By Shelby Brown–
Interim president Greg Postel told U of L’s faculty senate Sept. 6 the university is prepared for a visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, U of L’s accrediting agency. SACS will visit U of L Sept. 19-21, possibly deciding the university’s future when SACS’ full board meets in December.
“We’re ready,” Postel said. “We’ve checked every box. We are not in violation of any standard of accreditation and we have, in a very meticulous way, responded to all nine of the areas of concern.”
Postel and U of L Board Chair David Grissom visited SACS in Atlanta last month. Postel says the trip was positive.
“We wanted them to see us, meet us (and) understand how earnest we are,” he said.
SACS’ team of six is visiting U of L this month. Led by University of Virginia’s President, Teresa Sullivan, they will investigate university efforts to fix accrediting violations. Postel said he was concerned SACS will want to revisit U of L’s case, extending the university’s probation. Still, Postel allayed faculty’s fears for possible accreditation loss.
“There is no basis that this institution is going to lose its accreditation. We are not in violation of any of the accrediting standards,” Postel said. “We’re prepared, we’re in good spirits about this and we’re ready to put this chapter behind us.”
SACS cited three possible accreditation violations when it put U of L on probation in December, blaming Governor Matt Bevin’s reorganization of the board of trustees. Since the damning audit of U of L’s foundation, the university has racked up nine total possible violations.
During the meeting, Postel said gifts to U of L were coming back and continue to “warm up to the university.”
Postel said U of L has received a few million dollar gifts recently and smaller donations adding up to one million dollars. While he didn’t name anyone, Postel also said two donors will consider gifting the university “in excess” of $50 million between now and December.
“We need the financial support, but we also need the change in image that, I think, large donors bring about. It sends a strong message to other potential donors,” he said.
Financial gifts decreased the past fiscal year by 25 percent.
The university ended fiscal year 2016-17 balanced, a stark comparison to the past two years of budgets ending in the negative.
U of L’s financial woes came to light in January when Postel announced the university’s $48 million deficit.
“As you all know too painfully well, when we started in January we were on track to have a third negative year,” Postel said. “I’m happy to report to you that was not the case. We finished the year more than $20 million dollars ahead of budget (for) 2016-17.”
Postel clarified the $20 million is not cash in the bank, but meant U of L “beat (the) budget” by over $20 million. He said the budget will be a positive item for SACS to see.
U of L is expected to get reports about 2017-18 budget year so far, Postel says the university is currently ahead of schedule.