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TSU President to Tackle Finances, Management and Graduation Rate

The sole finalist to become Texas Southern University’s next president said financial and management repairs, along with improved graduation rates, will be keys to restoring the school’s credibility.

TSU regents voted unanimously last week to name John Rudley to succeed Priscilla Slade as president of the state’s largest historically Black university. Slade was fired amid a spending scandal in June 2006.

“We need to confront our problems, and the crisis situation must end,” Rudley said Monday.

Rudley, the University of Houston’s vice president for administration and finance, was TSU’s chief financial officer and internal auditor in the 1980s. State law requires the regents to wait 21 days before finalizing his new appointment.

Rudley, 60, said a top priority will be bringing TSU into compliance with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a regional accrediting agency that placed TSU on probation last month because of financial and management problems.

Rudley also emphasized the importance of gaining the trust of the Texas Legislature, which is withholding almost $40 million in supplemental funding over the next two years pending a viable rehabilitation plan.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said Rudley is “an excellent fit” for the TSU presidency because of his experience. Turner cited Rudley’s recent stint as the University of Houston’s interim president.

“He brings to TSU a very strong resume, a familiarity with the institution and a record of success,” Turner said.

Turner said he believed Rudley’s appointment will prompt lawmakers to start releasing the supplemental funding within the next three months.

Texas Southern had gone five years without a financial audit when Rudley became its chief financial officer in the 1980s. He was credited with establishing an accounting system that got the school back on track.

The school eventually fell into financial disrepair, leading outside auditors to criticize the university last year for problems with spending, bookkeeping and controls.

“That’s the surprise, that 20 years later, you’re right back in the same situation,” Rudley said, adding that he will make changes in personnel to help resolve the financial issues.

Rudley said he will also address the school’s low graduation rate, possibly by hiring more academic advisers. Only 16 percent of TSU students graduate six years after starting as new freshmen, according to the most recent data.

Rudley said the school may have to change its policy of accepting any student who applies.

“The university was founded in 1947. It’s now 2008,” Rudley said. “We have to ask ourselves if that policy is relevant today.”

–Associated Press

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