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  • Office of the State Auditor

Audit of North Shore Community College Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

An overview of the purpose and process of auditing North Shore Community College.

Table of Contents


In accordance with Section 12 of Chapter 11 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Office of the State Auditor has conducted a performance audit of certain activities of North Shore Community College (NSCC) for the period July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019.

We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Below is a list of our audit objectives, indicating each question we intended our audit to answer and the conclusion we reached regarding each objective.



  1. Did NSCC ensure that students transferring to the college were granted eligible earned credits upon transfer in accordance with the Department of Higher Education’s (DHE’s) “MassTransfer Policy Guidelines,” DHE’s “Community College Transfer Principles,” and NSCC policy?


  1. Did NSCC certify the completion of the MassTransfer Block on students’ transcripts in accordance with DHE’s “MassTransfer Policy Guidelines”?


  1. Did NSCC administer eligibility requirements within the Commonwealth Commitment Program in accordance with DHE’s “Commonwealth Commitment Implementation Guidelines”?



To achieve our objective, we gained an understanding of NSCC’s internal control environment related to our audit objectives by reviewing agency policies and procedures, as well as conducting inquiries with NSCC’s staff members and management.

We performed the following procedures to obtain sufficient, appropriate audit evidence to address the audit objectives.

MassTransfer Program

  • To determine whether students who transferred to NSCC received all credits they were entitled to receive, we selected a nonstatistical random sample of 50 of the 528 students who transferred to NSCC from other Commonwealth colleges and universities during the audit period. We reviewed the students’ submitted transfer credit evaluation forms listing requested course credits and compared them to the transfer credits received according to the student transcripts to determine whether students received credit for eligible courses or alternate sources, such as Advanced Placement tests or College Level Examination Program tests. We also verified that course credits that were not received did not meet NSCC course transfer requirements.
  • To determine whether NSCC tracked students to ensure successful completion of the MassTransfer Block, we selected a nonstatistical random sample of 50 of the 565 NSCC students who were eligible for the MassTransfer Block during the audit period. We reviewed whether the Registrar’s Office properly certified transcripts with the designation of MassTransfer Block Completion by verifying that the courses completed according to the student transcripts met the requirements of the “MassTransfer Policy Guidelines.” We also verified that student transcripts that NSCC did not certify did not meet the MassTransfer Block course requirements.

Commonwealth Commitment Program

  • To determine whether NSCC properly processed Commonwealth Commitment Program applications, we selected a nonstatistical random sample of 20 of the 207 students enrolled in the Commonwealth Commitment Program during the audit period. We determined whether the applications were on file and reviewed for completion, including student and reviewer signatures and review dates. To assess whether application data were properly entered in the student files in Banner,1 we verified the accuracy of the application information entered, including intended MassTransfer pathway, graduation date, and transfer colleges, in the students’ Banner files. To determine whether students were notified promptly of acceptance or denial for the program, we requested for review the letter or email notifications sent to students.
  • To determine whether NSCC provided students with information, advice, and other assistance to maximize opportunities for degree completion under the Commonwealth Commitment Program, we selected a nonstatistical judgmental sample of 25 of the 395 students who were on the end-of-semester eligibility lists during the audit period. We verified the accuracy of the eligibility review determination by evaluating eligibility requirements, including a minimum 3.0 grade point average (GPA), a minimum 12 credits earned, full-time continuous enrollment, and Commonwealth Commitment Program course pathway enrollment, on student transcripts. We also verified that the Student Support and Advising Office notified the Student Accounts Office of students’ eligibility for the program. For students on program probation (e.g., for falling below a 3.0 GPA or not maintaining full-time enrollment), we reviewed the student transcripts for compliance with Commonwealth Commitment Program reentry requirements.
  • To determine whether student rebate checks were sent to eligible students, we selected a nonstatistical judgmental sample of 25 of the 301 student rebate checks issued during the audit period. We determined whether students met program eligibility requirements, including a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, a minimum of 12 credits earned, and full-time continuous enrollment, by reviewing their student transcripts. We determined the accuracy of the check amounts by recalculating them according to the student account records and confirmed that fee and tuition rates were based on NSCC fee and tuition rates as of the students’ program enrollment dates.

Whenever sampling was used, we applied a nonstatistical approach, and as a result, we will not project our results to the entire populations.

Data Reliability

To gain an understanding of the NSCC Banner system and controls, we interviewed information technology personnel responsible for oversight of the system. To assess the system’s reliability, we tested the following general information technology controls: security management, access controls, configuration management, contingency planning, and segregation of duties. To assess the accuracy of the Banner data, we traced 10 randomly selected students from the scanned Commonwealth Commitment Program applications in Banner to student names, course pathways, and intended transfer colleges in Banner, as well as tracing 10 additional students’ information from Banner to scanned Commonwealth Commitment Program applications. To determine the reliability of Banner data lists obtained for testing, we used electronic spreadsheet functionality to examine for duplicate records. Commonwealth Commitment Program applications for students who were not admitted to the program were not scanned into Banner or retained by NSCC personnel; therefore, we could not assess the completeness of the Commonwealth Commitment Program data. We deemed the Banner data sufficiently reliable for our audit purposes.

1.     Banner is the database system of record for NSCC’s administrative activities and student files. It is designed to link various integrated modules, including modules for registration, student billing, and financial aid, to the college’s finance system.

Date published: January 7, 2021