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Sunday, May 20, 2007

What the hell is going on at Coppin?

Baltimore Examiner Editorial:

Security lapses, laziness, abuse of taxpayer-financed vehicles and general incompetence. These are just a few of the charges, three repeats, the Office of Legislative Audits levels against Coppin State University in a report released earlier this week.

Among the most egregious findings is the fact that of 20 students monitored with delinquent accounts, all were allowed to register for classes against University System of Maryland policy. Who needs to work for a scholarship when you can get a free education without doing anything? The horrible thing about the problem is that the previous audit in 2002 found the same issue.

We wonder how many students have graduated without paying.

Other outrages include the fact that the school barely made an effort to collect back due fees — which as of June 30, 2006, were $5.4 million, or almost 10 percent of the yearly budget in 2006. It waited up to 31 months to notify the Department of Budget and Management’s Central Collection Unit, which it is supposed to do immediately — to help the school retrieve accounts receivable. We wonder what the school could be doing with that money.

Coppin also did not try to reconcile some accounts receivable with its general account for three years — leaving $6.8 million in discrepancies unresolved. Another major issue is lax security on databases holding sensitive student information. The school responded to that issue in the report with, “security privileges have been updated to reflect job duties.” What does that mean? Why should students trust the administration? Can it prove the integrity of all of its student records?

After years of accepting blatantly false vehicle log reports of state cars the administration finally reported mileage discrepancies to the Attorney General in March. According to the audit one vehicle log from December 2005 showed a car had been driven 4,400 miles in six days — in an around Baltimore City and County. Talk about lying as an art form. This would be funny if it weren’t such an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars.

How could President Stanley Battle, who leaves to head North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro this summer, allow such incompetence, not to mention criminal activity? The response should be clear: Cut off state funding — $21 million of its $61.5 million budget in 2006 — to the school until it can prove it’s cleaned up its management and oversight. Given the report’s findings one would wonder why alumni would consider giving to their alma mater.

And before the General Assembly raises taxes — as it’s leaders keep saying is necessary to fix the projected $1.5 billion structural deficit — it should wade through all of its Department of Legislative Services audit reports and total the waste in every state agency. $21 million here and there adds up to a lot of money — maybe enough to offset any need for a tax increase — right Senate President Miller and House Speaker Busch?

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