Audit: University of Wisconsin misspent 1% of COVID-19 relief money | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The University of Wisconsin System spent nearly $240,000 of federal COVID-19 relief money on expenses not allowed under federal criteria, a new nonpartisan state audit found.

The $239,200 in misspent funds identified by the Legislative Audit Bureau on Dec. 22 represent less than 1% of the $564 million that UW System received in federal money to help navigate through the pandemic.

UW System President Jay Rothman said in a written response to the agency that the audit’s conclusions “demonstrate the UW System’s commitment to fiscal stewardship, accountability and strong internal controls.”

Auditors reviewed more than 100 transactions, with documentation showing typical reimbursements were for employee sick leave, distance learning equipment and personal protective equipment. But some purchases stood out…


Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, who co-chairs the audit committee, said he was “relieved” to see such a small percentage of transactions as unallowable. But he encouraged UW leaders to look at how the funds were allocated to campuses because he believed the audit shows a “consistent lack of funds” headed to his home campus of UW-Green Bay despite the school being one of the few that hasn’t suffered enrollment decline.

UW-Green Bay received roughly $24 million, or 4% of the UW System’s federal money, the audit shows. The campus likely received some additional money from UW System Administration, which received $3 million of its own to allocate to campuses, but this amount isn’t broken down by campus in the report.

UW-Green Bay’s fall 2022 enrollment accounts for 6% of the UW System as a whole.

“We need to ensure that out state campuses are given the attention they deserve when stacked up against major institutions in the southern part of the state,” Cowles said in a statement.

UW-Madison received about 20% of the UW System’s federal money while enrolling about 30% of the UW System’s students, according to the audit and enrollment reports. UW-Milwaukee got nearly 18% of the money and enrolls about 14% of the UW System’s students.

Federal money was awarded to universities based on formulas developed by the U.S. Education Department that considered factors such as overall enrollment and the number of low-income students a campus serves.

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Source: Audit: University of Wisconsin misspent 1% of COVID-19 relief money

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