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Accreditation Probation for Country’s Two Largest HBCUs

Accreditation Probation for Country’s Two Largest HBCUs
Institutions must address laundry lists of issues after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ meeting last month.
By Marlon A. Walker

The country’s second-largest historically Black university received a laundry list of issues it needs to address in the next year impeding full accreditation, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools officials said at its annual meeting in New Orleans last month.

Texas Southern University joined the nation’s largest HBCU — Florida A&M University — and Bishop State Community College in Alabama on the list of HBCUs placed on probation by SACS’s Commission on Colleges.

FAMU, which was put on probation last summer, has had its probation extended another six months to address several issues to gain full reaccreditation. Only one item on the school’s list of 10 areas of noncompliance — filling vacancies on its board of trustees — had been addressed, according to information received by SACS from the university.

Dr. Belle Wheelan, president of the Commission on Colleges, says the list of issues to be rectified may actually be shorter because of a clean audit FAMU received just before SACS met.

“Their audit didn’t get in on time,” she says. “Some of those (issues) perhaps could have been cleared up.”

FAMU received its first clean audit in three years before the accreditation announcement, a sure sign that things are turning around for the 120-year-old university. President James H. Ammons also notes the school’s accreditation status was hindered by the commission’s not having the school’s latest audit in its hands at its annual meeting.

FAMU was found to be noncompliant on things such as having financial stability and control over sponsored research funds. The school was also told to hire qualified academic and administrative staff.

“This decision was very disappointing in light of our efforts,” Ammons stated in a release. “We did everything humanly possible in the last five months to turn this situation around. We were responsible for … a corrective-action plan that significantly improved the university’s fiscal affairs.”

Texas Southern, which has been enthralled in controversy over financial issues that have surfaced in recent years, was given a year to demonstrate financial stability and re-establish integrity, among other things.

“While we are disappointed by SACS’s decision, we look forward to this opportunity to directly address the concerns and prove our financial stability,” the university declared in a statement.

A letter sent out to the university community detailed the issues SACS felt needed to be addressed. It also sought to reassure stakeholders that officials were working to solve the problems before the probationary period ends in December 2008.

“SACS has not expressed any concern with our academic quality and this probationary status does not impact the education our students receive,” the release stated. “In an effort to address potential areas of concern, we want to also make the following clear: Federal funding and student aid are not threatened; academic programming will not be impacted; and student services will not be reduced.”

The school is also faced with the challenge of finding a new president. Dr. Priscilla Slade was fired in June 2006 and charged in connection with spending irregularities. Accused of spending about $300,000 of public funds to refurnish and landscape her home, Slade’s prosecution ended in a mistrial but the case is expected to be retried. Quintin Wiggins, the school’s chief financial officer under Slade, was convicted and sentenced last year to 10 years in prison for paying out large sums of money that should have been approved by the school’s board of regents. Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for a state takeover of the university, and he replaced the school’s board of

School officials are confident that problems with accreditation will be addressed and handled before the school goes before the board again.

“Texas Southern University has a strong history filled with stories of triumph over challenges,” the release stated. “The challenge before us is one we will overcome. Rest assured that we will not be deterred from our goal of moving the university forward and advancing its historic mission of creating educational opportunity and expanding young minds.”

Florida A&M University
has six months to comply with the following requirements:

– Demonstrate control of finances
– Have qualified administrative staff
– Demonstrate financial stability
– Provide financial profile information annually
– Audit financial aid programs
– Exercising control over financial resources
– Have control of sponsored research/external funds, a federal requirement
– Show control exists over physical resources inventory/moveable assets
– Satisfy program responsibilities under Title IV of the 1998 Higher Education Amendments

Texas Southern University
has one year to comply withthe following requirements:

– Show integrity as an institution
– Demonstrate financial stability
– Have control of sponsored research/external funds/financial resources
– Satisfy program responsibilities under Title IV of the 1998 Higher Education Amendment

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