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Audit Finds $14M in Uncollected Tuition, Fees at NCC

Dr. Kenneth Saunders welcomes support of county comptroller, NCC's board of trustees in implementing structural management changes to improve the college’s operating efficiencies.

Nassau Community College
Nassau Community College
An audit of Nassau Community College has uncovered "numerous financial and operational inefficiencies," including the institution's failure to collect $14 million in tuition and fees since the 2006/07 academic year, Nassau County comptroller George Maragos said.

The comptroller said the issues "persisted for too long and if allowed to persist could threaten the mission of the college and cause significant tuition increases in the future.”

Dr. Kenneth Saunders, NCC's acting president, said college officials agree with many of the comptroller's observations and recommendations and further notes that through "specific and sustained actions" $4.3 million of the previously uncollected tuition and fees have already been recovered.

Dr. Saunders added that a large percentage of NCC's uncollected tuition and fees is because the college offers a three-payment deferred tuition payment plan to students who cannot otherwise afford full payment of tuition and do not qualify for full financial aid.

"The College underwent a substantial restructuring of the processes within the Financial Aid Office in 2010 which has helped to minimize situations that, in the past, had resulted in collection problems," Dr. Saunders added.

"Starting in 2011, students can no longer register for future semesters if a 'hold' is in place on their accounts due to unpaid balances. The College continues to seek payment from students though ongoing written notices and, as a matter of last resort, has also increased its use of outside collection agencies."

The audit also found that "inadequate billing and collection practices" between 2006 and August 2011 resulted in a depletion of the college's reserves to "dangerously low levels" as well as a 2013 tuition hike, according to Maragos.

The average tuition increase during this time period was $118 or $59 per semester, an average of 3.5 percent, according to college officials, still lower than the average increase for SUNY community colleges (3.6 percent) during that same time frame.

Maragos said although "significant improvements" have been instituted since the audit, additional changes must still be made, including reducing staffing ratios and administrative expenses.

The audit found NCC's staffing levels, administrative expenses and total operating costs "out of line" with comparable regional colleges like Suffolk Community College, Monroe Community College and Westchester Community College. During the 2010/2011 academic year, NCC's staffing levels were 38 percent higher than levels at SCCC.

"Differing staffing levels can arise for a variety of reasons, including those that relate to value judgments as to what is necessary to maintain educational quality," Dr. Saunders said.

The college’s administrative and general expenses for fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2011 were found to be the highest when compared to the other three colleges, according to the audit; NCC's total was $56 million, Suffolk's totaled $52 million, Monroe $41 million and Westchester $27 million.

Further, budgeted operating costs for the 2011/2012 school year were $1,302 more per student at NCC than at Suffolk Community College.

Dr. Saunders said the higher staffing levels at NCC, as well as budget dollars per student being higher than at SCCC are directly attributable to the lower student faculty ratio compared to the other colleges cited. "When analyzing the student ratio to full-time faculty, NCC's ratio of 55 to 1 is by far the lowest," he said.

Maragos also advised school officials to install a permanent president, someone "with the authority and stature to implement the organizational and financial improvements necessary."

Dr. Saunders said he welcomes support of the comptroller as well as NCC's board of trustees in implementing the structural management changes needed to improve the college’s operating efficiencies.

To read a full version of the report, click here.

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