Pennsylvania's system of 14 state-owned universities should do a better job of tracking crimes and sex discrimination, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Monday as he released a performance audit of the agency.
In a generally favorable report on the State System of Higher Education that praised its efforts to rein in rising tuition rates, DePasquale cited procedural deficiencies in the universities' compliance with some federal laws that could result in costly penalties.
Continue Reading Below
The audit, covering the three fiscal years ending in June 2014, indicated "the system needs to step up its game," said DePasqaule, who was flanked by system Chancellor Frank Brogan at a Capitol news conference.
DePasquale criticized the system's discontinuance in 2013 of internal audits of compliance with the federal Clery Act, which requires public reporting of crimes on or near campuses. He said internal audits are vital in ensuring that each university is complying with the law.
The system also lacks uniform, systemwide procedures for handling grievances under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. Instead, each university has its own procedure, forcing lawyers monitoring compliance to sift through 14 policies, the auditors said.
Brogan, who has been chancellor for 18 months, said he accepts the audit findings. He said the 110,000-student system already has hired an outside lawyer who will help provide a more consistent approach to its many audits by other state and federal agencies.
"We are audited on a frequent basis," he said.
DePasquale, the state's elected fiscal watchdog, said rising tuition rates stemming from years of cuts and stagnation in state funding have coincided with declines in enrollment and are increasingly pushing the cost of a college education beyond the reach of middle-class families. He commended system officials' efforts to reduce costs and attract new students.
"They're doing about as much as they can," he said.
Earlier this month, the system's board tentatively agreed to freeze tuition for the 2015-16 school years if the $43 million increase in system funding that Gov. Tom Wolf has requested is approved by the Legislature.