Your Ad Here

Sunday, May 31, 2009

AAMU falls behind on retirement payments

Alabama A&M University has fallen two months - nearly $2 million - behind in payments to the state retirement system on behalf of its 1,100 employees, retirement officials say.

Slight payment lags of a week or two are common, but no other public institution has missed two straight months, according to Donald Yancey, director of benefits for the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

A&M officials blamed the state, a statement from Vice President for Business and Finance Charlie Rucker on Thursday said that "the state is about two months behind in payments (warrants) to Alabama A&M University."

If state education payments are the problem , Gov. Bob Riley asked, "Why is every other university and school system in Alabama up to date?"

The payment gap won't prevent someone from retiring from A&M with full benefits, Yancey said, because RSA routinely starts retirement payments while waiting for the last payroll deductions to catch up.

But until the shortfall is made up, Yancey said the system will not cash out any departing employee's retirement account. That means an employee leaving for another job this summer will find his or her account frozen until A&M catches up.

The shortfall includes both the 5 percent retirement contribution withheld from A&M salaries each month, plus the 11 percent matching contribution the school makes, Rucker said.

Rucker said both contributions are held in university bank accounts, "and both amounts are submitted to RSA when sufficient funds are accumulated."

A&M has an average monthly payroll of about $6 million, Rucker said. Sixteen percent of $6 million means an approximate $960,000 monthly contribution. That puts A&M nearly $2 million behind.

A&M has been dealing with the same budget woes affecting public schools, colleges and universities across the state. The university's state appropriation this year was about $45 million, down from a first proposal of almost $50 million. For next year, Riley estimates that mandated budget cuts will limit A&M to about $40 million from the state. It gets millions more from other sources, including the federal government.

Interim A&M President Dr. Beverly Edmond and A&M officials have implemented steps to deal with the budget, including monthly unpaid furloughs of 12 hours for administrators and eight hours for staff earning $30,000 a year, and a 5 percent cut in pay for summer faculty, Rucker said.

A&M is currently operating without a permanent president or an approved budget.

It has no budget because the board of trustees has not met to pass one, and the board hasn't met because of two ongoing disputes, one between Riley and legislators over new appointees to the board, and one between remaining members over A&M's next president.

Riley's spokesman said Thursday that the governor hasn't decided whether to continue to push his four nominees.

The four have failed to win Senate confirmation for two years.

"The governor is reviewing his options," said Todd Stacy, Riley's press secretary.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Martin named new chancellor at A&T

N.C. A&T didn't have to search very far to find its new chancellor, as Harold Martin, vice president for academic affairs at the UNC System office was selected as the new head Aggie last Friday morning. Martin is an A&T alum, and former chancellor of Winston-Salem State University from 2000-2006.

“It is a great pleasure to come home,” Martin told a crowd assembled at the UNC Board of Governors meeting held on A&T’s campus.

The Board of Governors unanimously approved Martin, who President Erskine Bowles called “a mentor, a colleague and a friend.”

“This is a huge personal loss for me,” said Bowles, who has leaned on Martin as his “But I understand why he missed this campus and felt called home, home to serve his alma mater.”

Bowles said he could not imagine a better man to lead A&T.

“Harold Martin is a proud Aggie,” Bowles said. “He personifies Aggie pride. He is not only a graduate of A&T - he has also been a faculty member, dean and provost at A&T he knows this institution inside and out. He is of North Carolina A&T.”

Many Aggies said they trusted Martin with the school’s future, citing his work at WSSU. While chancellor there Martin saw the school’s average incoming SAT score go up more than 70 points and doubled enrollment.

Martin said he plans to do the same at A&T, picking up on the progress of outgoing chancellor Stanley Battle, who resigned in February citing family and personal reasons.

“I want to say publicly that I thank Chancellor Battle and his staff for the progress that was made under his leadership,” Martin said.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hampton J-School Dean stepping down

Tony Brown, the76-year-old former host of the PBS show, "Tony Brown's Journal" announced his departure as dean of the Hampton University's School of Journalism. Brown had served as dean for five years.

After all the diplomas were handed out, Brown read an excerpt from his book "What Mamma Taught Me: The Seven Core Values of Life," shared advice with the graduates, then told the crowd of about 500 he was resigning.

"He said he just wants people to understand that he's not upset about leaving," said broadcast journalism graduate Courtney Snead. "That it's just a next step in his life, just like the one we're taking."

Brown became the first dean of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications in 2004, and the department's third leader in three years.

Christopher Campbell resigned as director in July 2004 over differences with President William Harvey about allowing students to have free speech and press freedom in their reporting.

Charlotte Grimes, the previous chair of the journalism program, cited similar conflicts about freedom of speech when she left in 2002.

The following year, HU administrators confiscated an issue of the independently-run student newspaper, the Hampton Script, after disagreeing with the placement of a letter by the acting HU president JoAnn Haysbert.

"When he arrived, the School of Journalism and Communications was in a state of disarray," Harvey said in a statement Tuesday.

"Not only has he smoothed out the rough patches, but he has taken it to new heights. His intellect, experience, judgment, and presence will be sorely missed," he said.

Brown's exit came as no surprise to students. He had been dropping hints since January that it was his last academic year, said rising journalism sophomore Juan Diasgranados.

The broadcast major said Brown told students in his 6 a.m. grammar club it would be their last time meeting, and in late April, told his journalism practicum class "On May 10 as the seniors graduate, I'll be graduating as well."

Brown said, via HU Spokeswoman Alison Phillips, that he plans to continue speaking nationally, to complete his fourth book and to remain active promoting the need for English fluency.

Phillips said Brown will continue to serve as dean until June 30, and a replacement has not yet been selected.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Knoxville College maybe ready to seek accreditation

After losing its accreditation in 1996 over mounting financial and administrative problems, Knoxville College may be poised for a comeback.

Plans are on track for enrollment to double this fall to nearly 200 students. A complete overhaul of the school’s curriculum is under way to focus on careers in energy and the environment, and the school plans to seek reaccredidation by year’s end.

The architect of Knoxville College’s attempt to rebound is not a college administrator with a proven track record. He’s not even a full-time employee or an alumnus of the school. Dr. Johnnie Cannon is a 33-year veteran employee of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he is chief scientist in the agency’s National Security Directorate. He ‘moonlights’ as chief operating officer at Knoxville College and does so on a volunteer basis.

“Things are pretty tough,” says Cannon, a 1970 graduate of Tuskegee University who earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Cal Tech. “But we’re making payroll and paying the bills we need to be paying.

“We have a plan (for accreditation) we’re going to present in about three months,” Cannon says.

He adds, however, that the college is not yet ready for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which he calls the “Rolls Royce” of accrediting agencies.

“We just need a Honda right now,” he says, explaining that the college is exploring several other accrediting bodies.

The ambitious agenda on tap at Knoxville College is a giant leap forward for a school that just a few years ago was only seeing its problems mount with no real plan for solving them. Its enrollment was nose-diving. Today it enrolls less than 100 students, compared to nearly 1,000 students in the 1970s.

The college had also lost credibility and support among most alumni and local citizens of influence in the Knoxville community.

It was a call by interim president Robert Harvey to a friend at nearby Oak Ridge seeking help that eventually led him to Cannon and a turning point in the school’s fortunes. After some candid talks about the school’s situation, Cannon agreed in August 2005 to Harvey’s request to come on board for three months.

Cannon took the bull by the horns and has since been wrestling with Knoxville College’s problems quite methodically and successfully. As a result, he wound up staying much longer to help the college build its way back up from the bottom.

Internally, Cannon tackled the faculty lawsuit, working out an agreement for its resolution. He made some tough decisions about students who were not paying their bills, not participating in the school work-study program, and those who were misbehaving. He sent them home. He started asking tough accountability questions of the staff and students and insisted on a new sense of discipline in how the school functions.

In 2006, a group of alumni stepped forward to help the school too, asserting they would have to raise money to keeps its doors open or it would close. The 2006-2007 “Million Dollar Fundraising Campaign” raised nearly $900,000, including a $100,000 match from the Tom Joyner Morning Foundation.

The alumni association has since been giving money to the school each month and has just launched another fundraising campaign with the Jamaica Coffee Co. to sell coffee, with the school getting 40 percent of the proceeds.

Tom Joyner, the radio personality, has also stepped up to help Knoxville College. In addition to the $100,000 match for the alumni campaign, his foundation gave the school $250,000 in June 2008 to renovate a dormitory building and initiate a recruitment program (the school now has four recruiters).

In December, when Knoxville College was college of the month on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, 10 of its students got their tuition paid for the current semester by the Joyner Foundation. It has also pledged $250,000 more in assistance, payable this summer.

To meet it obligations of about $48,000 a week, the school also continues to receive about $250,000 a year in funding from the United Presbyterian Church, and participates in two state-funded programs for HBCUs in Tennessee, one administered by Meharry Medical College and the other by Tennessee State University.

Cannon, meanwhile, is working hard on recasting the school’s academic focus to one that is closely tied to 21st century needs — energy and the environment — and hopes the school can align its focus to compliment the vast opportunities at Oak Ridge.

“If he’d (Cannon) not been there, I suspect the school would not be functioning,” says Russell Sellars, a 1973 Knoxville College grad who helped spearhead the 2006-2007 fundraising effort. “ He (Cannon) was able to make the hard decisions. It’s a challenge (the college’s dilemma) that’s somewhat impossible but the school is still functioning.”

“If we can be pulled out of the water, we wouldn’t have a chance without him,” adds Harvey, who retired from Knoxville College in 1988 and is now serving his fourth stint (at no charge) as interim president of the school. “He’s (Cannon) not a lightweight. He couldn’t be any better.”

Cannon has also worked hard at repairing relations with the Knoxville community, from neighboring University of Tennessee and its Howard Baker Center for Public Policy to local business leaders whom he says are taking a renewed interest in the school.

As for the accolades, Cannon spreads them around. He credits the college’s growing base of volunteers, including its 17 alumni chapters, the Anglican church pastor who hopes to recruit 100 churches to sponsor 100 students set enrollment this fall, and the creditors and litigants who’ve agreed to give Cannon some room to try to help save the school — which still has $7 million in back debt to pay and an endowment of just over $1 million.

He’s also got the backing of the school’s trustees when hard decisions have had to be made.

“The community is now getting behind the college,” says Cannon. “There are more and more people who want to help. … I see myself as a change agent and I believe we can improve.”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Stimulus Could Save Struggling HBCUs

President Obama’s economic stimulus package could provide a big help to thecountry’s Black colleges, which have been hit hard by the economic slump. Historically Black colleges and universities usually lack big endowments and aren’t receiving as much state funding for education, according to Reuters. Combine that with the majority of the student body coming from low- or
middle-income families means more and more of these schools are relying on tuition to keep their doors open.

Recently Clark Atlanta University laid off 70 of its 229 full-time faculty.

The $787 billion stimulus bill includes money that will help create infrastructure projects on HBCU campuses, improvements in technology, and increased federal grants for students from low-income families.

Monday, May 04, 2009

VA to issue $150 million in bonds for Hampton U.

Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine has approved a $150 million bond authorization for the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute.

Kaine's actions clears the way for the way for the construction of the $225 million center which will support the proton beam treatment, research and educational facility.

Hampton U. must pay the bonds back and pay the state for the transaction, so the money is not a donation, said center spokeswoman Sarita Scott.

The bonds will be issued through the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority. The group has already issued $70 million in bonds for the proton institute in December, bringing the total Hampton has bonded to $220 million.

Kaine said in a statement that the center "will be a tremendous asset for the Commonwealth, and I am very pleased we found a way to support it's important work."

HU officials said the center will begin seeing patients in August 2010 and expect to treat more than 2,000 per year, with 65 percent dedicated prostate cancer patients.