South Carolina State University receives accreditation warning

For the second time in less than five years, South Carolina State University has received a warning from its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The warning comes during new President Thomas Elzey’s first week on the job.

Pamela Cravey, communication director for SACS’ Commission on Colleges, said the school received the 12-month warning largely for governance and financial problems. The list of the standards with which the university has failed to comply will be posted on the association’s web site Tuesday, she said, and a full public disclosure statement will be posted Thursday.

Elzey said he hasn’t yet received anything in writing from SACS, but he plans to start addressing issues immediately. He has worked on several accreditation teams in the past, he said, so has the experience to clear up compliance concerns.

The university responded to list of SAC’s concerns on May 15, Elzey said, but the association apparently found the university’s responses insufficient. He’s reviewing the responses now, he said, because he knows what constitutes a sufficient response, and what does not.

SACS initially sent a letter to the university requesting information in response receiving newspaper stories from an anonymous source. Those stories raised concerns about the way the school was operating, Elzey said.

And Cynthia Warrick, former interim president, also brought concerns to SACS, he said. “Unfortunately, she invited some of this.”

If the university within 12 months demonstrates to SACS that the problem areas have been addressed, the warning will be lifted. That’s what happened with the 2009 warning.

If the issues aren’t addressed, the university could face being placed on probation.

Elzey said he wants to make clear to the public that the school’s accreditation right now is solidly in place. As long as issues are addressed, there won’t be any consequences.

And he’s going to make sure they are.

“There were a lot of mistakes made in the past,” he said. “There was a lot of unnecessary internal bickering. That won’t happen in my administration.”

And he already has talked about the warning with the school’s Board of Trustees, which in the past has had contentious relationships among its members and with the university’s presidents. “Both the board and I will have a healthy respect for one another,” he said.

The board will discuss the warning at a meeting next week, said Elzey, who is now is having a challenging first week on the job. “I’ve been here three days, eight hours and 10 minutes,” he said.



Check back for updates at postandcourier.com. Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.

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