Out-of-state and undocumented students may be getting more of a deal than they bargained for in Utah's basic adult education courses.

An audit, released Wednesday, found that the Utah State Office of Education may not be collecting the right tuition for all of its students and may be double-dipping into state funds for other areas.

"Adult Education Program gets the majority of its funding from the state," said Tim Bereece, senior performance auditor for the state of Utah. "State funds are to be used to educate documented, resident students only, and they have no means in place to identify undocumented adults."

USOE, which operates the Adult Education Program offering basic skills and English language training in the state, has identified only five of its more than 24,000 students as nonresidents, and nearly 700 students provided invalid Social Security numbers upon enrollment. Close to 7,000 students provided no Social Security number at all, as it isn't required on the application.

A law passed during the most recent legislative session may prohibit offering any education to undocumented students. SB81 is pending litigation.

Bereece said the audit also found that 33 percent of USOE's adult education students in the past year were getting diplomas on top of GEDs they already earned, thus allowing the entity to collect more funding from the state, based on performance outcomes. Most of the one-third receiving both certifications were doing it in just 30 days, making it seem suspicious to legislators.

In response to recommendations resulting from the audit, officials have said they will do whatever is necessary to make the program compliant.

"This is happening in such small numbers when you think that more than 32,000 are served by adult education," said Larry Shumway, USOE's associate superintendent. "It still merits our review and consideration to make best use of these resources." He said there are instances when a GED and a high school diploma are not considered equivalents, which requires some students to get both certifications of completion.

The audit also considered efforts in adult education put forth by the Department of Workforce Services and the Utah College of Applied Technology. The three entities were found to offer complementary services serving Utah's adult population. Service duplication and gaps in services were not found to be a problem, according to the state audit.

Most of the issues discovered in the audit have to do with documentation and policy. It found that officials aren't aware of correct methods for calculating state money allocated to the AEP for the more than 24,000 students who enroll in the program.

Recommendations by the staff at the office of state auditor, as well as legislators during the Audit Subcommittee meeting Wednesday, include streamlining policy to ensure compliance with state law. That would include making adjustments to funding formulas, which pay out for base funding and attendance funding as well as performance outcomes, to eliminate problems with double-counting.

The audit is referred to both the Education Interim Committee and the Public Education Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

Patti Harrington, state superintendent of public instruction, said her staff would be taking immediate action on items recommended by the auditors, including funding discrepancies.

"We appreciate the work of the auditors in this review and look forward to improvements in the Adult Education Program as a result," she said, adding that marked improvements have already taken place since the program got new leadership in 2005.


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