News Articles

SACS extends probation of Mobile for 1 year

ATLANTA (BP)–The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools extended the University of Mobile’s accreditation probation for one year during its Dec. 9 meeting in Atlanta, giving the debt-ridden school more time to prove it should remain accredited.
Jack Allen, SACS associate executive director, reported that a special review committee felt Mobile’s proposed balanced budget plan presented to SACS in October demonstrated “good cause” for an extension.
SACS, the agency responsible for accrediting Southeast schools, said in June the university had six months to prove it could “ameliorate” its nearly $4 million debt. Allen said then that Mobile would have “to show good cause why they should not be dropped.” He said the six months was also to give SACS time to go over more recent audits of the Mobile and Latin American campuses of the Baptist university.
Mobile had been put on a six-month probation because of three citations related to financial stability and accountability, Allen said.
“There will be another special committee visit next fall to study the impact of the university’s financial challenges on the academic programs,” Allen said, noting that Mobile will have to present reports proving its financial stability plus audits from the main campus and the site in San Marcos, Nicaragua.
SACS directed the university in June to submit a plan to the Atlanta-based agency by October for balancing its budget. The June meeting was a follow-up from a 1994 SACS review of Mobile’s Nicaraguan campus. During the 1994 review, SACS discovered several requirement violations relating to financial resources and accounting measures.
Allen explained that when violations are reported, SACS does a follow-up review two years later. In their two-year follow-up, SACS officials were concerned about the $3.66 million cash deficit projected by the end of June 1997, but they determined that UM’s change in leadership plus improved financial management was worthy of a six-month extension for a decision. “If there was no potential [for improvement], they would have been dropped,” Allen said in June.
Allen said at this time next year the review committee will again have a choice of extending probation six months, dropping the university’s accreditation or removing the accreditation sanctions. After this 12-month probation, Mobile will only be allowed six more months of probation because of SACS’ two-year limit on probation time.
Walter Hovell, interim president of the University of Mobile, remains optimistic about the academic and financial future of the school.
“We continue to move forward with our plan of action to improve the financial stability of the institution,” Hovell said. “I am pleased with the progress the university has made.”
Hovell added that during the year of probation the university maintains its accreditation. Students graduating during the probationary period thus graduate from an accredited institution.
Despite warning signs from Alabama Baptist State Convention leaders, the severe financial debt of the university was not revealed to trustees until last
March; it was made public in May. Michael Magnoli, former UM president, was relieved of his duties May 13 over the university’s financial management.
Since receiving a nearly $400,000 package deal to leave the university, Magnoli has since joined a local businessman in operating Reproduction Galleries in downtown Mobile. The store features hand-carved mahogany furniture and woven rugs, which The Mobile Register reported came mainly from Latin America or the Far East.

    About the Author

  • Laurie A. Lattimore