By Ashley Barker
Published June 23, 2014
S.C. State University was downgraded to probationary status last week by its accrediting agency.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges sanctioned the Orangeburg university on Thursday during a meeting in San Antonio, after it failed to bring itself into compliance with issues brought up in a warning a year ago, according to commission spokeswoman Pamela Cravey.
She said S.C. State will be on probation for one year for failure to comply with governing board and financial resources requirements. It was reprimanded for issues related to organizational structure; qualified administrative and academic officers; financial stability and control of finances; sponsored research; and external funds. Cravey said the college additionally failed to comply with a federal requirement for Title IV program responsibilities, which relate to student financial aid.
In mid-April, a special committee from the commission visited S.C. State to evaluate and verify the university’s response to standards that had been previously cited when the college was warned (.pdf), on June 27, 2013.
The commission’s board of trustees also authorized the special committee to visit S.C. State again, which Cravey said will likely occur toward the end of the probationary period so the institution will have time to correct compliance issues.
S.C. State President Thomas Elzey said he received a call from commission Vice President Crystal Baird explaining the decision.
“I want to first assure the S.C. State University family that our accreditation remains intact with SACSCOC. Again, we remain fully accredited,” Elzey said in a statement. “Due to our serious financial situation, we knew that this would be a possibility, but we are viewing it as an opportunity to continue to get our financial affairs in order.”
The school requested $13.6 from the S.C. Budget and Control Board to help pay down some debt; the board approved a $6 million loan in May.
“We are adamant in our commitment to working with Gov. Nikki Haley and state lawmakers to receive a much needed budgetary aid package currently being considered by state lawmakers,” Elzey said. “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.”
On Thursday, the commission is expected to release a public disclosure statement that will outline more details on S.C. State’s probation. On July 9, staff from the commission plan to mail the school a formal letter explaining the decision, Cravey said.
Probation is the most severe sanction an institution can receive while still maintaining its accreditation status. The maximum consecutive time that an institution may be on probation or on warning is two years.
“Probation is a more serious sanction than warning and is usually, but not necessarily, invoked as the last step before an institution is removed from membership,” according to the commission’s sanction policy (.pdf). “An institution must be removed from membership if it has not demonstrated compliance with all the ‘Principles of Accreditation’ (.pdf) within the two-year monitoring period and has not demonstrated good cause as to why it should not be dropped from membership.”
Reasons for “good cause” include the college’s demonstration of significant recent accomplishments in addressing non-compliance; documentation that it has the potential to remedy all deficiencies within an extended period; and assurance to the commission that it is not aware of any other reasons it should not be continued.
“We are committed to preserving the university’s legacy of excellence in research, teaching and service that has helped to produce alumni who are leaders in education, biology, engineering, military, speech pathology, music and art,” Elzey said.
Reach staff writer Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker on Twitter.