Rockhurst University last month found itself on one of those federal lists no school wants to be on.
One that marks it as having been under close watch by the U.S. Department of Education for financial reasons.
The university said last week that it has since met its financial obligations and won’t appear on the list when the federal agency updates it. But there are penalties for having hit the list in the first place.
The Heightened Cash Monitoring list is the latest way the Education Department is opening its books to give tuition-paying students and parents a better look at what their money is buying and how it’s being used.
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The list revealed the names of about 500 colleges and universities the department has placed under financial scrutiny. Agency officials are watching the schools to ensure they are using federal student aid in a way that is accountable to students and taxpayers.
Most of the schools are private for-profit institutions, but the list also includes some public schools and 103 private nonprofits. None of the area’s large public schools is on the list.
Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell said in a blog post last week that a school could land on the monitoring list for late financial statements, outstanding liabilities, accreditation issues or concerns about its financial responsibility. The last landed Rockhurst on the list.
As scored by the department, a mark of 1.5 to 3 indicates an institution is financially responsible. Schools with scores greater than or equal to 1 but less than 1.5 are considered financially responsible but require additional oversight. Scores below 1 open a school to serious penalties.
Rockhurst, which sets tuition at more than $32,000 a year for undergraduates, in fiscal 2011-2012 had a score of 1, meaning it required more federal oversight.
Rockhurst said the problem was caused by a slower revenue stream that year, in part because of a smaller freshman class.
“During the last three years the market has improved, and we also have brought in freshman classes above or near 400,” said Katherine Frohoff, university spokeswoman.
The school’s 2014 score is better than 2, she said.
Healthy schools can draw from federal funds on an honor system to pay out student financial aid awards. Rockhurst, as a penalty, had to pay those awards from its own coffers and then be reimbursed by the federal agency.