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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Football Classic's field of dreams

Larry Huggins was in Indianapolis for the Circle City Classic weekend in 1994. While enjoying the annual matchup between two black college football teams, as well as the parties, shows and parade that typically attract 150,000 people, he thought, "We need this back in Chicago."

With that, he grabbed the ball and ran to assemble a team of six investors in the Chicago Football Classic -- which promptly lost money.

But it was about a mission, he said.

"If we did it for the financial gain, we would have stopped maybe four years ago," Huggins said.

The classic has been their contribution to black Chicago, showcasing historically black colleges and encouraging youth to consider enrolling. They've put on seven games in nine years, all at Soldier Field, skipping two years while the field was under renovation.

This year, Huggins, president of RiteWay Construction Services, and the remaining partners, Everett and Tim Rand, owners of Midway Airport Concessions and Midway Wholesalers Inc. hope to turn a profit.

Chicago's Saturday matchup between Mississippi Valley State University and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is one of eight black college football classics taking place this weekend across the country.

The events, which black colleges have used to fill coffers, aren't all money losers. Those that are decades-old traditions continue to be a big draw, serving as mini Superbowls for their host cities:

The Atlanta Football Classic, an annual contest between Florida A&M University and Tennessee State University, and related activities draw about 150,000 people, who spend an estimated $35 million at hotels, restaurants, parties and vendor strips, according to sponsors. The game typically sells out the 70,000-seat Georgia Dome. (Some 80,000 fans come for the other events.)

Orlando's Florida Classic, where FAMU and Bethune Cookman College mix it up, sells about 70,000 tickets each year to the Citrus Bowl Stadium.

The Circle City Classic in Indianapolis and its related activities -- such as the $20-a-head Greek step shows, galas, nightclub admissions and corresponding get-better-acquainted breakfasts -- lure visitors who pump $20 million into the city, organizers figure.
Chicago Classic organizers want in on that league. They aren't the only ones.

Classic demographics

Twenty years ago, only a handful of classics existed. Today, about 40 annual games bear the name. Dozens of black college football classics sprang up in the 1990s as promoters saw how lucrative the games were in New Orleans, Indianapolis and other cities. Title sponsors, including State Farm, Verizon, McDonald's and Coca-Cola, have responded to the college-educated, middle-class crowds they draw. (The typical Indy classic goer is a 35-year-old, college-educated homeowner with a medium income of more than $60,000.)

Cities are trying to attract established classics, while some promoters are growing their own, said Thomas Dorsey, publisher and founder of, an African-American travel planning Internet site.

"More cities are waking up to the opportunity. They're seeing the potential of filling up a whole bunch of hotel rooms," he said.

But it's not easy.

"It takes a while to build up to like your Florida Classic, but it's doable."

Even the classic classics are having a harder time these days. They face increased competition for participant teams, high gas prices and a fan base tapped out from direct Hurricane Katrina and Rita hits or contributions to related relief efforts.

Sometimes the newer ones can pose challenges for existing classics, said Tony Mason, executive director of the Circle City Classic. Failed deals can cause schools to be more stringent about contracts or other requirements.

Some organizers have promised too much to schools and haven't reached the ticket sales or gotten the sponsorships needed to cover obligations.

"There have been other producers offering sums of money that we find to be challenging, and we've been around for 20-plus years, and we average 50,000 a game," Mason said. "We wonder how they do it."

In some cases, they are late in paying the schools or they fail to pay all of the fees.

Still, the established ones have been moneymakers. And they're trying to get more fans to buy tickets to the games -- proceeds from which actually benefit black colleges -- and wrangling the independent promoters who produce popular events around the times of the games but siphon money from the causes.

Florida Classic schools last spring formed a consortium to get a better handle on events associated with the brand.

"There were so many bootleg events that popped up around the classic," said Matt Repchak, spokesman for Florida Citrus Sports, the not-for-profit Orlando entity that manages the Florida Classic. "We had a lot of people who were taking advantage of the classic name."

A winning formula in Indy

The Indianapolis classic's organizers work with promoters, encouraging them to fill holes in the schedule. Some make contributions to the scholarship program.

Increasingly, classics are picking up money by partnering with hotels that pay a commission from room fees charged during the weekends.

But a strong focus is on getting people into the stadium for the games, Mason said. The RCA Dome holds 57,000 to 58,000. The game itself draws an average of 50,000 people, but another 50,000 make their way to the plaza to buy from vendors, and about 75,000 to 100,000 show up for the annual classic parade -- an event so popular that organizers recently began charging $8 to $16 for one of 10,000 seats along the route.

The Chicago game's 40,000 in ticket sales last year makes it a straggler by classic standards.

"Anybody who's getting 40,000 to 45,000 is having a tough time," said John T. Grant Jr., CEO of the Atlanta Football Classic, taking place this year Sept. 30. "They can survive. Even if around 45,000, they're close to losing money."

The Atlanta Classic has generated more than $8 million for its two schools since 1996, said Jason C. Williams, spokesman for 100 Black Men of Atlanta, which for 18 years has produced the event. The event also has raised about $3 million for his group's charity,

"How many African Americans live in the Chicago area? That stadium should be sold out," Mason said. "All of these games exist as fund-raisers to support various organizations or scholarship programs to benefit not only the African-American community, but the community as a whole. If we don't support it, who will?"

Some schools play four to five classics a year and reap about about half of their athletic department budgets from the games.

The Chicago game is one of three football classics the UAPB will play in this year, including the Oct. 14 Delta Classic for Literacy in Little Rock, Ark., that will bring the school at least $125,000, and its regular appearance in the Gateway Classic in St. Louis in late September.

"It's a tremendous help. We get so many scholarships," said Jonail Landers, UAPB's athletic business manager. The games also increase visibility and aid in recruitment, she said.

The Southern advantage

Southern locations might have the benefit of being closest to the schools and their alumni. And weather there allows more options for game dates.

Sponsors have become increasingly important to the success of the games, Mason said.

The Chicago Classic is at a disadvantage in all of those areas. And it lacks some of the staples of other established classic weekends, such as a large scale parade, an R&B or hip-hop concert and a college fair.

But Huggins is hopeful. Word is getting around. There's more sponsorship, including Nike and ComEd.

"You never go into a business arrangement thinking you would lose money," Huggins said. "It's more a case of us being business people who truly love this city and are committed to making sure there is an event that African Americans can hang their hat on."

The Chicago event is growing, adding a full-time executive director and working with promoters to pull off a full-fledge step competition and after-party this year. And it's planning next year to include a concert, a side event that didn't take off in the first years.

The local event, which operates on a $1 million budget with each team getting $250,000 and a portion of ticket sales, also has been challenged by its traditional date: Labor Day Weekend. That's a weekend chock full of other options. In 2007, the classic will move to the second weekend in September.

Slade returns to TSU as teacher

Priscilla Slade, the former Texas Southern University president fired for spending school money on personal expenses, is teaching accounting courses on campus this semester.

Her return to the classroom comes four weeks after a Harris Country grand jury indicted Slade and three aides for allegedly paying for household furnishings and landscaping, among other things, for her benefit.

Although the university's governing board fired Slade in June over her spending as president, she remains a tenured professor in the Jesse H. Jones School of Business, officials said Tuesday.

Slade's decision to resume teaching came as surprise to some administrators and faculty members, who assumed she would prefer a lower profile while facing felony criminal charges.

When approached on campus, Slade said she is enjoying her return to teaching, but declined further comment. She has denied any wrongdoing and filed a lawsuit against the university.

The university's lawyer would not disclose Slade's new salary. As president, she earned more than $340,000 a year.

Officials said the university could move to revoke her tenure, and Slade almost certainly would file a grievance. The grievance would be heard by a committee of faculty members, whose recommendation would go to the president and regents for the final decision.

"Regardless of who it is, we have to make sure that due process is followed because faculty members nationwide have fought for the right of tenure," said Sanders Anderson, president of TSU's faculty council.

At most universities, professors with tenure have the implicit promise of a lifetime job. They cannot be dismissed, transferred or demoted, with the exception of extreme misconduct on their part or a financial emergency at the school.

Although Slade has tenure, the business school's dean and the accounting department's chairman are not required to give her teaching assignments. Dean Joseph Boyd could not be reached for comment.

Acting president Bobby Wilson declined to comment when asked whether he agreed with the decision allowing Slade to teach again. Slade received tenure before becoming the president of TSU in 1999.

J. Paul Johnson, the regents' chairman, said it is not the board's role to challenge Slade's tenure. TSU's tenure policy does not clearly state who is responsible for challenging a professor's status.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Freshman enrollment jumps at Ft. Valley

Fort Valley State University President Larry E. Rivers today announced a triple-digit increase in freshman enrollment for fall semester 2006. The figures suggest a dramatic shift from declining enrollment reports in preceding academic years.

“This has taken hard work by many people who love this university,” Rivers stated, “but the news is very, very good. Truly, a new day has dawned in The Valley.” Although final enrollment figures remain to be tallied for the semester that began earlier this month, conservative estimates place freshman enrollment at over 800 students with the potential to reach at or near the 1,000 mark. During fall semester 2005, only slightly more than 300 freshmen enrolled at the Fort Valley institution.

“The key has been to get out the good news about this university,” Rivers explained. “The fact is that FVSU offers many outstanding programs. Our students graduate to become leaders in the medical, business, computer science, and many other fields.” Rivers added, “Our students and our graduates are our best advertising.”

Since taking over as FVSU’s eighth president in March 2006, Rivers has campaigned throughout the state and region to build enrollment and support for the school.

“Dr. Rivers believes in the hands-on approach to recruitment,” observed Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Daniel K. Wims. “During the time he was reorganizing our entire admissions and recruitment efforts, he was also out recruiting students. He has come to know many of our freshmen personally.”

Final fall enrollment figures for 2006 will be announced shortly, following completion of registration and final processing of financial aid awards.

“We’re not stopping here,” Rivers added. “I plan to recruit students for the spring and, when we open the state-of-the-art residential village next fall, watch out!”

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

FAMU Celebrates #1 Ranking

Black Enterprize magazine ranked FAMU the No. 1 school for black students in the country in its September edition. FAMU jumped from No. 6 in 2004.

"I tell you with so much pride, I am so glad I'm from FAMU," she said. "FAMU is indeed a great place to be. We're also the place where dreams are nurtured to come true. This is no ordinary place. This is no ordinary day."

Standing beneath the banner that proclaimed FAMU as the No. 1 HBCU in the nation, Alfred Edmond Jr., editor of Black Enterprise, said, "It is important to know that you competed against all schools."

The rankings were based on surveys given to 500 black higher-education professionals asking them to review more than 1,400 accredited colleges where the black student population was at least 3 percent. The rankings were based on black student graduation rates and the school's academic and social environment, among other factors.

The students who gathered around the celebration echoed the sentiments of the survey, giving FAMU high marks when it comes to the social and academic atmosphere at the university.

"It was my first choice," said Ashely Braddy, a junior biology student from Fort Lauderdale. "It's a real good environment. Everyone is friendly."

"It's like a family," said Jonathan Arias, senior food science and psychology student from Miami. "I truly feel like I have a relationship with the staff. We don't get the limelight for our academics. We have great programs here."

"It has an awesome history and it's an awesome experience," said Travis Roberts, a sophomore dentistry student from Fort Lauderdale.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Record enrollment expected at Bethune-Cookman

DAYTONA BEACH -- College students invade campuses this week and next, and they'll find growing crowds, new courses and comfy new living accommodations.

Early projections indicate a record-breaking enrollment at Bethune-Cookman College, where students are arriving in anticipation of next week's start.

Bethune-Cookman officials prepared this summer for an increase from last year's record enrollment, 3,090, by opening two new scholarship houses and arranging for between 50 and 100 students to move into homes and apartments near the central Daytona Beach location.

"Our retention of returning students is getting better and better," Les Ferrier, director of admissions, said in a news release.

Those students will find a $2.4 million renovation in the new Wildcat Center, a student recreation and fitness center in a former Ford dealership building at 740 International Speedway Blvd.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Ed. Secretary Visit New Orleans Schools

They may have amassed a bunch of academic degrees and may hold prestigious positions, but a group of local college leaders talking about life in post-Katrina New Orleans sounds like any other group: Their dominant topics are the finer points of rebuilding and grievances about insurance.

In a meeting at the University of New Orleans to tell higher education officials about millions of dollars in federal aid, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and White House hurricane recovery chief Donald Powell got an earful.

Tulane University, for instance, is still due nearly $300 million to cover its damages, President Scott Cowen said. Tulane and its neighbor, Loyola University, are suing their insurance companies. Dillard University may be able to occupy some of its white stone buildings in a month, President Marvalene Hughes said, but repairs at the Gentilly campus may continue for four years. And Southern University at New Orleans, which has been operating out of trailers since reopening in January, may get back to its Pontchartrain Park campus in the spring, Chancellor Victor Ukpolo said.

"We have made some progress so far, but not enough for us," Ukpolo said. "We want to get back to our main campus."

Recovery is moving faster than people think, Xavier University President Norman Francis said. When people complain that progress is too slow, "my stock answer is, 'Compared to what?' " he said. "You tell me something that's happened in a major city, and I'll tell you."

Most academic leaders said they were heartened by the number of students expected for the fall semester, even though it falls below the enrollment totals for the term that Katrina interrupted. Plus, some officials said, parents are reluctant to send their children to a city they perceive is unsafe.

But this is no time to be complacent, said the Rev. Anthony DeConciliis, president of Our Lady of Holy Cross College, which depends on tuition for 95 percent of its budget.

"What's going to happen next year?" he said. "We're able to keep operating because of our numbers, but if we don't continue to grow, we're going to have difficulties."

Even though campuses may be surrounded by devastation, "All of us have become oases in our communities because people need places to go where they feel secure," said Nunez Community College Chancellor Thomas Warner, whose campus is in ravaged St. Bernard Parish.

A similar situation exists around UNO. The campus was bustling Thursday, but Elysian Fields Avenue, a principal approach, was still lined with vacant, battered buildings with blown-out windows and rubble-strewn parking lots.

"We really are a beacon of hope and a light in devastated communities," UNO Chancellor Tim Ryan said, "but we all have our problems, and we don't want the president and Congress to think that our work is over.

"We need help. . . . We can only continue to really help this community rebuild . . . if we can get the help we need."

Spellings called progress at local colleges "one of the bright spots" on the Katrina landscape.

The education chief, who later toured Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, used her visit to announce $235 million in supplemental money for displaced students that will benefit students from kindergarten through college and, she said, "make a very difficult situation more bearable."

And she told the college leaders she will do what she can to send more money their way.

"You have my personal commitment," she said near the end of the hourlong discussion. "We're in this for the long haul."

In coming back after Katrina, "education has led the way," Powell said. "My hat's off to you."


Pluto may be gone, but the two planets claimed by Tennessee State University are still planets.The school is proud of its discoveries and touts them on a billboard along Briley Parkway saying, "TSU has discovered two new planets. Have you discovered TSU?"

Greg Henry, an astronomer and researcher at Tennessee State, assisted in the discovery of HD209458b in 1999 and HD 149026 in 2005. The International Astronomical Union said Thursday that the definition and classification of planets orbiting other stars would be taken at another time. Prof. Henry is a voting member of the International Astronomical Union.

But by the definitions approved for planets that orbit our sun, "both meet the criteria to be planets in the extra-solar system (outside our solar system)," Henry said Thursday.

While he was satisfied with the vote not to expand the number of planets in Earth's family, he was not happy about the tag "dwarf planet" put on Pluto and several other objects in outer space. "A dwarf planet is not a planet," he said. "It's bad use of grammar, and the name doesn't really make sense. If a body isn't massive enough to be a planet, then it's not a planet."
Henry suspects that there will be much debate over Pluto: "The Pluto faction isn't going to give up easily."

Planet HD209458b was the first planet to be discovered since Pluto in 1930. It is a gas giant, much larger than Jupiter. HD 149026 is the largest terrestrial planet detected

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

FVSU gets $1M grant to restore hall

FORT VALLEY - A million dollars in federal and state grants will jump-start restoration of the oldest building on Fort Valley State University's campus this fall.

A $763,769 grant was awarded this month by the National Park Service to spur plans to restore Huntington Hall, which has been closed for 17 years.

The state Board of Regents, which oversees the University System of Georgia, contributed an additional $327,000, bringing funding for the first phase to $1.09 million.

"Our staff already is working to finalize a request for additional National Park Service funds to complete the full restoration and reopen this treasure for the university and our community," Fort Valley State's president, Larry E. Rivers, said in a news release issued Tuesday.

After stabilizing the ceiling, walls and roof to safe conditions and restoring the exterior of the three-story building, the university hopes to rebuild the interior of the building in a second phase, said Melody Carter, the university's interim vice president for external affairs.

Administrators haven't decided what the building will be used for yet, but Rivers said in the release: "Huntington Hall has played a central role in campus life since 1907. No doubt this historic structure's future role once again will place it center stage in Fort Valley State University activities."

Huntington Hall opened as the school's first dormitory for women students and was used later as an administrative building with classrooms.

"It was really the heart and life blood of the institution," Carter said.

The first phase of restoration is expected to be finished in January 2008.

During the process, the architectural style will be maintained on the structure, that is listed in the Fort Valley State College Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places.

Mal Williams name interim Pres. of Alcorn

LORMAN — The man named late Sunday to take charge of Alcorn State University in the wake of its president's unexpected death said he'll continue the work of Clinton Bristow Jr.

"I see my role as coming in here and making sure his projects are carried out," said Malvin Williams, a longtime administrator at Alcorn who retired last year.

Williams, 64, was named interim president of Alcorn at an emergency state College Board meeting Sunday night. He is expected to be on the job for several months while the board looks for Bristow's permanent replacement.

Bristow, 57, died while jogging on campus Saturday night. An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. A memorial service is tentatively set for Friday.

Bristow had been president of the southwest Mississippi school of 3,500 students since 1995.

Flags were at half-staff on campus Sunday while students milled around preparing for the first day of school, which is today.

Williams, who still lives just off campus, said he expects his appointment to last six to eight months.

Higher Education Commissioner Thomas Meredith did not say when the search for a permanent president would begin. He said he considered several people for the interim job before settling on Williams. The board backed Meredith's recommendation unanimously.

"I thought we needed to get someone on board as soon as possible," said Meredith, who visited the campus on Sunday.

Sophia Shafal, a clerk at the busy Alcorn Service Station commonly called "Jack's," said she could tell Bristow's death was affecting people, though there weren't a lot of customers talking about it.

"You can tell people are sad and moody. Who knows what tomorrow will bring," she said of the first day of school.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hampton U. Moves Up to Top 25 in US News Ranking

Hampton, VA - Hampton University has been ranked among the top 25 (Tier 1) Southern universities in the regional universities category in the 2007 U.S. News and World Report magazine college rankings. Hampton moved up one spot from last year's rankings.

Hampton University is the highest-ranking historically black college or university in the category. The University is also among the top three Virginia universities ranked in the Southern universities category.

Hampton is ranked in Tier 1 (Nos. 16-31) of the regional universities, which includes 557 universities and colleges that offer a full range of undergraduate programs and master's degrees but limited doctoral programs. The regional universities are further divided into four geographic categories: North, South, Midwest and West.

The U.S. News rankings are based on several key measures of quality including peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

Hampton University is comprised of seven schools, the schools of Business, Engineering and Technology, Liberal Arts and Education, Nursing, Pharmacy, Science and the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, a Graduate College, the College of Continuing Education and the College of Virginia Beach. The University offers 38 bachelor's degree programs, 14 master's degree programs, and the doctoral or professional degree in nursing (Ph.D.), physics (Ph.D.), physical therapy (DPT), and pharmacy (Pharm.D.).

Monday, August 21, 2006

Norfolk State turns to Churches for fundraising support

It's a big public school supported by tax dollars, but when Norfolk State University started its current $15 million capital campaign, it sought help from a community that few secular universities solicit: local churches.

That approach may be unconventional, but it has also proven a success for Norfolk State, a historically black school. Five black congregations in Portsmouth and Norfolk have pledged a total of $232,500 to the university over the next five years, and Norfolk State representatives hope other churches will donate as well.

"We think their role is critical for the success of the campaign," said Phillip D. Adams, associate vice president for development at Norfolk State, who said church giving adds a new dimension to the school's donor base.

The participating churches in Norfolk are First Baptist Church on East Berkley Avenue and Second Calvary Baptist Church and First Baptist Church on East Bute Street. Third Baptist Church and Grove Baptist Church are in Portsmouth.

Representatives at two other large state schools in the region - Old Dominion University and The College of William and Mary - said they don't target the faith community for financial support.

Similarly, Rae Goldsmith of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, a national organization for professional college fundraisers, said she knew of no instances of churches donating cash to public universities.

She said it is more common for churches to support faith-based schools within their own denomination. For example, Baptists have a long history of supporting Baptist-affiliated colleges.

But in Norfolk, there is also a historical bond between Norfolk State and the black community.

Black church support was critical to the school's founding in 1935 as the Norfolk branch of Virginia Union University, a Richmond-based institution with Baptist connections.

Local black pastors helped organize the school, and black congregations raised scholarships for the first students, according to "Upward," a history of Norfolk State by Lyman Beecher Brooks, a past university president. Black clergy taught biblical literature courses, and faculty spoke to black congregations at Sunday services to promote the school.

Though the school became independent and publicly supported in the 1940s, its ties with local black congregations have stayed strong.

"I doubt if you'd find many families in the black community who didn't have relatives who attended Norfolk State and are doing better because they got that education," said the Rev. Joe B. Fleming of Third Baptist Church. Members of his Portsmouth congregation include employees of NSU, alumni and students at the school.

Fleming said Third Baptist's five-year pledge of $32,500 to Norfolk State fits into the church's regular support for "mission" activities, be they religiously affiliated - missionaries, for example - or secular charities.

"We have to be about transforming the world," said Fleming, who said Third Baptist will give away $150,000 to good causes this year. "Our presence ought to be about more than just being here to preach."

But Fleming's interest in aiding Norfolk State was also sharpened this spring by the General Assembly's refusal to approve proposed funding for the university's library.

"I didn't like that and shared my feeling with the congregation," he said.

Adams said many black churches worry that Norfolk State doesn't get a fair share of state education funds.

"They want to see NSU funded at the same level as other institutions in this area," he said.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Alcorn president dies on campus

Alcorn State University President Clinton Bristow Jr. died late Saturday night on campus, two days before classes were scheduled to start, officials confirmed.

A student found Bristow, 57, on the campus track about 9 p.m. He was known to jog each night.

The student was unable to get a response from Bristow and immediately called campus police, Claiborne County Coroner J.W. Mallett said. "They attempted CPR," he said.

Bristow was named president of the university in Lorman on Aug. 24, 1995.

"It's disturbing to us, too, because we were just in a meeting with him today," said Jo Ella Walls, wife of the Alcorn outgoing alumni president.

Under Bristow's leadership, Alcorn has increased the number of students seeking professional degrees and has gained national attention for a large number of Russian students.

Founded in 1871, Alcorn is the nation's first state-supported university for black students. It had about 3,500 students last year.

Bristow's message to parents sending their sons and daughters to the historically black university in Claiborne County was one of success. He would tell parents that a student will have a job or admission to graduate school with an Alcorn degree.

Bristow held bachelor's, doctorate and law degrees from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and a master's degree in business administration from Governors State University in University Park, Ill.

An autopsy was planned to determine how he died.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

11 HBCUs make Washington Monthly Ranking

New ranking based on service to the nation:
The Ranking

In the National Universities ranking:
South Carolina State University
Howard University

In the Liberal Arts Colleges ranking:
Tougaloo College
Fisk University
Spelman College
Bennett College
Talladega College
Lane College
Morehouse College
Paine College
Virginia Union University

Friday, August 18, 2006

NCCU Law School Named one the nation's best

DURHAM, N.C. - North Carolina Central University’s Law School is one of the nation’s top law schools, according to The Princeton Review. The New York-based education services company chose the school for inclusion in the new 2007 edition of its annual book, Best 170 Law Schools, available in bookstores in October 2006. North Carolina Central University’s Law School is one of 11 law schools that The Princeton Review is adding to its annual "best law schools" guidebook this year.

According to Robert Franek, Vice President / Publisher, Princeton Review, "We select schools for this book based on several criteria covering three areas: our regard for their academic programs and other offerings, institutional data we collect about them, and opinions of students attending the schools. We are very pleased to feature North Carolina Central University’s Law School in our book and to commend it both to readers of the book and users of our website as one of the best law schools in America."

“This recognition is the result of an effort by many people here at our law school to present to The Princeton Review the high quality of legal instruction that exists at North Carolina Central University School of Law,” said NCCU Law School Dean Raymond C. Pierce.

The book's ratings and rankings are based on the results of surveys in which students were asked about themselves and their career plans, as well as their schools’ academics, student body and campus life.

“The strength of the NCCU Law School lies in its excellent faculty, its diversity and its strong curriculum,” said Chancellor James H. Ammons. “The NCCU School of Law trains lawyers from diverse backgrounds committed to meeting the needs of the underserved in our society.”

The NCCU Law School boasts many distinguished alumni. A select few serving in high profile positions in North Carolina’s judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government include: Michael Easley, current Governor of North Carolina; G.K. Butterfield, former Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and current Member of the US House of Representatives; Wanda Bryant, Judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals; Eleanor "Ellie" Kinnard and Julia Boseman, Senators in the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA); H.M. "Mickey" Michaux, Jr., Bonner Stiller, and Alice Bordsen, Members of the NCGA; A. Leon Stanback, Durham County Superior Court Judge, 14th Judicial District; Milton “Toby” Fitch, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, Wilson County District 7B; and Elaine O'Neal, Chief District Court Judge of the 14th Judicial District. In addition to these are numerous other judges, politicians and public defenders providing service to the state and nation.

The Evening Program of NCCU Law is the only part-time evening program between Atlanta, GA, and Virginia Beach, VA. This four-year program provides an opportunity for professionals to maintain their careers or family obligations while pursuing their juris doctorate degrees. This flexibility is supported by the NCCU Law School’s commitment to technology. Facilities are equipped with video and teleconferencing capabilities so that students may take part from the comfort of their own homes.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Audit finds TSU mismanaged funds

Use of money from endowments' principal among the problems cited
A state audit released Wednesday criticizes the beleaguered Texas Southern University for mismanaging endowment funds, putting its financial future in jeopardy and keeping inaccurate records.

The audit, conducted as a routine measure by the State Auditor's Office, deals another blow to the nation's second-largest historically black university, which has had to cut jobs and raise tuition this year amid a spending scandal involving the former president.

Two weeks ago a Harris County grand jury indicted Priscilla Slade, who served as president of TSU for about seven years before being fired in June, and three aides on allegations they misused school dollars.

The audit focused solely on the university's $23 million in endowment funds — donations slated primarily for offering scholarships to students and creating professorships.

"I think the report speaks for itself. It's pretty clear that Texas Southern University hasn't managed its endowments adequately," State Auditor John Keel said Wednesday.

The written audit does not place blame on any individuals, but Keel said the university's Board of Regents has the "ultimate responsibility" of overseeing the endowments.

Specifically, the audit found that the university spent money from the principal of several endowments — an atypical and generally undesirable move, according to Keel. Foundations usually leave the principal alone and spend the interest earned.

Auditors could not determine exactly how much TSU spent from the principal because of "poor recordkeeping," but they found at least $285,934.

"There's certainly nothing illegal or improper about contributing part of the principal to the cause, but it's probably a better practice" to avoid it, said Bill King, a TSU regent and an attorney.

The audit also found that TSU lacks a "well diversified portfolio" — a risky measure — and it fails to scrutinize "the long-term performance of its endowment investments."

If continued, the university's practices could "negatively affect the long-term growth of the endowment funds," the audit said.

Official looks at bright side

J. Paul Johnson, the chairman of TSU Board of Regents, and King characterized the audit's findings as problems that can and will be fixed.
"I think it's important to point out that the thrust of the audit report is a lack of internal controls. There's not any finding that any money's missing," King said.

"But clearly it shows there's work to be done on the internal controls," he continued. "I don't think that's too surprising to anybody based on what we found earlier this year," with the alleged presidential misspending.

Slade, who has a doctorate in accounting, has denied any wrongdoing.

The university released a three-sentence statement to the Chronicle in response to the audit.

"Texas Southern University has issued a formal response to the State Auditor and is taking corrective measures to ensure the University's total compliance," the statement said. "TSU agrees with the auditor's recommendations and has determined that these issues will be resolved within the next six months. The institution is strongly committed to upholding high professional and ethical standards."

Effect on donations

Johnson had not read the audit Wednesday evening but said he did not think the findings would thwart donations to the university.
"Again, we're working to correct any of the problems that were specified in the audit," he said. "We would hope that donors would continue to donate to our endowment. It's my understanding that this wasn't a massive problem. I don't think there were any illegalities per se."

Bertrand Simmons, president of TSU's Metropolitan Houston alumni chapter, also said he hoped alumni wouldn't abandon their support.

"As far as donations are concerned, I would certainly hope that donations don't go down, and I really wish that people would look at some of the good things that are happening at Texas Southern University," said Simmons, who graduated from TSU in 1979 with a bachelor's in economics.

"Unfortunately, you have to take the good with the bad sometimes," he added. "Hopefully we can get the leadership in place and move forward."

In Slade's absence, Bobby Wilson, the university's provost, is serving as acting president, and the university is seeking a new chief financial officer to replace Quintin Wiggins, who also was indicted in the spending scandal.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fisk Starts Service-Learning Partnernership in Ghana and Brazil

Fisk University is expanding its global outreach with two service-learning projects between the West African nation of Ghana and Brazil. The West African experience lets students work with a project targeted at assisting HIV-positive orphans. In Brazil, Fisk sends two students there, and its partner school sends students to Fisk, with the goal being social comparison, especially around issues of gender, culture and ethnicity.

Classes at Fisk's main campus begin August 28.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fitch Downgrades Tx Southern U bonds

Fitch Downgrades Texas Southern Univ (Texas) Revs to 'BBB': Outlook Revised to Negative

Fitch Ratings downgrades the underlying rating on Texas Public Finance Authority Texas Southern University's (TSU) revenue bonds series 1998A1, 1998A2, 1998B, 1998C, 2002, 2003 and 2004 to 'BBB' from 'BBB+'. The Rating Outlook is revised to Negative from Stable.

The change in the rating outlook is due to weak internal controls evidenced by financial activities that led to the Aug. 1 indictments of the president and chief financial officer. In Fitch's reports on TSU, dated May 22, 2003 and March 22, 2004, the history of weak management prior to 1999 was discussed. However, in Oct. 1999 a new president was hired and a new CFO was hired in Dec. 2000. Fitch viewed the turnover as needed in order to address the university's financial concerns but identified the limited history of prudent financial management as a concern. Financial management of TSU remains a major concern for the rating. To address the internal control issues, TSU is in the process of implementing an enterprises-wide risk management program which requires the manager of each university operation to document the potential risks in his/her area, the probability of risk occurring, the impact should it occur and assessing the controls in place to eliminate the risk. While Fitch views the risk management program as a positive action, we remain concerned that weak internal controls could impact the integrity of the financial statements. In our initial rating of TSU in 2003, Fitch concluded that the reliability of the 1998 financial statements could not be adequately assessed and therefore relied on the financial statements of fiscal years 1999 and thereafter. TSU is in the process of hiring an independent audit firm to audit the financial statements of fiscal years 2005 and 2006. Future rating action will be impacted by the independent audit results and full implementation of the risk management program.

The rating downgrade is due to the expected issuance of $46.5 million of additional debt over the next three years. TSU currently has $149.6 million of debt outstanding. Approximately $40 million is revenue debt supported primarily by student fees, $71.1 million for which the state has in most years reimbursed TSU for debt service and $38.5 of debt supported by funds constitutionally appropriated to TSU. The additional debt of $46.5 million would be similar to the outstanding $71.1 million in that TSU pays the debt service but is reimbursed by the state. However, the state has not always fully appropriated an amount sufficient to cover debt service. In fiscal years 2004 and 2005, the appropriation for debt service reimbursement of $3.1 million was only 60% of the debt service amount. TSU handled the shortfall partially through tuition and fee increases and enrollment growth. Fitch estimates that additional bonds of $46.5 million would result in additional annual debt service of $3.7 million for 20 years. Fitch believes TSU's ability to handle a significant shortfall in state funding for debt service would be restricted given the limited existing levels of liquidity.

Other concerns include a projected decline in operating performance for fiscal 2006, the ability to collect approximately $20 million of outstanding capital campaign pledges and continued state funding in fiscal 2008 and beyond for programs implemented as a result of an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights to address disparities associated with segregation.

Credit strengths include increasing enrollment and the significant level of state support for the operations of TSU. Approximately 39% of the university's fiscal 2005 operating income was from the State of Texas (whose general obligation bonds are rated 'AA+' by Fitch Ratings). Headcount enrollment for fall 2005 was 11,903, a 47% increase since fall 2001. However, enrollment for the upcoming fall 2006 semester is expected to decline by 7% in part due to 21% increase in tuition and fees.

Located in Houston, TSU was established in 1947.

Fitch's rating definitions and the terms of use of such ratings are available on the agency's public site, Published ratings, criteria and methodologies are available from this site, at all times. Fitch's code of conduct, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, affiliate firewall, compliance and other relevant policies and procedures are also available from the 'Code of Conduct' section of this site.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

More Black Males Entering and Graduating College

A new report from the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) states that in 2004, the latest year for which complete data is available, there were 758,400 Black males enrolled in higher education compared to 603,032 in 2000. This is the highest level of enrollments for African American males in history. Black males made 4.4 percent of all enrollments in higher education. The JBHE report notes that about 28 percent of foreign-born Black men in the U.S. have a four-year college degree. This is very close to the educational attainment figures for native-born white men in America.

Dr. Walter E. Massey, president of Morehouse College says, "At Morehouse developing young men is our only business. We build an expectation of success from our students. We give students a sense of themselves, not only as men, but also as human beings. We provide and encourage mentoring practices. We provide non-threatening options and ways for men to ask for and receive help. The Morehouse and HBCU advantage is we set high standards, so that there is a sense of confidence upon graduation."

Thirty-eight percent of the Black male students receiving bachelor's degrees in science and engineering in 2004 received their degrees from an HBCU. Half of the 26 institutions that awarded the largest number of liberal arts bachelor's degrees to Black men were HBCU's according to the Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education 2004-2005, issued by the Washington D.C. - based American Council on Education (ACE).

Redlands accountant and 2005 Howard University graduate, Allen Redmond knows the value of attending an HBCU. "The odds are in your favor." Redmond was raised in predominately white Claremont in the shadow of the Claremont Colleges, a cluster of some of America's most prestigious schools. "I always thought I was to attend one of those schools. They were close to home. I knew a lot of their alumni. But when it came time for me to select a college my father took me to visit three highly recommended schools, all were HBCUs. I was shocked. The faculty, student and campus atmosphere was amazing. It felt like home. It felt like the faculty and staff wanted me there."

Redmond says he missed home and worried about his family. "They sacrificed to pay my college expenses. I was very lonely at first. I struggled academically early on. I almost flunked out." Redmond says male counselors and tutors mentored and encouraged him one on one. "I had no excuse for failure. The classes were small. It felt good to see a Black male standing in front of the class for a change. By the time I graduated I had developed a sense about who I was as a man - not just a Black man. The friends I made, the relationships I formed with my professors and other Black males left a lasting impression on me. Looking back I not only earned a higher education but also gained a sense of identity and heritage," he said.
"Expect to see enrollment and overall growth of HBCUs increase says William R. Moss III, co-founder of Graduates of these institutions (particularly Black males) now have the Internet to help spread the word about there experience at HBCUs. "We have designed a website that started as a way for fellow alumni to keep in touch but that has turned into a HBCU support system," said Moss.

Black men have experienced a starling reversal of fortunes in the span of one generation. In 1980 African-American men ages 18-24 enrolled in higher education outnumbered those incarcerated by a quarter million. According to the U.S. Justice Department, in 2000, Black men ages 18-55 behind bars exceeded those on campus by 188,000 - reflecting the nation's growing and aging prison population.

Experts are cautiously optimistic about the upturn in Black male enrollment. Dr. Geoffery Ajirotutu, educator and author of "Sabotaging America's Black Boys" is among them. "I don't think we should become overly excited right now. If you have a knife six inches in your back and you pull it out three inches you still have a knife in your back - is there progress?"
"This is definitely encouraging news and something to build on, but we're not close to where we need to be." Ajirotutu believes there is much work to do before we see a sustained upturn in Black males graduating from college and competing on a global level. "Our boys are not dropping out in the 12th grade - they're dropping out in the ninth grade. Our society teaches boys can either become an athlete, a rapper, a player or a pimp."

Accountant Redmond agrees "Black males need to see the accountants, the lawyers, the physicians, the bus drivers and computer technicians - if not - we will all pay the price," he says citing James Baldwin's 1970's call for radical change: "These are our children and we will benefit by or pay for what they become."

Benedict’s credit rating spirals downward

Moody’s issues two downgrades in nine days, puts college on ‘watch list’

Benedict College’s creditworthiness was downgraded twice during July by Moody’s Investors Services.

The firm, which evaluates for investors the risk of debt issued by governments, institutions and businesses, cited the college’s recent decision to borrow money to make its July 30 payroll as a factor.

The lower credit ratings make it more expensive for Benedict to borrow in the future, said state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom.

“There’s a market for risky debt, but they’ll pay a lot more for it,” the comptroller and former state treasurer said.

That could be important as Benedict, which has been a mainstay of African-American education in South Carolina for a century and a half, looks to refinance $32 million in bank loans, including an almost $11 million loan to build a football stadium.

Benedict is the only South Carolina college on Moody’s “watch list,” which is for schools experiencing financial instability.

Since late June, there have been three opinions issued on Benedict’s creditworthiness:

• June 28, Standard & Poor’s, another ratings agency, did not lower its rating of Benedict’s debt, instead reaffirming its non-investment-grade rating, or “junk bonds” in the slang of Wall Street.

• July 18, Moody’s downgraded Benedict “based on continued declines in enrollment since 2002, two fiscal years of deficit operating margins, thin unrestricted cash, and recently increased borrowing without any offsetting financial resource growth.”

• Nine days later, on July 27, Moody’s lowered Benedict’s credit rating again, skipping a rating to place Benedict’s debt four notches below investment grade. Moody’s said Benedict borrowed on a line of credit from a bank to meet its $700,000 biweekly payroll due July 31.

“We remain concerned about the current liquidity levels as well as potential for renewed liquidity pressures should enrollment not materialize as planned or should banks and other creditors fail to continue extending credit to the college,” Moody’s said.

Benedict spokeswoman Kymm Hunter declined Thursday to answer questions about the Moody’s report.

Moody’s said Benedict is predicting fall enrollment will be 2,541, roughly the same as last year. That’s good news for the college.

However, the ratings agency warned that Benedict, “despite declining financial resources,” has continued to increase its debt. According to its audited financial statements for the year that ended June 30, 2005, the college had $101.2 million in total debt and liabilities. Moody’s said in its July 18 report that Benedict added $5 million more in debt since.

In addition, Benedict has seen its revenues shrink in recent years, according to the college’s financial reports to the government:

• Private giving dropped 59 percent between 2001 and 2005.

• Profits from its auxiliary enterprises — food service, dormitories and vending — dwindled from $6.1 million in 2003 to $846,951 in 2005.

• Between 2000 and 2005, Benedict’s tuition discounts doubled to $4.3 million, which helped students but hurt the college’s balance sheet.

Benedict’s cash-flow shortage has been made worse by its reliance upon borrowing from banks, Moody’s said.

Standard & Poor’s said Benedict plans to refinance about $32 million in bank loans, including $10.7 million with Carolina First Bank and $14.5 million with Merrill Lynch, within the next year.

Some trustees continue to call for a special board meeting to review the college’s financial woes.

Columbia attorney Stephen Morrison, who is a Benedict trustee, said he would support five other trustees who have told The State they want a special board meeting.

“I would support that, and I think Dr. Swinton would support that,” Morrison said. David Swinton is Benedict’s president.

Morrison, who has been a lead attorney on a lawsuit by poor South Carolina school districts to win more resources from the General Assembly, said Benedict remains an important source of higher education for South Carolina’s underserved poor people.

“Benedict is serving a population that is not adequately prepared by the state of South Carolina for college-level work,” Morrison said. “Benedict is working very hard to provide them with an opportunity.”

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Husband, Wife and Daughter Receive Degrees from JSU

JACKSON - Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, his wife and his daughter were among more than 350 graduates to receive degrees Saturday at Jackson State University's summer commencement.

DuPree earned an executive doctorate from one of JSU's newest programs, Urban Higher Education. His wife, Johneice, received a master's degree in early childhood education, and his daughter, Monica, earned a master's in elementary education.

"It was an experience, but it drew the three of us closer," Johnny DuPree said of tackling tough classes while his family did the same. "It's amazing how much you can accomplish when you all have the same goal."

Things were hectic for the family while they all juggled school and their jobs. They fought over use of the computer and got on each other's nerves, but also "leaned and depended on each other," Johneice DuPree said. That family support is what held them together.

"We really helped each other," she said. "Now we're looking for graduation gifts to go all around. It's an exciting time for us."

Johnny DuPree was a part of the largest graduating doctorate class in JSU history. Earning his doctorate at 52, the lawmaker came to education late.

"I've always had an interest in education. I visit schools at least once a week," he said. "If I tell people how important it is to get an education, I should be getting an education, too."

The Urban Higher Education degree program was approved three years ago by the College Board. JSU is one of three institutions in the country that has degrees in the field.

"It's an accelerated program aimed at training professionals and mid-level managers," said Dorris Gardner, dean of JSU's Division of Graduate Studies.

JSU offers graduate studies programs. Gardner said the programs have become so popular that only two Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Howard and Morgan State - graduate more people with doctorate degrees.

"It challenged me to think and to produce a high quality of work, but it was still manageable."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lawmaker says the board shirked responsibility in the Slade affair

Along with the usual advice and good wishes for graduates, State Rep. Harold Dutton delivered some pointed criticism of Texas Southern University's Board of Regents during his keynote address at the school's summer commencement ceremony Saturday.

"You (regents) are directly responsible for the unsuccessful management and government of TSU," Dutton said in his speech, with the regents arrayed on the platform behind him.

In an interview later, Dutton, D-Houston, said he was referring to the "dark clouds" looming over TSU because of the regents' handling of the investigation, dismissal and subsequent indictment of former university president Priscilla Slade and their current dispute with the school's radio station.

TSU Board Chairman J. Paul Johnson declined to comment, saying through a spokeswoman that he felt it would be inappropriate.

Regents fired Slade in June after an internal audit showed she had spent nearly $650,000 of school money over seven years on personal purchases, including furnishing, decorating and landscape her newly constructed home.

Dutton, an alumnus of the university, said that although the controversy centered on Slade, he felt that the regents were just as much to blame because it is the board's responsibility to oversee TSU's fiscal management. He said the regents acted so poorly he considered them "co-conspirators."

"I don't think you just look to Priscilla Slade for the reason why, I think you have to look at all the board members," he said. "She may be in the spotlight, but I don't think she's the only one responsible for the mess we're in."

Dutton also criticized regents who he said are trying to restructure KTSU, the school's radio station.

"Why are board members attempting to direct the affairs of KTSU when KTSU remains unquestionably the black jewel of Wheeler Avenue?" he said in his speech, adding, "You have to pass the financial aid office before you get to KTSU's office. So why not fix the things that are broken at TSU."

He said that if the regents failed to meet their responsibilities, the Legislature could act to remove them. During a previous controversy in 1999, Rep. Garnett Colemen, D-Houston, introduced a bill to eliminate the TSU board of regents but withdrew it when the regents began to address scores of management problems.

"I don't think we can sit idly by ... ," Dutton said. "We simply can't go on and allow this same board to pick another president."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Former Tx So. University Prez. Indicted

HOUSTON -- Former Texas Southern University President Priscilla Slade was indicted Tuesday by a grand jury following accusations she misspent hundreds of thousands of school dollars to furnish and landscape her home.

Slade, 54, was indicted on two charges of criminally misusing university money for her private benefit.

The grand jury, after a three-month investigation, also indicted three other former high-ranking TSU staffers.

University regents voted in April to dismiss Slade. An inquiry by an independent law firm found that Slade spent more than $260,000 on house-related costs.

An audit also concluded she spent nearly $650,000 over the past seven years on purchases not allowed under her contract.

Slade, who served as president of the historically black university for more than six years, has denied any wrongdoing and has filed a civil lawsuit against the school.

If convicted, Slade faces anywhere from five years of probation to life in prison, and a fine of up to $20,000. A judge set her bail at $100,000.

Slade's attorney did not immediately return a telephone call Tuesday.

Slade Indicted

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More trouble for Benedict: College must repay $658,000

College disputes audit findings that it mishandled student loan program

Benedict College has been required to repay more than $658,000 since 2001 for violating rules governing federal student loans, U.S. Department of Education records show.

Benedict president David Swinton dismissed the ordered repayments.

“That’s what auditors do,” he said. “They point out things that need to be fixed.

“That audit covered every year since the (direct) student loan program was started (in 1996-97). That audit took 2½ years to do. We disagreed with it.”

Such repayments are unusual, according to a check by the Education Department of 10 private institutions and 11 public colleges in South Carolina.

Only three of those schools — Columbia’s Allen University, Newberry College and Spartanburg’s Wofford College — have been forced to make repayments. Those three schools repaid a combined $134,977 following federal audits dating back to 1992, with almost all of the money coming from Newberry last year.

Loss of federal loans and grants could financially cripple Benedict, which has faced a cash-flow shortage for at least a year.

Benedict has been a mainstay of African-American education in South Carolina for a century and a half. The decade-long disagreement with federal officials over student loans is important because 92 percent of Benedict students use the loans to help cover the $21,814 annual cost of tuition and other expenses at the private, nonprofit college.

Federal officials have threatened to cut off loans to the college’s students if Benedict doesn’t improve its management of the student loan program.

“That’s boilerplate language,” Swinton said Friday. “As far as I know, we are not in any danger of losing our eligibility. We’ve always responded to their findings.”


Federal Education Department officials cited Benedict, in part, for giving federal loans to students who were not making satisfactory progress toward graduation.

Benedict graduates 6 percent of its students in four years and 24 percent in six years, the most recent figures from the Education Department show.

That’s the second-lowest graduation rate among South Carolina’s independent colleges. Allen University has the lowest.

Among the 37 colleges of the United Negro College Fund, including Benedict, nine schools have lower six-year graduation rates.

Swinton said the school is making progress toward improving the graduation rate. He said statistics more recent than those used by the Education Department show students who entered Benedict in 2000 graduated after four years at a rate of 13.7 percent, and after five years at 23.3 percent.

For the class that started in 1999, the six-year graduation rate was 25.9 percent, according to information Swinton provided.

“We’re not satisfied with the rate,” Swinton said. “We’re dealing with students whose parents were disadvantaged. We’re doing the best we can with those kids.”

A handful of Benedict’s 31 trustees have expressed concern that they have not been briefed on the college’s financial problems.

Newly elected trustee Darrell Jackson said he would like to see board chairman Charlie W. Johnson of Louisville, Ky., poll the board to see whether other members want to meet to learn more about the school’s finances, especially its $101 million in debt and other liabilities, and the student loan program.

Jackson questioned whether the school’s leadership — both its president and its board — have adequately served Benedict’s students.

“Claflin University and Morris College have avoided these kinds of penalties,” said Jackson, a state senator who represents the district in which Benedict is located. “Other historically black colleges have done what we are doing and have avoided these problems.

“I question why a student or a parent would be comfortable sending their children to an institution with these kinds of issues.”

Four other trustees have told The State newspaper they would support such a meeting.

Efforts to reach Johnson for comment were unsuccessful.


Benedict’s enrollment dropped to about 2,550 last fall after peaking at 3,005 in 2002.

Because Benedict depends on tuition and fees to operate, the drop in enrollment has produced operating losses. Stabilizing enrollment this fall will be crucial to Benedict’s efforts to balance its finances.

Swinton has said he expects enrollment to match that of last fall or be slightly higher.

Previous enrollment losses have forced the school to cut salaries and scale back community activities as Benedict led the redevelopment of a large part of downtown Columbia, near its Harden Street campus.

Earlier this month, Benedict officials notified employees their July 31 payday might be delayed by four days; they later said the college would make its payday on time.

Benedict could not maintain its current spending without federal assistance. Total federal grants and loans have exceeded $150 million, Swinton said. That’s 30 percent of Benedict’s roughly $500 million in total revenue since Swinton became president in 1994.

The college’s failure to solve its loan problems could put that federal money revenue stream in jeopardy.

Each year since 1997, the Education Department has cited Benedict College for deficiencies in solving accounting and policy problems left from previous years.

Last year, the department issued its strongest warning in a Nov. 7 letter to Swinton:

“We would still remind the institution that this is a repeat finding. We would also like to restate that repeat findings in future audits or failure to satisfactorily resolve the findings of this audit may lead to an adverse administrative action. An adverse action may include the imposition of a fine, or the limitation, suspension, or termination of the eligibility of the institution.”

Benedict participates in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. Instead of turning over student loans to a third-party administrator such as the South Carolina Student Loan Corp., Benedict receives the money directly and administers federal student loans itself.

Swinton said the program has been troublesome from the start.

“It was started in 1996-97, and no one really knew how to run the direct student loan program,” he said. “There were errors made on both sides.”


To review Benedict’s finances, The State newspaper obtained nine years of federal audit reports from the U.S. Department of Education and eight years of IRS 990 forms — a tax-exempt organization’s financial statement — under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

Benedict also has voluntarily returned more than $5 million to the Education Department, audits show, in addition to the $658,000 in liabilities and penalties it argued it did not owe the government.

The audits show:

• In 1997, the Education Department said Benedict had not submitted accurate and complete vouchers for Pell grants — which help low-income students pay for college — and the reconciliation of some $145,962 in awards was not performed on time. The department recommended further training for college personnel.

• In 1998, the department required Benedict to repay $16,157 resulting from deficiencies in record-keeping, failure to observe federal regulations and failure to document satisfactory academic progress by students.

• The department also cited Benedict for delays in refunding overpayments to students as required.

“The university is being placed on notice that this is a repeat finding of the 1998 and 1997 audit report,” the Atlanta case management officer wrote to Swinton in the 1999 audit report.

Swinton said the refund problems have been corrected and students are receiving their money within the guidelines.

• In 1999, the Education Department required Benedict to repay $1.7 million in student financial aid to which the college was not entitled. The college protested the refund, but repaid the money in September 2000.

• In another action, Benedict repaid $3.5 million to the federal government after federal auditors complained of poor record-keeping.

• Benedict was cited six times over nine years for failure to adequately document “satisfactory academic progress” for students receiving federal assistance. In their 2001 audit, federal auditors found an error rate of 22 percent when it required the college to re-evaluate student eligibility in 2000-01.

They said that for 2000-01, 69 students did not meet the school’s published satisfactory academic progress standards.

The audit’s finding resulted in liabilities that included a penalty of $114,442 because of ineligible loans, the auditors said. In a settlement agreement, Benedict is repaying $257,635 in 20 quarterly installments, U.S. Department of Education spokeswoman Jane Glickman said.


Swinton said Benedict disagreed with the auditors’ findings.

“They started out saying we owed them $2.5 million,” he said. “We were able to prove to them those loans were legitimate, all except about $250,000. The fact is, we thought those loans were legitimate, too. But someone lost the paperwork, or something.”

In 2001, the federal agency said the college’s records did not match federal records. The agency cited Benedict five times since 1997 for shortcomings in record-keeping.

“Repeat findings from prior audit years constitutes an inability by the institution to properly administer the Title IV programs,” the Education Department wrote in 2001.

In 2002, the agency again cited Benedict for failure to correct 16 different criticisms noted in previous years.

Nine warnings were repeated in 2003.

In 2004, the department said Benedict owed the federal government $1.6 million for failing to reconcile its records with the agency’s. In 2005, the agency settled that claim with an agreement Benedict would pay “liabilities” of $400,717 in 15 quarterly installments.

If a deficiency has not been corrected and the amount due the department has not been paid, Education Department spokeswoman Stephanie Babyak said, “we will assess a liability.”

The agency’s most recent federal audit, for the year ended June 30, 2005, said Benedict had not corrected any of the 11 problems cited in the previous year.


Trustee Jackson said he wonders whether Benedict’s current leadership can fix the school’s financial problems.

“This is nothing personal against Dr. Swinton, but I’ve begun to question whether he can bring us out of this,” Jackson said.

Jackson also said he holds the board responsible for Benedict’s financial situation.

“Every board member who is currently serving and not opening their mouths, I hold them personally responsible,” he said. “I challenge them to provide oversight, not just be a rubber stamp.”

AT&T, Bennett, and WSSU searching for new leaders

Johnnetta Cole has announced the upcoming academic year will be her last as president of Bennett College.

N.C. A&T's James Renick has already left Greensboro to take a position with the American Council on Education in Washington.

The UNC system offered Winston-Salem State University Chancellor Harold Martin a plum job as senior vice president for academic affairs, luring him to Chapel Hill.

And that leaves all the historically black colleges and universities in the Triad in the same spot: looking for a new leader.

But officials connected to each of the searches don't think the concurrent hunts will produce matching lists of candidates, mainly because all the campuses have different missions.

"I think that probably all three of those schools have unique requirements," said Gracie Coleman , chairwoman of the search committee at Bennett. "There are lots of talented people around. We'll all find the right person for our particular roles."

The schools have distinctive missions and backgrounds. A&T, the largest of the trio with an enrollment of about 11,000 students, has a strong agricultural and technical history. Winston-Salem State , with about 5,500 students, has a liberal arts background — as does Bennett, a private school for women with a student body just shy of 600.

"The person interested in being the chancellor at A&T probably is not the same candidate we would be looking at Winston-Salem State, which is more of a liberal arts college, so I don't really think we're competing within the same pool," said Ann Lemmon , associate vice president for human resources with the UNC system. "Bennett, as a small private women's college, is looking for someone different."

But to try to avoid playing one school against another, UNC system schools A&T and Winston-Salem State will use different search firms, Lemmon said.

A majority of the state's five historically black public universities are looking for new leaders. Along with the two Triad schools, Elizabeth City State University is seeking a replacement for Chancellor Mickey Burnim , who is taking over the top spot at Bowie State University in Maryland.

All the leadership posts are being vacated by racial minorities, and many constituents say they would like other persons of color to be hired.
People familiar with higher education searches say the pool of minority candidates has increased over the years and if contenders have the goods, they are in high demand.

"It's not a big pool but it's not minute either," said Steve Leo , a managing consultant with the international search firm Edward W. Kelley & Partners. The firm is not affiliated with any of the local searches, he said.

"The reality is that quality candidates of color are highly desirable by almost any institution. From a labor perspective, it's a sellers' marketplace. High-caliber, top-notch African American applicants are in demand from historically black colleges and by mainstream colleges."

Velma Speight-Buford , chairwoman of A&T's board of trustees and the search committee, said the pool of minority candidates has grown considerably over the years, in part because of fellowship programs designed to train people to become chancellors and presidents and because women are also being considered.

"The pool is probably better than it ever has been," she said.
Speight-Buford said she couldn't remember another time when all the local historically black colleges and universities were doing leadership searches at the same time, but she sees the coincidence as a sign they are on the move.

"Once upon a time, people came to HBCUs and stayed forever," she said. "It was just like everything else within the minority community. You just didn't change jobs a lot because if you changed jobs a lot, people would think something was wrong. Now if you don't change jobs a lot people think things are wrong."

The outgoing leaders' tenures at their institutions are between five and seven years, which is considered the average length of a university presidency.

Leo didn't think the simultaneous searches would negatively affect the schools. Having three new leaders looking to make a mark in the region could lead to new partnerships, he said. "That might, in the end, be a very positive thing, " he said.