SACS letter reveals concerns with Alabama State University - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

SACS letter reveals concerns with ASU

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Alabama State University confirmed Friday that it received official notice of a six-month warning from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission of Colleges, or SACSCOC.

The letter goes into detail about why SACSCOC issued the warning following a review of the institutional response to unsolicited information alleging non-compliance of the accrediting organization's Principles of Accreditation:

The six-month warning was issued for failure to comply with several agency requirements:

  1. Core Requirement 2.2 (Governing board)
  2. Comprehensive Standard 3.2.3 (Board conflict of interest)
  3. Comprehensive Standard 3.10.1 (Financial stability)
  4. Comprehensive Standard 3.10.3 (Control of finances)
  5. Comprehensive Standard 3.10.4 (Control of sponsored research/external funds)
  6. Federal requirement 4.7 (Title IV program responsibilities)

[DOCUMENT: SACSCOC six-month warning to ASU (.PDF)]

Board Chairman Elton Dean said he is confident the university can rectify SACS concerns.

"We are going to address all that information, the Moody's and SACS. We have to address that, we are smart enough to address that," Dean said.

Among the items cited in its findings, the accrediting organization found issues with the Governing Board, specifically that the vice-chair of the board, Trustee Marvin Wiggins, was not free of conflicts of interest that involved his family's financial interests at ASU.

Wiggins does not deny that family members work or have worked for ASU, but says the amounts paid to them are small and that Dean did not know about all the contracts, arguments SACSCOC called "irrelevant."

The SACSCOC pointed toward conflicts of interest with the Board, citing a conflict with Trustee Lawrence Lemak who did not disclose his business relationship with ASU in 2010 during which time he directly benefited from ASU appropriations to the National Center for Sports Safety, along with violations of state law by Trustee Elton Dean for failure to disclose family involvement in his Conflict of Interest form and his Statement of Economic Interest.

When asked if he was aware he was in conflict with SACS standards, Dean responded, "They say I was in conflict, being the presiding officer. But I didn't know my daughter had a contract over there."

The accrediting agency also cited multiple examples of university financial issues that lead it to call into question ASU's financial stability,  control of finances, and control of funds that go toward research.

"ASU did not show care for its assets and how it managed risk," the report says, adding that the university assumed "unusual risks." SACSOC was also critical of what it called, "poor accounting practices... that makes it practically impossible to account for and to track the use of and payment of funds" for a Medicaid contract.

And in relation to issues with its Title IV program responsibilities, financial aid and grants that come from the federal government, the accrediting agency said it, "is concerned about the integrity of the institution in providing complete and accurate documentation," and required ASU to submit financial audit reports and letters for the last two fiscal years among other documentation.

ASU, which learned of the warning on June 19 but did not receive the official letter until July 14, issued a statement saying it would address the issues.

"We will comply with it in full and ASU will provide a response to everything they have requested before the deadline date," said President Gwendolyn E. Boyd in a statement released by the university.

Dean reports he's already taken action with the board, offering a class to trustees on SACS standards. He says ASU can right the issues before September.

"It's serious but we don't want people who are planning to come to Alabama State or parents who are planning to send their children to Alabama State, we want them to understand we are not on probation and we did not lose our accreditation.  We have a few minor issues," Dean said.

ASU must respond to the SACSCOC by Sept. 16. An on-campus SACSCOC meeting is set for Oct. 17-19.

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