- Associated Press - Monday, December 14, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - An audit of a Southern University scholarship program found that some students received awards in excess of a $1,000 maximum and that criteria lacks specifics, according to a report released Monday by the state Legislative Auditor.

The audit also found that reports on the program to the Legislature have been incomplete.

The audit reviewed a program in which Southern University System board members grant partial tuition waivers to students. It covered the past two academic years. Auditors found that 141 waivers were granted, including seven cases in which students received awards in excess of a $1,000 limit.

In another instance, a student received a waiver despite not meeting the required grade-point average.

Included in the report is a response from the system president that said the problems are being addressed.

The audit report lists only two requirements to qualify for a scholarship: full- or part-time enrollment at a Southern University System institution and a minimum GPA of 2.0 for undergraduate students and 3.0 for graduate students.

“Establishing more specific criteria would give board members guidance to follow when deciding which students to recommend for a scholarship,” the audit report said.

The audit also found that reports to the Legislature for two years overstated the values of scholarships awarded by more than $6,000. Other errors included listing students who did not actually receive scholarships, omitting some who did as well as misspellings and misidentification of various Southern campuses.

In a letter to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, system President Ray Belton said the system’s scholarship committee will recommend that the Board of Supervisors develop recommendations for more specific criteria. He also said Southern management will thoroughly review the scholarship policies and that the financial aid office will be asked to revise its review process to avoid future errors.

“The Southern University System has been going through a transition period which resulted in some areas and items not being completed timely,” Belton wrote, adding that management will task someone with completing timely and accurate reports to the Legislature.

Belton took over the newly combined post of system president and chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus earlier this year after former President Ron Mason’s contract was not extended by the board.

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