Overview

In accordance with Section 12 of Chapter 11 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) has conducted a performance audit of certain activities of the Department of Higher Education (DHE) for the period July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016. In addition, we reviewed transactions pertaining to the No Interest Loan (NIL) Program for fiscal years 2013 through 2016 to review the allowability of charges to the NIL Program during these periods.

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, the conclusion we reached regarding each objective, and where each objective is discussed in the audit findings.

Objective

Conclusion

  1. Does DHE measure the effectiveness and success of the Foster Child Grant Program, the Foster Child Tuition Waiver and Fee Assistance Program, and the NIL Program?

No; see Finding 1

  1. Does DHE adequately administer the Foster Child Grant Program, the Foster Child Tuition Waiver and Fee Assistance Program, and the NIL Program?

No; see Finding 2

 

To achieve our objectives, we reviewed applicable authoritative guidance and gained an understanding of the internal controls we deemed relevant to our audit objectives. In evaluating the internal control environment, we found an issue with DHE’s internal control plan (Finding 3).

We also performed the following audit procedures:

  • We interviewed DHE officials to obtain an understanding of the department’s processes for evaluating the effectiveness of the Foster Child Grant Program, the Foster Child Tuition Waiver and Fee Assistance Program, and the NIL Program.
  • We interviewed the assistant commissioner and key staff members within DHE’s Office of Student Financial Assistance to gain an understanding of the systems in place for receiving data from educational institutions for the Foster Child Grant Program, the Foster Child Tuition Waiver and Fee Assistance Program, and the NIL Program.
  • We reviewed DHE’s reports detailing (1) the number of applicants who were awarded funding and (2) the dollar amounts awarded for the Foster Child Grant Program, the Foster Child Tuition Waiver and Fee Assistance Program, and the NIL Program.

As part of testing the administration of programs, we selected a nonstatistical judgmental sample of 9 of the state’s 29 higher-education institutions and performed the following procedures:

  • We conducted interviews with each institution’s director of financial aid to obtain an understanding of how state-funded financial aid programs are administered at the campus level and of the requirements put in place by DHE for submitting reports detailing activities related to the Foster Child Grant Program, the Foster Child Tuition Waiver and Fee Assistance Program, and the NIL Program.
  • We compared the data supplied by DHE from its MASSAid1 system to the financial information in the Massachusetts Management Accounting and Reporting System (MMARS) for agreement of amounts awarded by the nine selected institutions.
  • We reviewed the NIL Program’s transactions in MMARS to determine whether all charges were made to educational institutions.

Our sample was judgmentally selected, and therefore we did not project the sample results to the total population. We used a judgmental sample because it was more effective for assessing the significance of various items and for evaluating the relative risks that some of these items might not comply with existing regulations.

To determine whether information used in our audit was sufficiently reliable, we relied on OSA’s most recent data reliability assessment of MMARS (April 8, 2014), compared MMARS information to DHE’s information in MASSAid, and compared the MASSAid information to data provided by the higher educational institutions. We also tested data for duplicates and verified that payments were made to educational institutions.

1. MASSAid is a Web-based grant and scholarship management system used by DHE’s Office of Student Financial Assistance that allows students and educational institutions to review and enter information related to student financial aid.

Date published: August 29, 2018
Feedback