Community College System Response to LBA Performance Audit

Community College System Response to LBA Performance Audit

The Community College System of NH joined Legislative Budget Assistant auditors on Aug. 25 to present the CCSNH Performance Audit for fiscal years 2012-16 to the joint Legislative Fiscal committee.  The audit was designed to provide recommendations for ongoing organizational improvement efforts. 

Paul Holloway, chairman of the CCSNH Board of Trustees, said that the system will work to improve on areas identified in the audit, which focused primarily on internal business processes.  He emphasized that CCSNH is also focused on core mission elements of educational excellence, student success, alignment with NH’s economy, affordability and access.  CCSNH’s significant achievements in these areas of its mission were not within the scope of the LBA audit.     

Holloway also said CCSNH has already been at work addressing several areas of inquiry from the audit.  “In most cases, CCSNH has already made changes within areas identified during the audit, or is in the process of doing so, and the Board will monitor ongoing work related to this report,” Holloway said.

“This will be a helpful tool for CCSNH as we continue to evolve our organizational practices,” said Ross Gittell, CCSNH Chancellor.  “We see areas for business process improvement, better decision-making, operations that would benefit from more comprehensive written policies, and the need for more internal communication and transparency.”  Dr. Gittell noted that a task force will be created to monitor progress on audit-related efforts. 

“We do appreciate the areas of concern raised by the report and will take the recommendations seriously,” Gittell said. “CCSNH is a large, complex and dynamic organization, and not perfect.  At the same time, in the report we’ve tried to articulate the work going on across CCSNH to provide 21st century learning that meets 21st century education, workforce and economic needs, and have made significant advances.”

CCSNH’s mission is “to provide residents with affordable, accessible education and training that aligns with the needs of New Hampshire’s businesses and communities, delivered through an innovative, efficient, and collaborative system of colleges.”  Dr. Gittell provided several examples of how CCSNH has met this charge.  Tuition at NH’s community colleges is the same today as it was in 2012, while the New England average increase has been 15 percent. CCSNH also works closely with employers so that academic programs create career pathways for students and align with workforce needs and opportunities, such as high-need industry sectors like advanced manufacturing, information technology, healthcare and the skilled trades.  And in recent years CCSNH has become a national leader in incorporating practices to improve student outcomes, such as helping students navigate more effectively through their college program and increasing transfer pathways to four-year colleges and universities.  He also noted that NH community college graduates enjoy the highest median income among New England community college graduates, the best graduation rate in New England, and the lowest student loan default rate.  

Gittell noted that between 2010-2015 CCSNH increased the number of degrees and certificates awarded by ten percent, and the number of STEM degrees and certificates by 20 percent.   

 “We understand an audit is not designed as a balanced review of organizational performance, but a tool to recommend specific areas for improvement.  We appreciate this report as a resource to help us identify those areas,” said Gittell.  “While this is important for any organization, we are also very focused on meeting the needs of students, and being responsive to industry. These constitute the broad goals of our mission.”   

CCSNH trustee Jeremy Hitchcock, founder of Dyn and NH business leader, also noted that CCSNH’s most recent fiscal audit, by the leading accounting firm of Berry Dunn, found no material weaknesses in CCSNH’s financial operations.  In addition, trustee Hitchcock highlighted that all seven NH community colleges participate in a rigorous, industry-specific and comprehensive accreditation process through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and are all fully accredited.