Bethel U continues financial dispute, tells feds this year was healthy, too

Bethel University will send the Department of Education the results of its FY 2013 audit this week, which campus officials say shows the university is financially healthy.

The university has been in a battle with the feds over the results of a national college financial-health test, which the government says Bethel flunked.

But campus officials dispute that, and say they hope the audit is further proof the department has misjudged the school.

“We should be in the clear,” said Bethel spokeswoman Suzanne McInroy.

McInroy (Bethel University)

The argument erupted earlier this year when federal officials sent a letter to Bethel, saying the university had flunked the test of its FY 2012 results. The government ordered Bethel to provide a multimillion-dollar letter of credit this summer.

But the university argues not only that it passed the test, but that the federal calculations and fiscal assumptions used are deeply flawed. It’s a complaint made by many other private colleges and the organization that represents them.

The feds apparently suspended the sanction after a July meeting with Department of Education officials and 4th District Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who asked the Secretary of Education to resolve the matter.

Now McInroy says the feds have asked for the 2013 audit results — even though the dispute is over 2012 — and will “make a decision after that.”

McInroy said Bethel will pass the federal test “both with the way we calculate [our financial health] and the way they calculate it.”

She said if the department sees a clean bill of health for 2013, “we think there’s a chance they would say … that they’ll just give us a pass for 2012. But we don’t really want that.”

What Bethel and other college leaders have called for instead is for the feds to change to how they calculate colleges’ financial health.

“We want to make sure the overall issue is resolved — for us or anyone else,” McInroy said. But for now, “the ball is kind of in their court.”

I should be able to get the letter, and will post it when I do.