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Friday, June 24, 2011

SACS Rejects Fisk U. Financial Plan

Financially troubled Fisk University was dealt another setback Thursday in its efforts to remain a significant player in higher education when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools rejected the Nashville university’s financial update and added more items to the important agency’s list of concerns about the historic school’s viability.

At its summer meeting in Charlotte, N.C., which ended Thursday, SACS continued its “warning” status for Fisk until December, giving it six more months to address a variety of issues or face being placed on probation or dropped from membership in the widely respected regional accrediting body.

Fisk has been on warning status from SACS for more than a year, with the Atlanta-based agency repeatedly citing the school’s weak financial condition as the key reason for refusing to grant Fisk a clean bill of health. In its final statement Thursday, SACS expanded the scope of its concerns to include questions about whether Fisk’s administrators were qualified to lead, the qualifications of its academic officials and the school’s compliance with Title IV education programs.

SACS general rules grant schools 24 months to address “warning” status matters. In the case of Fisk, which has been in warning status 18 months, the SACS decision Thursday means Fisk needs to comply with SACS’s issues by December or the agency would be forced to place Fisk on probation or drop it from membership in SACS.

Removal from membership could result in Fisk being disqualified from receiving federal financial aid for its students, some 90 percent of whom rely on financial aid to go to college. Higher education analysts say such an outcome could essentially doom the historic school, a fixture in Nashville since the Civil War and home of the world famous Jubilee Singers.

Fisk had been hopeful its stepped up fundraising efforts would turn SACS around, had no immediate comment on the SACS action.


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