University of Tennessee, board of directors

Report Details Financial Troubles At Tennessee State University 

A forensic audit reveals the HBCU mishandled budget monitoring, collecting tuition, and awarding scholarships.

A forensic audit of Tennessee State University reveals how the HBCU mishandled core responsibilities including budget monitoring, collecting tuition, and awarding scholarships. 

With 57 observations and 60 recommendations, auditors from CliftonLarsonAllen LLP found troubling details about the school’s finances. University president, Glenda Glover, received an estimated $33,000 over her contracted base salary that didn’t go through proper approval stages until the funds were received. 

Scholarships for students increased by almost 250% — from approximately over $22 million during the 2020 fiscal year to over $55 million in 2023 — in fiscal year 2020 to approximately $55.5 million in fiscal year 2023. 

While that may sound like good news, auditors found the spending to be “not sustainable” and lacked the corresponding documents and criteria to award financial stipends. 

Enrollment issues also came to light. While students with overlooked unpaid account balances were still allowed to enroll, TSU also failed to charge over $1 million (a minimum in tuition or fees) for enrolled graduate students taking classes related to dissertation, thesis, or project writing continuation.

Lastly, there was money, totaling $3,952.92, paid by the school, that couldn’t be explained or labeled as “University business.”

“The Tennessee State University Financial & Compliance Audit for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2022 contains nine findings,” the report read, according to WSMV. 

“Several of the findings document management’s lack of adequate oversight over its financial reporting, bank reconciliations, capital asset records, collecting procedures, and more. At least three of the findings have been reported in the prior five annual audits of TSU.”

Released by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, two other reports showed how the HBCU handles federal grant awards in order to provide students with financial aid. Several findings correspond with similar errors once reported by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) following their October 2023 review of the university’s administration of state financial aid programs. 

That review essentially resulted in TSAC holding back grant and scholarship payments from TSU.

The university released a statement claiming some discrepancies in their findings, stating they “cover a period that began in 2021.”

“These findings in this report cover a period that began in 2021, and do not reflect the substantial improvements that TSU has made to its business operations over the past two years, and gives the impression that TSU is committing the same infractions in the present, which is not the case,” the statement read. 

“Additionally, the audits do not mention the gross underfunding of TSU.”

In 2023, a federal analysis showed TSU was reportedly shortchanged $2.1 billion dollars less than it should have between 1987 and 2020. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump took the case against the state of Tennessee, calling for GOP Governor Bill Lee to make it right.

“This is really about the lives of Black people in America and trying to understand that there’s a huge wealth gap between Black Americans and white Americans. And education is a great equalizer to bridge that wealth gap,” Crump said on Oct. 3. “We really sincerely hope that the Tennessee legislature is going to rectify this historic deficit.”

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