president Richard McCallum) had established and from that we have the issues that have been brought forward."

Coston was unavailable for comment Friday.

Ashley Martin is a reporter for the Dickinson Press, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.