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Thursday, December 21, 2006

NCCU business school gains AACSB accreditation

N.C. Central University announced a double dose of good news Thursday on the academic and sports fronts.

Its business school has gained a prestigious accreditation from an international organization, and its football team has been declared the Black College National Champions in a poll conducted by the Sheridan Broadcasting Network.

The business school accreditation, from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, is the "gold standard in business school accreditation," said Bijoy Sahoo, interim dean of NCCU's School of Business.

Duke and UNC are among the 17 North Carolina universities with the status. The AACSB accredits about 500 business schools worldwide.

Sahoo said the new certification will help the school recruit and retain faculty and students.

"It just makes us more credible as a quality academic program," Sahoo said. "It's a feather in the cap of the faculty and administration."

The business school had no accreditation for a few months this year, but now has two types: the new AACSB one and another from the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs. The university lost the latter last December and regained it in May.

NCCU as a whole also is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

NCCU lost its ACBSP certification because officials did not file a self-evaluation report. Under the leadership of then-dean Benjamin Newhouse, the school was pursuing just the AACSB accreditation, even though approval would not have come before the ACBSP status expired.

Chancellor James Ammons criticized the decision at the time, and Newhouse was removed from his job.

The AACSB accreditation, which will cover NCCU's bachelor's and master's programs in business administration, focuses more on universities' faculty research and intellectual productivity than the ACBSP certification does, Sahoo said.

The School of Business first applied for AACSB accreditation in 1999.

Businesses, who sometimes help pay for employees to take part-time courses, often don't want to fund study at universities that are not AACSB approved, Sahoo said.

To achieve the certification, business schools need to go through a lengthy peer-review process and do a self-evaluation report.

"The faculty, the students and staff have shown character," Sahoo said. "We gained back the one we lost and we got this one."

NCCU's business school opened in 1972, after separating from the university's Undergraduate School of Arts and Sciences. It has more than 1,025 undergraduates enrolled and 80 students in the graduate program.

A&T leader faces embezzlement charges

A high-ranking university official faces criminal charges after an internal N.C. A&T audit found someone created a slush fund to funnel rebates on school equipment purchases, records show.

Rodney Emile Harrigan, 61, vice chancellor for information technology and telecommunications, turned himself in to campus police, according to a statement faxed Monday to the News & Record.

Arrest warrants show he was charged with obtaining property by false pretense and embezzlement of state property.

Records made no mention of how the money was spent.

Harrigan, of 5300 Bancroft Road in Greensboro, was released from the Guilford County jail after posting a $25,000 bond.

"If you would like to print anything," he said in response to questions about the charges, "please just say that I am innocent, and I cannot make any further comments at this time."

Harrigan was also suspended with pay from the university, where he earned $135,636 per year, according to the school.

The money in question, rebates through a service that supplies computers and software to the school, was placed in an unauthorized personal account with the N.C. A&T State Foundation, warrants show.

Authorities allege Harrigan diverted more than $70,000 to the account starting in 2004. A university spokeswoman said Monday she did not know if Harrigan is the only school official suspected of involvement in the activity.

The spokeswoman, Mable Scott, said the internal audit began when officials received a tip through a phone hot line that gives employees a confidential way to report fraud and abuse.

A team of three investigators from the UNC system has been asked by A&T to assist internal auditors, Scott said.

University records indicate the school knew as early as November of irregularities with discretionary accounts opened by Harrigan’s office. The accounts were frozen Nov. 6, according to a memo to Harrigan from interim Chancellor Lloyd Hackley.

Hackley, through an office receptionist who answered the phone Monday, directed the News & Record to speak with Scott.

Harrigan is the second university official in recent weeks to be under public scrutiny.

The A&T police chief, Curtis Bigelow, resigned Wednesday after a state commission found that he erred in not disclosing a misdemeanor charge when he applied for certification with the university’s police in 1992.

The same commission also concluded that Bigelow erred in not reporting a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge from a 2001 traffic accident.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Johns Hopkins and Howard team to train scientists

Nanomaterials scientists at The Johns Hopkins University are teaming with colleagues at Howard University and Prince George's Community College to attract and train materials scientists from underrepresented minority groups, especially African-Americans.

Called the Partnership for Research and Education in Materials, or PREM, the collaboration will involve undergraduates in world-class research at Johns Hopkins on the properties of nanomaterials, materials made of structures on the order of a billionth of a meter in size.

"The goal is for this partnership to increase the number of minorities who pursue careers in materials research, engineering and related fields, including physics and chemistry," said Daniel Reich of Johns Hopkins, co-principal investigator of PREM and a professor in the Krieger School's Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy. "We'll do this on several levels, all of which include the sharing of our resources — both intellectual and in terms of research infrastructure — with those at the other institutions."

PREM will receive $2.75 million over five years and is one of six new such partnerships receiving a total of $15.4 million from the National Science Foundation.

The Johns Hopkins scientists are members of the Johns Hopkins University Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, an NSF-funded center that supports interdisciplinary research on advanced magnetic nanomaterials. The PREM program will have three basic components: bringing researchers at Johns Hopkins and Howard University together for collaborative research; offering Howard undergraduates the opportunity to perform research internships at Johns Hopkins; and developing new courses for students at Prince George's Community College.

In fact, there will be particular emphasis on reaching out to undergraduate students from underrepresented minority groups at all three institutions.

"One of the key things we are keeping in mind is that if students are going to be attracted to careers in the sciences and in engineering, they need to experience research in these fields as undergraduates," Reich said.

The PREM at Johns Hopkins, Howard University and PGCC is one of six such new collaborations. The others are California State and Princeton universities; Jackson State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara; Norfolk State and Cornell universities; Tuskegee and Cornell universities; and the University of New Mexico and Harvard University.

Monday, December 18, 2006

S.C. State foundation to buy University Village

The South Carolina State University Real Estate Foundation is lining up $12.5 million in financing to purchase the six-acre, 288-bed University Village apartment complex on Chestnut Street.

“It will be a wonderful new amenity to house our students,” said Maurice Washington, the SCSU Board of Trustees’ chairman and its representative on the foundation trustee board.

“It’s also an investment for our future,” he continued. It will “support the enrollment goals of the university as we move from where we are right now at 4,300 to 4,400 students to about 8,000 students.”

“We can’t wait until we get there to expand” the student housing capacity, Washington said. “We have to be doing that right now.”

Separately, on-campus housing units for 755 students are scheduled to go into service by the end of this month. Those structures were financed with a nearly $40 million federally guaranteed loan.

University Village is privately owned. It was built in 2002 by Bostic Brothers Construction, one of the nation’s largest builders of multifamily and student housing.

“It would be a very attractive property for the university,” said James Patterson, a part-owner of University Village.

“There certainly have been discussions and those discussions are continuing,” Patterson said in a phone interview.

“It’s mostly their students who are there,” Patterson said. “Many times universities will acquire properties where their students live. It’s not unique.”

Although university officials initially saw University Village as a private-sector rival to campus housing, the university has become the complex’s biggest customer, renting units there and at other apartment complexes when demand for on-campus housing exceeds the available supply.

“We’re paying an enormous amount of money on a monthly basis to house over 200, sometimes 300, students at that facility, somewhere in the ballpark of $90,000 a month,” Washington said.

“If we’re going to pay that, we might as well pay for ownership versus rentership,” Washington said. “The wonderful thing about this debt is, it’s not (going to be) on the university’s books.”

The real estate foundation is one of several nonprofit entities affiliated with the university. Its creation was authorized by the university trustee board.

Washington said the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the College of Charleston are among the institutions of higher education that have established real estate foundations.

“We’re kind of late to the game, but better late than never,” he said.

The foundation has its own governing body, whose chair is the Rev. Sam Glover, a former member of the SCSU trustee board. The foundation’s executive director is Dr. Kevin Rolle, who is also the university’s vice president of student affairs.

“The Real Estate Foundation exists primarily for the purpose of acquiring land and physical structures for university use,” Washington said.

“It is important as we look to the future that we expand the physical footprint of the university, and this gives us an ideal opportunity to do just that,” he said.

“Whereas we may not be able to purchase” desired properties “because of lack of funding and because we have stretched our debt ratio out to its capacity, we may still be in need of additional land or structures to carry out the mission and vision of the university,” Washington said.

“The fact we can keep about $12 million off our books in terms of debt plays well to the future development needs of the university,” he said.

“We may want to reserve our ability to incur debt for other purposes, going forward, like our engineering building for example, and the expansion of Hodge Hall, and (the replacement of) Turner Hall and the library,” he said. “It’s always good to have that entity in place to assist us in moving the agenda forward.”

The foundation can obtain loans because “the collateral is the facility” being purchased, Washington said. “That’s why we’re only paying market value, appraised value.”

If the foundation defaults on the payments, the bank can foreclose on the loan and repossess the property, but that is unlikely, he added.

“Orangeburg County has been discovered,” he said. “Developers are heading this way. Property values will only escalate. Those who fail to get on the front end of this wave will be very sorry five, 10 years out from now. You either buy now and pay less, or buy later and pay more.”

Orangeburg County Council held a public hearing Monday on the proposed issuance of $12.5 million in South Carolina Jobs-Economic Development Authority Student Housing Revenue Bonds.

Proceeds of the bond will be loaned to South Carolina State University Housing LLC, which was described as a “South Carolina manager-managed limited liability company” whose sole member is the SCSU Real Estate Foundation.

The SCSU Board of Trustees discussed the matter behind closed doors at its quarterly meeting Thursday.

Upon returning to public session, the trustees voted to approve a management agreement between the university and SCSU Housing LLC.

The agreement specifies that the university will maintain the facilities “in good repair and condition and at a minimum as required by university policy for student housing facilities.”

It also says campus police will provide law enforcement and the university “shall adhere to any applicable federal, state or local ... laws and regulations pertaining to health or the environment.”

Washington said the university is prepared to install a security gate, additional lighting and other safety enhancements at University Village.

“Things appear to be moving along very smoothly,” Washington said. “We have been approved by JEDA. Bank of America has approved the loan as well.

“We need Budget & Control Board approval and that matter will come before them on Tuesday (Dec. 12),” he said. “The closing date is somewhere in February.”

Earlier in the year, Washington said, “We believe in smart growth. We realize, to grow this institution, we can’t be afraid of incurring debt, but it has to be done very deliberately and carefully thought out.

“We just have to be very intelligent about how we approach this, and at the end of the day, if the numbers all fit, and we can handle the new debt without partially sinking the ship, then we’re going to try to make it happen.”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

ASU getting better enrollment numbers than other HBCUs

Brittany Blunt said she had several criteria in mind when she contemplated her college choice before graduating high school.

“I wanted to make sure the school (she chose) had a good chemistry program, a family environment and I wanted to stay in Georgia and keep HOPE,” Blunt said.

She said she already knew she wanted to attend an HBCU, after being influenced by her parents who are both graduates of black colleges.

“My parents said if I wanted to experience culture and be in a family environment and if I wanted to mature as a black person, I had to come to an HBCU,” she said.

Blunt, now a 20-year-old junior chemistry major at Albany State, said chose ASU because of its beautiful and friendly campus.

She is one of the students that help ASU stay on top of enrollment. Unlike other HBCU’s across the U.S., ASU is not experiencing a decline in enrollment.

Dr. Timothy Knowles, vice president for Student Affairs, said the vision of ASU President Everett Freeman, quality teachers and academic departments and the school’s reputation has helped enrollment.

Dr. Ellis Sykes, vice president for Academic Affairs, said good leadership, faculty and staff contribute to ASU’s increased enrollment. He also said he credits the flood of 1994, saying it was a blessing in disguise.

Sykes said the funds received to replace and remodel buildings damaged from the flood helped the school become more attractive in students’ eyes.

In 2001, enrollment was down 2 percent with 3,456 students enrollment for fall semester. That trend changed for fall semester 2002. In 2002, enrollment increased 2.9 percent with 3,557 students, and up 3.5 percent in 2003 with 3,681 students.

But in 2004, enrollment decreased 0.4 percent with 3,668 students and continued in 2005 with 0.5 percent and 3,649 students enrolled.

ASU experienced a large increase of 5.3 percent in Fall 2006. As of Sept. 18, 3,844 students were enrolled at ASU.

However, other HBCUs have not had the same fortune.

Despite a rise in overall attendance, the number of college eligible Black students who attend HBCUs has dropped from 18.4 percent to 12.9 percent over the past thirty years. Between 1995 and 2004, 26 of 87 HBCUs profiled by the United States Education Department experienced declines in enrollment.

The percentage of college-eligible black students who choose to attend an HBCU fell from 18.4 percent in 1976 to 12.9 percent in 2001, according to a CNN report.

Experts say the reasons for the declining interest in HBCUs include aging campuses, dwindling prestige, changes in what black students value, and increasing competition from white educational powerhouses.

Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Ga. and Savannah State University in Savannah, Ga. are HBCUs under the University System of Georgia that are having enrollment decline.

In Fall 1998, Fort Valley had an enrollment of 3,024 students. By the following year, it decreased almost six percent to 2,847 students. From 2000-2005, Fort Valley’s enrollment decreased consistently every semester.

For Fall 2005, Fort Valley enrolled 2,174 students.

Blunt, who toured Fort Valley’s campus, said she decided not to attend Fort Valley mainly because of the attitudes of the students. She said the students who gave her a tour of the campus were not impressive.

“It was unpleasant. Fort Valley was ghetto-looking and it was unorganized. Even my family was not impressed,” she said.

Savannah State University in Savannah, Ga. has a different enrollment history than Fort Valley.

Instead of decreasing steadily every semester, Savannah State has seen fluctuations in enrollment.

Between 1996-98, Savannah’s enrollment decreased. In 1999, the school enrolled 2,153 students. From 1999, Savannah State’s enrollment continued to increase and at fall semester 2005, its enrollment increased nearly 44 percent with 3,091 enrolled students.

Many HBCU admission offices realize the decline in HBCU enrollment, and have developed different recruiting strategies to counter the enrollment depletion.

One way ASU is attracting more students is through aggressive recruitment at high schools outside of southwest Georgia and even out of state. At one point ASU sent recruiters to Florida, but later stopped once out-of-state fees became too costly for students who were not Georgia residents.

Dr. Knowles said part of ASU’s success in recruiting comes from realizing students have several options in choosing a college or university.

“We know we are competing. We never assume all blacks will come to HBCUs,” he said.

Competition between HBCUs and predominately white colleges and universities is a great factor in HBCU enrollment declining, with schools like Harvard University offering full four-year scholarships to minorities.

By the 1980s, African-Americans were enrolled in record numbers at predominantly white institutions of higher education, leaving historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) struggling with tough economic times and declining student enrollments.

In August of 2006, University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) enrolled 4,130 students, up from 3,166 students in 1996, a hike that put the university above the 4,000-pupil mark for the first time in its 120-year existence, said Suzanne Street, university spokeswoman.

Black students make up 77.4 percent of enrollment at the Princess Anne, Md., campus, while foreign students account for 88.7 percent and whites, 11.3 percent, she said.

And with middle-class black parents being able to devote more of their income to their child’s college education, more prospective college students find themselves not obligated to attend an HBCU, unlike their parents and grandparents.

Many HBCU recruiters have chosen to focus on non-black potential students to not only increase enrollment, but to diversify the campus.

Several HBCUs like, Central State University in Ohio, Hampton University in Virginia, Delaware State University in Delaware and ASU have adopted the strategy of recruiting non-black students.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

LeMoyne-Owen retains SACS accreditation

The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has announced that LeMoyne-Owen College will continue to be accredited by SACS, with Lemoyne's current status of Probation with Good Cause for another year.

The commission found that LeMoyne has taken sufficient action over the last year to improve its financial health.

Robert Lipscomb, LeMoyne-Owen's board chairman, said the decision is encouraging for Lemoyne.

"The SACS Commission is giving the college another year to continue to make strides that will make the college stronger," Lipscomb says. "We are now able to complete our Strategic Transformation Plan which is currently underway to dramatically change the college's direction to make it much more responsive to current market needs."

That plan includes a review of Lemoyne's academic offerings with assistance from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, support from the United Negro College Fund, and a review of its business model by the Board of Trustees.

Johnnie Watson, interim president of LeMoyne, said even though the school had hoped for removal from probation, he will still work toward that goal.

"We will continue to work diligently to look for ways to address our issues and to get the college on sure footing by the next review period," Watson said.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bush to Award Xavier Pres. Medal of Freedom

Norman C. Francis, President of Xavier University of Louisiana for nearly 40 years, has been tabbed by Preisdent Bush to receive the Presidential Medel of Freedom. The award will be presented at a White House ceremoney on December 15, 2006.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation's highest civil award, was established by Executive Order 11085 in 1963, the Medal may be awarded by the President "to any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Former TSU professor will leave prison early

A former English professor at Texas Southern University, who has served six months of a 10-year sentence for stealing thousands of dollars from programs she managed at the school, could be released on probation before Christmas.

Dottie Malone Atkins, 67, pleaded guilty in April to theft by a public servant in connection with fraudulent requisitions she created and consultant fees she was paid as director of the Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace, and two other programs, prosecutors said. She was sentenced in June to 10 years in prison. She had faced a maximum sentence of 20 years.

But state District Judge Don Stricklin granted her request this week for "shock probation," meaning she will be released from prison after serving about 180 days and will be placed on supervised release.

"The good news is Ms. Atkins will be home for Christmas," said Sam Adamo, her lawyer. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, according to court records.

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Donna Goode said the state opposed probation. She wants Stricklin to impose conditions of release that include restitution, community service and an apology to TSU administrators and students.

Prosecutors have said that from 2000 to 2002, Atkins stole about $76,000 from the Leland center, the university's anti-tobacco program and the Texas Legislative Intern Program.

They said she created fake requisitions and invoices for work that was not done.

Atkins admitted stealing about $38,000. Adamo blamed Atkins' gambling addiction for the thefts. She testified that she lost about $355,000, primarily at Harrah's casino in Lake Charles, La., between January 2001 and December 2002. A TSU audit uncovered Atkins' misappropriation of funds at the Leland Center. Other financial irregularities were found at two other programs she managed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

JSU planning on campus Stadium

Jackson State University is planning a new on campus football stadium that would serve as a major link between the campus and downtown, an economic development driver for the university and community, according to a firm the university hired to prepare a case statement for the stadium.

The facility would be equipped with 15 suites as well as standard amenities like a press box, locker rooms and office space. The stadium, expected to cost about $80 million, would seat 35,000 to 40,000 people.

Such a facility would be great for the city and the university, although some JSU supporters will frown at its proposed capacity. These concerns, however, are more emotional than logical.


The case statement was prepared by Brailsford & Dunlavey, a facility planning and program management firm based in Washington, D.C.

It is just a preliminary analysis but makes a rather compelling case for the stadium. This includes freeing up the site of the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium to allow for additional growth by the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The firm also dissected JSU's current financial arrangement with Veterans Memorial Stadium and looked at other institutions that recently built stadiums as a point of reference. It also used JSU's 25-year average of about 25,000 fans for home games as a benchmark.

This is one reason why the proposed capacity makes sense. It will increase the value of tickets to the games. Because the school currently plays in a 60,000-seat facility, demand for tickets has never exceeded the supply.


The study also concluded that JSU's current agreement with Veterans Memorial Stadium is unfavorable to the university.

"It severely limits the university in fully realizing the financial benefits of consistent strong spectator support as well as important intangible benefits of operating a successful intercollegiate football program at the Division I-AA level."

The university pays the stadium $15,000 per game or 7 percent of the gate, whichever is higher. It collects 33 percent of concession sales but collects no parking revenues and is responsible for paying the electricity for the stadium lights.

"It is this lost revenue that impacts the university's ability to make enhancements to its athletic programs," the study said.

The proposed stadium, even with 35,000 seats, is a great venture that should create more enthusiasm for JSU football and downtown Jackson, while supporting UMC. This should be difficult for lawmakers to ignore.

Friday, December 01, 2006

TSU receives $1M federal grant for biotech program

Tennessee State University announced Monday it has been awarded a $1 million grant by the U.S. Department of Defense to establish a nanoscience and biotechnology laboratory and research program.

Marcus W. Shute, TSU vice president for research and sponsored programs, will be the principal investigator for the grant, which was awarded by the Department of Defense’s Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper was instrumental in securing the grant, TSU officials said.

The funds will be used to build out a nanoscience and biotechnology laboratory in the TSU Research and Sponsored Programs facility currently under construction. The building is scheduled to open in early 2007, with the nanoscience and biotechnology lab to be operational by fall of 2007.

The research conducted in the new program will involve interdisciplinary projects relevant to national science and technology goals, the university said. It will support the missions of the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, Department of Homeland Security and National Institutes of Health, among other agencies. In addition, the project will assist in creating the pipeline for the next generation of scientists and researchers in nanoscience and biotechnology. The initiative received strong support from Tennessee’s congressional delegation in Washington and promises to have significant impact in the scientific community, TSU officials said.

Jennifer Stewart-Wright, an environmental biochemist and program director for university research initiatives at Tennessee State, will serve as the co-principal investigator and project director for the grant.