Giant steps on the road to renewal – Central State University

Central State University has accreditation renewed and is released from U.S. Department of Education penalty

Wilberforce, Ohio — Central State University, Ohio’s only public
historically African American university (HBCU), has taken several
powerful strides in its journey toward renewal.

CSU President John Garland announced August 13 that the university
has gained institutional reaccreditation from the Commission on Higher
Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities
(NCA). The accreditation victory represented a significant
accomplishment for the university because Ohio legislators passed a law
last year that gave them the authority to move toward shutting down the
school had it failed to obtain the renewal.

The NCA required the school to file a financial statement and
progress report, but otherwise gave Central State unqualified
accreditation through 2003, Garland said. CSU was last accredited in
1989. An evaluation visit to the CSU campus, scheduled for last year,
was postponed at the university’s request because of financial and
political turmoil.

Garland also announced that the U.S. Department of Education (ED)
has notified the school that it is lifting an ongoing penalty CSU has
endured in its student financial-aid program. The university is being
moved from a cumbersome and restrictive “reimbursement” status to a
quicker “cash-monitoring” system.

The lifting of the sanction will allow CSU to draw upon federal
financial aid money at the beginning of academic quarters and
distribute it to students rather than waiting months for reimbursement.
When ED imposed its penalty in July 1994, the action helped trigger a
serious cash-flow problem at the school that led to political and
financial crises.

Garland called the lifting of the sanction “a major breakthrough”
that reflects the university’s improved ability to manage its finances
and student aid effectively.

Tedd Miller, CSU’s vice president for enrollment management, said
the Education Department’s action “will have a significant impact on
enrollment…. The morale of students, when they hear about this, is
just going to go sky high.”

Fall quarter classes are scheduled to begin September 8.

CSU’s accomplishments drew praise from some very important circles.
Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick Chu, the state’s top public
higher education official, called the developments “significant
milestones,” and said they “confirm my contention that Central State is
moving into a new era of accomplishment and respectability.”

Robert Marcus, faculty member and president of Central State’s
American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chapter, praised
Garland and his administration for the work on getting the Education
Department sanction lifted, saying it will “help the university’s cash
flow and will help with student retention and … our efforts to build
up the student body.”

Marcus also praised faculty, staff, and administrators for their work on the institutional accreditation.

“The NCA folks obviously were pleased with what they saw in our academic programs,” Marcus said.

The university also received good news on a second accreditation
front: its manufacturing engineering program has earned a renewal of
accreditation from the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology
(ABET), Garland said. CSU has one of only thirteen accredited
manufacturing engineering programs in the country, and the only one at
an HBCU.

ABET had recommended last year not to renew the CSU program’s
accreditation. But the university’s vigorous challenge of the
recommendation resulted in CSU being notified by the agency that the
accreditation has been renewed, said Garland, who added that no other
CSU programs currently up for reaccreditation have been threatened with
non-renewal.

The manufacturing engineering program’s accreditation was scheduled
to expire in September 1998. ABET had criticized the program for lack
of sufficient interaction of faculty with industry and shortcomings in
laboratory work. Reversing ABET’s recommendation became one of
Garland’s first priorities when he assumed Central State’s presidency a
year ago.

Improving the program “is an essential part of fulfilling Central
State’s mission to prepare more African American students for careers
in scientific and technological fields,” Garland wrote to ABET last
September, challenging its initial conclusions and requesting a second
evaluation visit.

Garland said CSU will focus its efforts now on recruiting students,
a task made difficult previously by the institutional accreditation
uncertainty and the financial-aid sanction.

Miller estimated that this fall’s enrollment will reach about 936
students, down from 1,050 last fall. But CSU officials are encouraged
that this year’s class of new freshmen is projected at 200 — compared
with fewer than ninety last year, when doubts about the school’s
existence lingered until late-June 1997 and discouraged many high
school graduates from enrolling. CSU graduated 283 students in June
1998.

Fred Ransier, chairman of Central State’s board of trustees, noted
how far the university had come since Ohio legislators nearly shut down
the school.

“Two years ago, we all had significant concerns about the future of
Central State University,” Ransier said. “In one year’s time, we have
built an administrative team that has satisfied these outside agencies
… and met the challenges.

“Now,” he added, “We are committed to continuing [this progress].”

RELATED ARTICLE: Challenges Met at Central State

* The Commission on Higher Education of the North Central
Association of Colleges and Universities (NCA) has re-affirmed
institutional accreditation for Central State for the next five years.

* The U.S. Department of Education has lifted a financial-aid
sanction against CSU that the university endured since 1994. The
department’s action to take CSU off of the reimbursement system of
payment to the cash-monitoring system will allow the university and its
students faster access to federal student financial aid.

* One of Central State’s key academic programs, manufacturing
engineering, won reaccreditation from the Accrediting Board for
Engineering and Technology (ABET), which initially had recommended
against renewing the program’s accreditation.

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