A Denver tax initiative intended to assist school scholarships requires far more oversight to better observe its information and enhance safeguards to hedge in opposition to inaccurate reporting, according to a city audit produced this week.
The nonprofit Prosperity Denver Fund administers the city’s Higher education Affordability Fund produced after a 2018 ballot initiative. It began reimbursing area nonprofits for the scholarships and university help products and services they provide. The voter-accredited college or university fund sets aside .08% income tax to improve higher instruction assets for Denver college students, particularly these who are very low-revenue.
The audit states the Prosperity Denver Fund has struggled to keep correct and comprehensive data of pupils, had some challenges verifying if learners had been eligible for scholarships, and lacked acceptable documentation to assist reimbursements to nonprofits.
The nonprofit and the Denver Place of work of Children’s Affairs, which oversees the nonprofit’s function, have agreed with metropolis auditors’ recommendations. Prosperity Denver CEO Matt Jordan stated improvements, such as strengthening its knowledge management and collection, are possibly underway or are prepared.
“In data collection and management, these ways took lengthier than we would have wished in the beginning,” Jordan explained. “But we’re self-confident now that we have what we have to have to additional speedily handle these problems.”
The method has currently undergone other alterations because its begin in 2018.
Tax revenue available for the fund has enhanced from $8.9 million in 2019 to $14.5 million in 2022. So considerably, the fund has gathered about $46.4 million, but only spent about $21 million to reimburse nonprofits for about 7,500 scholarships.
The pandemic created it tricky to give out all the cash inside the fund, Jordan reported.
In May possibly, Denver city council customers accredited broadening the conditions for college students. The nonprofit can now reimburse scholarships or providers these types of as college or university or profession counseling, for pupils up to age 30, and for students who have graduated from a Denver high faculty or lived in Denver for six months prior to graduation.
“We assume that the ordinance alterations that were being lately authorized will enable us to provide additional college students that were initially supposed to be included by the fund,” Jordan mentioned.
The audit claims that Prosperity Fund Denver didn’t build determining facts for particular person pupils. When the fund reimburses about 1,800 scholarships a calendar year, Jordan explained, some of all those learners might get university money for numerous several years.
The group lacked some information and facts that bundled residency, money need to have, educational development, gender, and ethnicity. Prosperity Denver reported it adopted up with nonprofits to verify any lacking information.
The nonprofit also ran into difficulties confirming nonprofits could be reimbursed for scholar scholarships, according to the audit.
Of the 7,570 scholarships metropolis auditors reviewed, about 155 payments lacked the knowledge desired to identify if the college student was eligible.
Jordan reported difficulties stem from nonprofit teams never ever possessing recorded some of the knowledge that the fund involves. The updated eligibility prerequisites must enable with this problem, he explained.
The audit says for ineligible students, Prosperity Denver and the metropolis should really search for refunds. Jordan explained that function is previously underway.
The fund need to also make very clear paperwork for nonprofits to use that aid keep track of reimbursements, the audit says.
“Prosperity Denver has no in depth database of its reimbursements for scholarships and connected guidance services that would support it take care of the plan and greater be certain details integrity and transparency to Denver citizens,” the audit suggests.
For its portion, the town programs to add a employees member assigned to superior oversee the fund and support with difficulties, which include with the administration of details.
Jason Gonzales is a reporter covering higher education and the Colorado legislature. Chalkbeat Colorado companions with Open up Campus on higher education coverage. Contact Jason at [email protected].
To find out about the courses we have on offer: Click Here
Join the Course: Click Here