Grambling Welcomes Extended ‘Probation’ Status; Others Face Harsh Reality
BATON ROUGE, La.
Troubled Grambling State University has shown enough progress in cleaning up its finances that the regional accrediting agency decided last month to extend its probation for another year.
At the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ annual meeting in San Antonio, the agency’s executive director James Rogers said Grambling has made significant progress in recent months to clean up the financial problems that have threatened the university’s accreditation.
But Rogers said the association wanted to see the 101-year-old historically Black institution sustain the progress for a longer period of time.
Dr. Sally Clausen, president of the University of Louisiana System that oversees Grambling, says the decision to give Grambling another year to prove itself is a significant victory.
“We’ve turned the ship around — they (SACS) just want to see that ship move forward for a little longer,” Clausen says.
For schools seeking first-time accreditation, the agency requires two consecutive unqualified or clean audits, and is applying the same standard to Grambling, she says.
Clausen noted that the loss of accreditation would have been devastating for Grambling, where nearly 90 percent of students are receiving some kind of aid linked to accreditation.
SACS also rescinded its warning against St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, N.C. The agency affirmed that the college is in good standing and that its accreditation has been renewed through 2011.
SACS warned the private, historically Black college a year ago that its library services and financial resources were inadequate, that planning and educational support services were weak, that the school failed to evaluate its educational effectiveness and that several academic departments fell short of minimum standards for faculty members’ scholarly credentials.
School president Dr. Dianne Boardley Suber says she is proud the school quickly corrected its problems.
“It generally takes schools two years, and we did it in one,” Suber says. “We know we are of value to the community … and to our students and we want to ensure we are up to standards.”
While officials at Grambling and St. Augustine’s welcomed the good news, those at other predominantly Black institutions faced a harsh reality.
At Morris Brown in Atlanta, officials vowed to immediately begin the process of appealing SACS’ decision to withdraw the school’s accreditation.
The decision is a devastating blow to the financially strapped historically Black institution. Without accreditation, the school no longer will receive federal student loans, which constitute 70 percent of Morris Brown’s revenue. As well, more than 90 percent of the school’s students rely on financial aid to cover the $10,200-a-year tuition.
In their decision, SACS officials cited the school’s crushing debt, allegations of financial fraud and the lack of a viable recovery plan as reasons for their decision to revoke accreditation. Morris Brown has been reported to be $23 million in debt. The 117-year-old private college also has been accused of using millions of dollars in federal money marked for student financial aid to pay the bills (see Black Issues, Nov. 21, 2002).
SACS also stripped Mary Holmes College of its accreditation. The two-year school in West Point, Miss., has been suffering from declining enrollment and a subsequent cash shortage.
The school’s chief financial officer, Eddie Longstreet, says the college has a plan to improve its financial situation and will seek reaccreditation. Longstreet also says the school will be seeking “accreditation through another nationally recognized and federally sanctioned agency.”
Mary Holmes was founded in 1892 in Jackson, Miss., for Black women and is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.
—By Scott Dyer and News Wires
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