State auditor widens SU grades probe

BATON ROUGE – At least 25 people received grades or transcripts without enrolling at Southern University, paying tuition or proof that they ever attended classes, according to a state audit. One student may have had as many as 47 grades recorded for classes never taken, the Legislative Auditor’s Office found in its investigation of a scandal that cropped up at the university in March 2003.

"You figure that’s almost a degree," Assistant Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said. "That is pretty extreme."

No students were named in the audit, released Monday, because investigators did not contact every suspect and because two other inquiries are ongoing, he said.

Southern announced in December that at least 37 students were accused of wrongdoing, but Purpera said his sweep was more narrow than the university’s. It focused solely on the transactions apparently made by former Registrar Cleo Carroll.

The 25 students listed in the auditor’s probe all had records edited by Carroll and the university could not prove they’d paid tuition, enrolled at Southern or appeared on role sheets. Those three factors "provides a strong indication that the student did not actually attend and complete the courses," the report says.

Carroll allegedly received $9,100 to change grades, add false transfer credits to transcripts and record illegitimate credits that in some cases helped students earn degrees, according to the report.

The auditor’s office has recommended several security and record-keeping precautions to Southern and will be checking up on the school in a month and a half, he said. The most critical of the improvements: a daily review of all grade changes.

"It has a major impact because the university’s credibility is on the line when it’s suspect about their grades," Purpera said. "The good thing here is that the university discovered the problem, began investigating the problem and asked us to come and assist them."

About 10 students have lost degrees because of the scandal.