Classes start at new RPCC campus _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- Classes began Monday at the new campus of River Parishes Community College in Gonzales.

River Parishes Community College has hired a bursar and beefed up its business office after a state audit released this month reported — for the third time in recent years — that the bookkeeping on tuition payments for some students is still not up to par.

The errors caused no financial harm to students, interim chancellor Quintin Taylor said. But they did cloud the college's picture of its finances, interim chancellor Quintin Taylor said Thursday. 

"Students themselves were not impacted by the mistakes made by our business office," said Taylor, who joined the community college in June. 

River Parishes Community College has a main campus in Gonzales and satellite campuses in West Baton Rouge, Iberville, St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist parishes.

Total enrollment for all of the RPCC campuses is currently at about 3,200 students, including traditional community college students and dual-enrolled students who are earning their high school and college credit at the same time. 

The errors in accounting were found on the tuition accounts of dual enrollment students, who attend RPCC classes while still in high school.

The school districts pay a portion of the tuition for their dual enrollment students; tuition is about $170 per credit hour. The remainder of the tuition is paid for by the community college and it's that latter source of funding that isn't being duly noted on student accounts — even though it's come through — Taylor said.

Of the 2,196 dual-enrolled students from the fall of 2020 through the spring of 2022, tuition waivers from the college weren't placed in a timely fashion on the accounts of a third of the 18 dual-enrolled student accounts reviewed, according to the audit released Sept. 6 by the state's Legislative Auditor's Office.

"Internally we didn't do that in a timely manner," Taylor said. "The account is going to show a balance, but the student does not owe money."

"Once it's been identified, we're going in and retroactively applying those waivers to those accounts," he said. 

State audits of RPCC in both 2019 and 2020, also reported that the community college "did not have adequate controls over student account balances, increasing the risk that accounts receivable balances may be overstated," the most recent audit said.

Other findings in this year's audit issued on Sept. 7:

  • RPCC did not write off student-related account balances as required by the Louisiana Community and Technical College System and RPCC policies. Account balances totaling more than $1.3 million that were between 2 1/2 and 8 years old were not written off as of June 21, 2022 — policies require that write-offs of delinquent accounts be made at the end of no more than the second year. 
  • Another third-time finding was ineffective bank reconciliations. Bank reconciliations for the months of July 2020 through October 2021 didn't balance, with differences between bank balances and the general ledger ranging from about $548,000 to negative $2 million. As of July 20, 2022, bank reconciliations weren't completed for the months of November 2021 through June 2022.

"The findings are important to address," Taylor said. "We need to know where our finances are at." 

"It's very important that the college has strong and steady leadership in the business office," he said, adding that he's made some personnel changes in the business office and has hired a new bursar and a new chief financial officer.

Before Taylor's appointment as interim chancellor this summer by the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, the role of interim chancellor was filled for two years by Jim Carlson, an administrator with Northshore Technical Community College, following the retirement of Chancellor Dale Doty in 2020.

The state's community and technical college system expects to name a permanent chancellor for River Parishes Community College in December. 

"We're working to address the audit findings, so that we have the trust of the people of Louisiana," Taylor said. 


Email Ellyn Couvillion at ecouvillion@theadvocate.com.