Friday, July 04, 2003

Incompetence, fraud, or affirmative inaction? 

This Independence Day the top local story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press deals with a unique kind of perceived freedom. Apparently, administrators of SCSU�s �sister� MnSCU university, Metro State, believed that they did not have to comply with federal law that governs students� required academic eligibility standards for receiving financial aid. Metro State will have to repay the U.S. Department of Education almost $1.1 million, including a $205,000 penalty.

"We have people here who . . . made bad judgments,� said the Twin Cities� Metro State President Wilson Bradshaw. That kind of non-response, of course, forces one to ask, �Why?� Were these �bad judgments� the result of incompetence, fraud with �bad intent,� or perhaps some kind of well intentioned, but illegal �affirmative inaction� when asked to enforce federal academic standards on economically disadvantaged students who had sought financial aid? What other kinds of explanations could there be?

No matter what the reason for these �bad judgments� may be, Minnesota�s taxpayers should be demanding to know why Metro State�s Financial Aid Director Jim Cleaveland has been put on paid administrative leave since May. How long will he receive pay? Does MnSCU�s Chancellor care? Who knows? We simply note that the Chancellor�s new 2003-04 Annual Work Plan�s top four priorities mention nothing about accountability!

All this bad news comes less than four months after another shocking report of MnSCU�s member institutions' having an unpaid receivable total from students that, as a percentage of annual tuition and fees billed, is 50% higher than that of the U of MN, and almost twice the comparable figure for Wisconsin�s University system. After Metro State, guess which MnSCU campus tied for second worst in collecting monies from students? You guessed it . . . St. Cloud State University. Look for Minnesota�s Office of the Legislative Auditor to resume trying to get MnSCU to understand the importance of adopting and enforcing "performance measures."