Auditor questions GRAD Act data

The Louisiana legislative auditor found inconsistencies in the data used to calculate how well individual colleges did meeting the goals necessary for permission to raise their tuitions, according to an audit report released Monday.

The Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public higher education institutions, uses calculations of various aspects of higher education to determine if the individual colleges have met their accountability goals under the GRAD Act.

Colleges that meet the goals are allowed more flexibility to raise tuition and fees as well as to relax other operational restrictions.

The 91-page review found that, in some instances, the data submitted did not properly classify students.

Michael Boutte, the performance audit manager, said improperly classifying a beginning student could throw off the calculations of GRAD Act requirements, such as the rate of students continuing from one year to the next and the percentage of students graduating in a specified period of time.

The audit found that only four of the 16 community and technical colleges submitted data that was sufficiently reliable to lead to rising tuition, according to the audit. The rest did not.

But Boutte said a large part of the problem was caused by the Louisiana Community and Technical College System shifting to a new computer system, which caused problems when students registered in 2012.

Employees at the individual campuses used their own systems for reporting the data and stumbled in efforts to use the same methods for reporting.

Joe D. May, president of LCTCS, wrote Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera that the system would perform an independent review of data for accuracy and the system would monitor errors to ensure the individual colleges are correcting the data.