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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Financial management a consistent issue for Quinnipiac, audit shows

Quinnipiac University’s auditors identified “significant deficiencies” in the university’s financial control processes for the fourth time in the last five years, a copy of its 2022-23 audit report showed.

The university’s most recent audit, conducted by independent auditing firm Marcum LLP and obtained by The Chronicle from the Federal Audit Clearinghouse, revealed that Quinnipiac improperly managed both federal and state funds during the 2022-23 fiscal year.

The auditors found that Quinnipiac at one point returned federally issued funds to the Department of Education approximately two weeks after the legal deadline had passed.

Quinnipiac owed the federal government $401 in Pell funding, the audit said, because a Pell Grant recipient had withdrawn from the university after receiving their federal award. 

If a student receiving federal funds withdraws from a university, the institution is legally required to return any unobligated funds to the Department of Education within 45 days. 

However, the audit revealed that Quinnipiac did not have enough available Pell funds to disburse in March 2023, when the return was due. 

The university evidently froze more than $33,900 — including the $401 return — until more Pell funding became available the following month. 

The university’s lack of adequate Pell funding also meant 31 students were unable to collect the remaining balances on their federal grants until April. It is still unclear why Quinnipiac did not have enough Pell funding in March 2023. 

In a separate but similar instance, university administrators failed to return more than $8,500 in unawarded state funding until two-and-a-half months after the May 1 deadline.

Marcum LLP found that two students had withdrawn from the university after receiving state-issued scholarship funding. However, Quinnipiac officials “inadvertently missed” these returns and subsequently failed to return them to the state of Connecticut on time. 

The audit report directly attributes both instances of program mismanagement to personnel turnover. One of the university’s corrective action plans specifies that Quinnipiac’s Office of Financial Aid lacked a director for approximately six months after the former director’s November 2022 resignation.

An archival search of the university’s official job listings page revealed that Quinnipiac posted jobs for at least three other university finance positions during the 2022-23 fiscal year: the assistant director for student accounts, assistant director of financial aid and the associate director of graduate financial aid. The reason for the recent turnover remains unknown. 

“The change in personnel and administrative difficulties delayed processes that were historically performed on a timely basis without error by this individual,” one of the university’s two corrective action plans states.

The auditors recommended that Quinnipiac adopt a process in which management reviews awards “on a monthly basis to identify and return unobligated funds in a timely manner.”

And one of the university’s corrective action plans notes that university officials implemented new procedures to “prioritize” federal returns. But this is contradictory to the university’s other corrective action plan, which argues that procedural changes are “unnecessary” because Quinnipiac’s current internal control system “will ensure all future compliance deadlines are met on a timely basis.”

It is also still unclear why the university’s previous review processes — which the audit report indicates were already conducted on a monthly basis — did not identify any of the errors.

Regardless, the “significant deficiencies” in Quinnipiac’s financial control processes expose the institution to “the risk of regulatory sanctions,” according to the audit’s findings.

A significant deficiency, according to the audit, exists when an institution’s financial control system does not allow employees to “prevent, or detect and correct” instances of noncompliance on a timely basis. 

Although Marcum LLP has always concluded that Quinnipiac complies “in all material respects” with legal requirements, this is far from the first time in recent years that the university’s auditors have uncovered significant deficiencies in the university’s internal control over compliance. 

Although Marcum LLP did not identify internal control deficiencies during former President John Lahey’s final three years as Quinnipiac’s chief executive, the university’s audits have identified eight separate instances of noncompliance in President Judy Olian’s five years in Hamden.

The university’s 2020-21 and 2021-22 audits, for instance, revealed that university officials had lost several students’ loan documentation, effectively rendering those loans unenforceable. And in fiscal year 2018-19, Quinnipiac officials miscalculated 18 Pell awards, improperly documented dozens of federal loan records and misallocated $28,000 in federal funds. That same year, much like in 2022-23, the university returned state-issued scholarship funds over three months late due to turnover in the financial aid office.

It is unclear if turnover is wholly responsible for this pattern of internal control failures.

“We do not comment on inquiries related to university finances,” John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, wrote in a Jan. 29 email statement to The Chronicle.

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Cat Murphy
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