The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges is leaving Shorter University under warning status for another year, citing financial issues. The announcement was made on Sept. 9 and features this breakout:
“Why was Shorter University continued in accreditation and continued on Warning? Shorter University was continued inaccreditation and continued on Warning because the SACSCOC Board of Trustees determined that the institution failed todemonstrate compliance with the Principles of Accreditation, namely, Core Requirement 13.1 (Financial resources) and Standard 13.3(Financial responsibility). A Special Committee was not authorized to visit the institution. These standards expect an institution to: (1)have sound financial resources and a demonstrated, stable financial base to support the mission of the institution and the scope of itsprograms and services; and (2) manage its financial resources in a responsible manner. (To read the full statements for the standardscited above, access the Principles of Accreditation: Foundation for Quality Enhancement.)”
The complete statement follows as does a detailed summary from Shorter, courtesy of Dr. Dawn Tolbert, the university’s Associate Vice President for University Communications. Included are a series of steps Shorter has taken and continues to take, from terminating leases and taking on-campus services back inside to “right sizing” faculty and staff. We also recommend you check the 2019 audit for the university at this link.
At its June 2019 meeting, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges placed Shorter University “on warning” for one year for non-compliance with standards relating to financial resources. The ruling was not unexpected given the financial position of the university for a number of years. The decision of SACSCOC was based on a financial report for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2018. Subsequently, during its review of our standing at its recent September 2020 meeting, SACSCOC has chosen to extend that warning for an additional year.
The notice by SACSCOC does not impact Shorter University’s academic standing; we continue to be fully accredited as an institution of higher learning. In our most recent reaffirmation cycle, Shorter’s accreditation was extended for 10 years (the maximum period for any university). The SACSCOC notification does indicate that we must continue to monitor our financial planning and procedures to ensure that our financial status is strengthened. Among the many steps that have already been implemented to place the university on a positive trajectory towards sustainable fiscal viability are the following:
- For the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the university presented to the Board of Trustees a balanced budget, developed from a zero-based budgeting perspective. The 2019-2020 audit is complete, and the university finished in the black, indicating a positive financial position for that fiscal year.
- As of the fall of 2018, we are free from all leased properties for the Adult Education Program in Atlanta. Many of the students participating in that program (which officially ended in May 2020) have transitioned to our online program.
- As contracts have expired in certain areas (such as food and cleaning services), the university has moved contracted auxiliary services in-house with better oversight and at a significantly reduced cost.
- Right-sizing of staff and faculty positions (in accord with academic institutions of similar enrollment) has already taken place and will continue to be monitored.
- The Thornwood sector of our campus was paid off in full as of June 2020.
- The university’s ongoing academic program review continues to evaluate the creation of new degrees, majors, minors, or concentrations and the updating of established programs. One such example is the establishment of a new online MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) program that began in this current fall semester. Academic majors that have proven less attractive for students have been either reduced to minors or eliminated.
- The university continues to find new sources of revenue through summer camps, new recruiting initiatives, and increased fund-raising efforts: summer camps will continue to be a source of summer revenue. Fundraising has increased over the last several months, including substantial gifts allowing the university to renovate science labs and a studio theatre, and to purchase new digital pianos for our practice rooms. Moreover, a recent $50,000 grant from the Georgia Baptist Foundation has helped to upgrade our Nursing simulation equipment to support our Nursing program which ranks number six in the state of Georgia.
As a university we are grateful to have an accrediting body that holds its member institutions to the highest standards, and we embrace the opportunity to evaluate problematic areas, renew our commitment to excellence in all phases of university life, and move forward in an effort to make Shorter the best possible academic institution. Enrollment for this academic year continues to be stable, and the reversal of negative trends in expenditures coupled with the achievement of a balanced budget serves as evidence that the university provides a stable financial base to support its mission and programs. Our winning of the President’s Cup for the best Alpha Chi (a prestigious honor society) chapter in the nation is a strong indicator that our academic standing is the highest in the university’s long history. If anyone has questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the university.