The findings are in and the Rend Lake College Financial Aid Department has passed its latest test with flying colors.
According to Doug Carlson, Director of Financial Aid, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) audits financial records every few years.
This year, Carlson is happy to report the results: only one finding and one observation. Both are minor notations in the written report and neither cost the college any money.
Outstanding for a program which dispersed $5.16 million in Fiscal Year 2002 to 4,740 student recipients. Those figures include $2,414,755 in federal funds; $1,965,793 in state resources; $519,579 in institutional tuition waivers, talent waivers and student employment, and $256,466 in other scholarships and employer-reimbursed tuition proggrams.
The purpose of the audit was to examine the fiscal administration of the Monetary Award Program (MAP), the Illinois Veteran Grant (IVG) and the Illinois National Guard (ING) grant programs, the Federal Pell Grant verification process and the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).
To do this, a determination was made regarding the eligibility of a sample of student recipients during the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 school years. Essentially, the ISAC comes prepared with a list of out-of-state social security numbers. They do not look at every file for every student who received financial aid in a particular year, but they do look at the files of every out-of-state student, plus random others.
What the ISAC auditors reviewed were the manner in which the loan proceeds were received and disbursed, how funds were handled, student eligibility, satisfactory academic progress and the manner in which lenders were advised of student status changes.
Prior to the grunt-work, the audit team met with Carlson to discuss the parameters and logistics for conducting the audit, including tests for full- and part-time eligibility, monitoring of academic progress, a review of the Federal Pell Grant verification process and other related criteria.
Documents utilized by the auditors included computer-generated transcripts, grade reports, add/drop slips, registration records, grant payment records, admissions material and other relevant financial data.
An exit conference was conducted with RLC personnel, including, Vice-President of Student Services Mary Roe, Carlson, Financial Aid Advisor Cheri Rushing and Financial Aid Assistant Rita Harriss to discuss preliminary results.
The finding revealed proceeds from only one loan not delivered in a timely manner. RLC has responded and no further action is required.
The observation indicated "the data used to construct individual student budgets was not maintained in the student’s file." Carlson explained, however, the college has that information stored in its computer system, so it accessible at a fingertip.
In a letter to RLC President Mark S. Kern, IASC Assistant Director of Compliance Dore Brown said, "The professional and efficient assistance provided by your staff allowed the examiners to complete their work relatively quickly and with a minimum of disruption.
Carlson modestly attributes the successful audit to the collaborative team of Rushing and Harriss. "They are the ‘nuts and bolts’ which keep the whole process rolling very smoothly."
Since the last audit, they have begun to pay more attention to the small details, he said.
"We also have really monitored and enforced our Academic Progress Policy," he added.
Satisfactory Academic Progress has three components: cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0; cumulative completion ratio no less than 67%, which is total credit hours earned divided by total credit hours attempted; and the 150% rule, which is the specific time period to complete a degree or certificate. Carlson said his department "look very closely at that."
For the financial aid process to ebb and flow requires the cooperation of several RLC departments, including Records, Information Technology, Business Office and Student Services.
"All areas have to be working well together to have a clean audit," Carlson concluded.
As required by federal regulations, the results of the audit were forwarded to the United States Department of Education.