NSU gets accreditation agency warning


by Nick Ochsner, 13News Now

Associated Press

Posted on December 10, 2013 at 4:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 11 at 9:15 AM

UPDATE 12/10:  Norfolk State University is receiving a warning from the agency that accredits it.

The decision announced Tuesday by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools follows an investigation highlighting the university's failure to finish financial audits for two consecutive years.

The warning means that the agency will continue to keep a close watch on the university, which has a year to resolve outstanding problems.
School officials say the university has taken a range of steps in recent months to turn itself around.

NORFOLK -- Norfolk State University will soon learn whether or not it will be reprimanded by the agency that oversees its accreditation.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is currently holding its annual meeting in Georgia.

At the meeting, SACS is expected to review the findings and take action on a report compiled by a special committee that was sent to NSU in September after a flood of problems surfaced at the school.

A copy of the report, obtained exclusively by 13News Now, details 11 areas where the school was not in compliance with its accreditation standards.

The committee found several problems involving NSU's Board of Visitors, a lack of control over finances and physical assets, and a lack of qualified faculty in the school's troubled two-year nursing program.

NSU has since announced the two-year nursing program would be discontinued.

Many of the problems, the report says, are related to the high turnover rates in the school's accounting office.

The report says some employees left because "the conditions and workload were not suitable" in the wake of several departures and retirements in the school's accounting and finance office.

That wave of departures led to a flood of problems with the school's finances beyond messy books.

According to the report, state auditors found "university personnel have not recorded, tagged or otherwise controlled fixed assets, including equipment, for most of fiscal 2012."

The report also states that the problem does not appear to have been fixed in the wake of the auditors' findings.

Tom Chewning, rector of the school's board of visitors, is realistic about the problems his board faces in turning the school around.

"We know that there's a lot of work to do and that a lot of this that we're doing took a long time to get where it was," Chewning said. "I definitely think the university is headed in the right direction. Every day I think there's progress being made on a lot of fronts."

A lot of that progress, Chewning said, is due to the efforts of interim president and CEO Eddie Moore.

Moore, who has a background in accounting and management that is highlighted by his time as Virginia State Treasurer and President of Virginia State University, was hired by the board after it voted to fire then-president Dr. Tony Atwater in August.

In previous interviews with 13News Now, Moore has said he has a plan to turn around the school's finances and improve faculty relations.  Part of that plan includes hiring key staff to fill the gaps pointed out by the report.

Chewning said he's pleased with the progress made so far in the first months of Moore's presidency but knows there is a lot of work left to be done.

"It's like a football team. It's good to be in the red zone but until you're across the goal line you really don't feel but so good," Chewning said.

Norfolk State University expects to find out whether or not SACS will take action against the school based on the special committee's finding as early as Tuesday of this week.