SC State placed on probation by academic accreditation group

ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) - South Carolina State University was placed on probation effective immediately by an accreditation group Thursday.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the Orangeburg school on probation for 12 months for failing to comply with "CORE requirement 2.2 (which relates to the governing board), financial resources, organizational structure, qualified administrative/academic officers, financial stability, control of finances, control of sponsored research/external funds, [and] Title IV program responsibilities."

"Probation is the most serious step before being dropped from membership for an institution," said SACS President Belle Wheelan. "It means that there are some of our standards for which the institution is out of compliance and if they don't come into compliance, that is, do the things necessary to satisfy those requirements, then the next step would be to be dropped from membership."

If the university loses membership, SC State could continue to operate but students would not able to apply for federal financial aid, Wheelan said.

"Most of these reasons are financial reasons and that means these institutions don't have enough money to effectively run the institution or has not consistently had the budget they needed to run it or the controls for all the finances are out of place," Wheelan said.

The university will receive a formal letter on July 9 from SACS that will outline their findings.

SC State President Thomas Elzey said just a few days after arriving to the university in June 2013, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS COC) issued a warning to the institution, citing non-compliance on issues of board governance and financial instability.

"I want to first assure the SC State University family that our accreditation remains intact with SACS COC," Elzey said. "Again, we remain fully accredited. In fact, we have several of our academic programs that have received international and national accreditation."

Elzey said due to the seriousness of the school's financial situation, SC State knew that this would be a possibility.

"We are viewing it as an opportunity to continue to get our financial affairs in order," Elzey said. "That is why we are adamant in our commitment to working with Governor Nikki Haley and state lawmakers to receive a much needed budgetary aid package currently being considered by state lawmakers. I have made a phone call to Gov. Haley to inform her of our recent status, and I expect that she will return our phone call as soon as she possibly can."

The accreditation group also plans to visit the school sometime next spring to see their progress.

"We are hopeful that they are going to do all they have to in order to get everything back in place," Wheelan said. "It's an uphill battle, there's no doubt about it. They will have to cut some corners or find some other sources of funding but I think they will be able to do it."

The school recently got a loan from the state but Elzey hopes lawmakers will approve an additional budgetary aid package.

To help balance the budget Elzey said certain majors in which enrollment has dropped will possibly be cut.

Elzey said he's recommending the school raise tuition and fees also.

The school's board of trustees will review and approve a budget Friday.

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