BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Two-thirds of community and technical colleges participating in a program that allows them to raise their student costs didn't provide reliable data to gain that authority, Louisiana's legislative auditor said Monday.
That data is used to determine if the schools are meeting performance improvements needed to increase tuition, benchmarks required under a 2010 law authorizing tuition increases of up to 10 percent a year.
The review by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office said 11 of 16 community and technical colleges used unreliable facts and figures when they received approval from Louisiana's top higher education board, the Board of Regents, to get permission to raise tuition.
That included all seven of the technical colleges and four of the nine community colleges.
Two public colleges outside the community and technical college system — Southern University at Shreveport and the University of Louisiana at Monroe — also didn't provide reliable data, according to the audit.
Nearly all four-year universities were deemed to have provided accurate information, and University of Louisiana System President Randy Moffett said the ULM data error was corrected on site when auditors pointed out the problem.
The audit was the first review of data used under the law known as the GRAD Act, which requires schools to achieve certain measurable performance standards to raise tuition. The benchmarks include increasing admission standards, improving graduation rates and boosting efforts to get students into jobs.
Regents review the data annually to help determine if the campuses have met their benchmarks and can again raise tuition for the next year.
Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Joe May said the schools since have beefed up their data and auditing processes. In a written response to the audit, May said the initial audit of GRAD Act data has been "a learning experience for all parties involved and has identified areas in which we can improve."
"The audit has allowed us to identify potential policies and procedures for review and refinement to ensure accuracy and compliance with the measures of the GRAD Act," May wrote.
Purpera's office agreed that standardizing computer systems at community and technical colleges, slated to be finished by March 2013, should help cut down on the errors and data problems.
Southern University at Shreveport Chancellor Ray Belton disagreed with the auditor that its data wasn't reliable and said the identified problems didn't compromise the accuracy of the information provided to the Board of Regents.
"Staffing protocols have been enhanced to ensure greater internal control of data processing," Belton wrote in his response to the audit.
Lawmakers mandated that Purpera's office must annually audit the reliability of the college data used to continue receiving the tuition increase authority from Regents.