Colorado’s state auditor today released an independent review of the College Opportunity Fund Program that finds funding did not consistently follow students. It also raises questions about how student eligibility for the funds is verified.
Between fiscal years 2006 and 2011, the audit notes, “Institutions do not receive more COF Program funding when student enrollment increases in a given year, nor do institutions receive less funding when enrollment is lower than anticipated.”
That “caused the Community College System and two higher education institutions, Colorado Mesa University and Fort Lewis College, to be penalized during Fiscal Year 2011 when the number of students enrolled at those institutions who were eligible for tuition stipends increased, but the institutions did not receive additional funding,” according to a news release from the office of Auditor Dianne E Ray.
The COF program was implemented in 2006 with the idea of funding eligible students, rather than higher education institutions, by providing stipends to offset their tuition costs. One goal was to encourage access and enrollment among underrepresented groups.
The audit, conducted by Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting, Inc., based in Sacramento, Calif., included a review of eligibility documents for a sample of 50 students who received COF stipends. The review “identified three students who appear to be ineligible for stipends” and found “records for 27 additional students were insufficient to determine whether they were eligible.”
According to state law, only students who are designated as Colorado residents for tuition purposes may receive COF Program tuition stipends.