Texas Southern University Reforms Would Give Regents More Control

HOUSTON

Texas Southern University has proposed a slate of reforms that would give regents greater oversight as the school tries to recover from a period of turbulence and financial mismanagement.

School leaders said the long-range plan will help the school overcome problems such as declining enrollment and low graduation rates. If the plan is approved, the state would provide nearly $40 million in supplemental funding over the next two years.

TSU, the state’s largest historically black university, recently submitted the reorganization plan to Gov. Rick Perry’s office and Legislative Budget Board. The Houston Chronicle obtained a copy under the Texas Public Information Act.

Drawing from ideas proposed earlier this year by the governor’s TSU advisory committee, the plan recommends giving regents tighter controls over the university management. It also prioritizes the hiring of a permanent president.

TSU officials hope the increased oversight will help the school rebound from a financial scandal that included the firing of President Priscilla Slade last year.

Slade was accused of misspending university money to decorate her homes. She was indicted but avoided conviction when the jury in her trial deadlocked, resulting in a mistrial.

The allegations against Slade coincided with reports that revealed a pattern of financial mismanagement at TSU and prompted Perry to call for a state takeover of the university that was later put on hold. The nine-member board of regents has since been replaced.

Members of the Legislative Budget Board told the Chronicle they were still reviewing the plan and did not offer any comment.

Under the reforms, the board would receive regular reports and audits.

Glenn Lewis, board chairman since May, said the regents’ workload would increase, but their “primary responsibility is having an administrative team in place that we can trust and rely upon.”

The plan recommends balancing the budget and paying delinquent bills, such as financial aid to the U.S. Department of Education.

It also recommends strengthening the school’s advising and counseling programs for students to improve their chances of success. It does not recommend implementing entrance requirements, which would be a break from the school’s commitment to accepting all applicants.

“We’re not concerned with your previous record, as long as you’re committed from this point on,” Lewis said. “If you’re committed, we can work with you.”

The plan suggests that TSU can reduce its responsibility for remedial education courses by possibly transferring some of those duties to Houston Community College.

TSU estimates that about 70 percent of first-time freshmen arrive on campus without the skills needed to do university-level work. More than half do not make it to their sophomore year.

Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com



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