Commission sanctions Dillard, wants financial information

NEW ORLEANS

An accreditation commission has sanctioned Dillard University, saying the school has not shown it is fiscally sound.

The decision by the Commission on Colleges doesn’t necessarily mean the school is having financial difficulties. It means Dillard has not filed “for the last year or two” an audit or other documentation that would prove its financial health, commission chief of staff Tom Benberg said.

Dillard released a statement Saturday stressing that it remains fully accredited and eligible for all state and federal money, and none of its programs is in trouble.

Benberg said Dillard has until December to file the needed paperwork. If the commission isn’t satisfied then, the school’s accreditation could be at stake. Students attending schools that lose accreditation aren’t eligible to receive federal financial aid, Benberg said.

Dillard President Marvalene Hughes, who started July 1, 2005, said in a statement that she and her staff are working to provide the requested documentation from 2000 to June 30, 2005.

“The circumstances, which we inherited, will be corrected,” Hughes said. “This is the university’s top priority.”

She said the commission’s letter, which came two weeks after she took over and two weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit, expressed “concerns” about Dillard’s fiscal well-being. She gave no specifics but said: “This administration has taken diligent action to diagnose the problem, self-report findings of past omissions and swiftly move to take corrective actions.”

The commission typically accredits schools for a decade. Dillard’s most recent accreditation came in 1999. But after monitoring, Benberg said the commission asked the school for a report on its financial situation in June 2004.

Dillard got a one year extension. But the report received in June 2005 raised concerns among commissioners that Dillard “wasn’t in compliance with financial standards” and resulted in a request for a report a year later, Benberg said.

Dillard got another yearlong extension, he said, because of Hurricane Katrina, which hit in August 2005 and flooded the campus and much of the city.

“We think we’ve been very fair and accommodating,” Benberg said. “We want this institution to succeed within the framework of accreditation standards, and we want to be reasonable with them, and we want to be encouraging.”

At the December meeting, Benberg said the board could remove the warning, or sanction, if it finds Dillard has complied with its requests; keep the warning in effect and request another report; put Dillard on probation, a more serious action than the current warning; or revoke its accreditation.

Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.timespicayune.com

Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.timespicayune.com

–Associated Press



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