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SACS removes Alabama university from probation

MOBILE, Ala. (BP)–A regional accrediting association has removed the University of Mobile from financial woes-related probation, according to the Alabama college.
In a related development, the Central American campus of the university, which is at the center of the school’s financial problems, may be sold to a North Carolina Baptist college.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools took the probation-removal action during its annual December meeting in Atlanta, said Mark Foley, Mobile’s president since February. SACS placed the school, affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention, on probation in June of 1997 because of financial issues related to the school’s Latin American Branch Campus in Nicaragua.
“We have worked hard to resolve this probation issue and we are certainly delighted with this wonderful news. This is a very significant step in our strategic progress as [the college] moves forward into the future,” Foley said in a Dec. 8 news release. “I would like to thank our trustees, students, faculty, staff and many supporters for their hard work, support and dedication as we moved through this very difficult and tedious process. God has blessed us.”
Foley also confirmed, in a story in the Dec. 8 issue of the Mobile Register, that the school has agreed, in principle, to sell the Nicaraguan campus to Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina, also a Baptist-affiliated school.
Gardner-Webb officials, responding to a query from Baptist Press, confirmed negotiations are underway with the University of Mobile and that a letter of intent to buy the campus had been given the Alabama school. Gardner-Webb president M. Christopher White said negotiations were continuing.
If the Boiling Springs, N.C. school does purchase the San Marcos, Nicaragua campus from Mobile, it will mean Mobile is “right on target” for ending several years of financial problems, Foley told the newspaper. Because negotiations continue Foley would give no details of the terms of the Gardner-Webb purchase.
“We’ll sell our assets to them at some point,” he told the paper. “We’re not going to get rich on this.”
Trustees elected Foley in February following months of financial woes which led to the termination of then-president Michael Magnoli by the trustees. The university owed millions and was facing a severe cash-flow crisis due to its Nicaraguan activities, the newspaper reported.
The financial woes also created problems for Mobile with the state Baptist convention.
Troy Morrison, the retiring executive secretary-treasurer of the Alabama convention and an ex-officio UM trustee, called the SACS action and the Gardner-Webb letter of intent to buy “double good news, a dream come true for this university.”
Morrison, identified by the newspaper as one of the “biggest critics of the way the university had handled the Nicaraguan campus,” said he wanted “to go public commending Mark Foley for a great job. He was a godsend to that university.”
Mobile is a private Baptist university with over 2,000 students from 31 states and 19 nations enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs

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  • Herb Hollinger