All eight Mississippi universities will be affected for five years if an appeal is unsuccessful.
The United States Department of Education has issued a letter to Governor Tate Reeves stating that the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) is now under federal monitoring after an audit report was submitted late.
Kim Gallaspy, IHL’s assistant commissioner for government relations, said the reason the audit was late was because of inaccuracies that were found late in the auditing process.
“During the audit of our institutions by our external auditor, Clifton Larson Allen, it was discovered that some institutions had inaccurately classified federal program funds. As a result, programs which should have been classified as major programs were not identified until late in the audit cycle,” said Gallaspy in an emailed statement. “Consequently, our auditor was required to perform additional audit procedures on these newly identified major programs. This additional audit work caused our audit report to be delayed past the Department of Education’s deadline. To be clear, although the funds were misclassified there were no findings from our auditor which indicate that federal funds were inappropriately spent.”
Clarification about which institutions were not classified correctly was not included in her statement.
However, according to the letter to the Governor, all eight state universities will be affected: Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi State University, Mississippi Valley State University, University of Mississippi, and University of Southern Mississippi.
The letter also states that the IHL has been placed on a heightened cash monitoring payment method for five years.
Gallaspy said that “there will be no impact on the disbursement of financial aid. The Heightened Cash Monitoring 1 process requires funds to be placed on student accounts before they can be drawn down from the federal government. Some of our institutions process the funds in this manner already as a regular business practice. The others will be able to implement the process without difficulty.”
State Rep. Stacey Hobgood-Wilkes (R-HD 108) is a member of the House Universities and Colleges Committee. She told Magnolia Tribune she was tremendously disappointed the deadlines were missed.
“I have just been made aware of the IHL’s new status under the U. S. Department of Education. I am tremendously disappointed that these deadlines were missed. It is unacceptable that something this important did not warrant high priority status,” Rep. Hobgood-Wilkes. “These federal dollars, like PELL Grants and student loans, are too important to our Mississippi students for the IHL to be this irresponsible. They deserve to be held accountable for their lack of action.”
The audit in question was due on March 31 of this year but was not received until June 14th.
“This letter advises you that this untimely audit submission constitutes a failure of financial responsibility under the Department’s regulations,” the letter states.
There is an option to appeal the decision, which Gallaspy said is in the works.
“The system office and the institutions are working to appeal the decision. We have also required written corrective action plans to be submitted,” Gallaspy said. “These corrective action plans will be tested for effectiveness by the Board’s Office of Internal Audit. Ineffective corrective actions will warrant further corrective measures by the Board.”
Governor Reeves’ office did not respond to requests for comment on this matter as of press time.