For Immediate Release: December 10, 2002
on UL Monroe Accreditation
SAN ANTONIO -- The chief accrediting body of colleges and universities in the South lifted the warning it had placed on the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
The preliminary decision today by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools comes one month after Louisiana's legislative auditor gave the school a clean financial audit, a major requirement for lifting ULM's accreditation warning. The commission will release a final written report in January.
COC/SACS Executive Director James T. Rogers said the commission acknowledged ULM's progress since it was placed on warning in 2001."ULM was placed on warning because of concerns with finances. We're now removing that sanction, which indicates that significant progress has been made," Rogers said.
The commission ruled the university had satisfied four identified deficiencies. However, it required the university to submit follow-up reports containing a plan for addressing auxiliary enterprises (which include athletics) and procedures for handling grant accounts.
"There has been remarkable progress at ULM. While there are many more challenges ahead, its students, staff and supporters should be proud of what they've accomplished," Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System Chair Gordon Pugh said.
University of Louisiana System President Sally Clausen said ULM has made major progress toward eliminating some of the financial problems that have plagued the university over the past few years.
She credited the university's new president James Cofer and his staff with modernizing the financial reporting mechanisms and putting in place other initiatives that have "breathed new life into ULM."
Cofer became president of ULM in March 2002, and immediately began addressing financial difficulties resulting from declining enrollment and outdated financial reporting procedures.
"I was told when I arrived that the challenge was monumental. I'm grateful to shed the SACS warning sanction, but the commission now wants me to address this deficit," he said. "We will simply have to magnify and intensify our efforts to eliminate the existing $4 million deficit in our auxiliary funds."
The commission asked Cofer to submit his plan by April and to demonstrate progress toward erasing the deficit in the auxiliary accounts, which include athletics, food services, the university bookstore, residence halls and the student union.
The university's financial challenges were chief among the findings of an institutional review completed in March 2002 to provide a plan of action for the new president. In the nine months since Cofer took office, he has implemented 74 percent of the report's 53 recommendations.
Among the improvements, Cofer and his staff have
*Hired a new executive team
"While our revenues and expenditures for this year are in balance, we still have to grow our programs, particularly in allied health and teacher preparation while addressing the debts incurred in previous years," Clausen said.
In addition, the administration has
*Doubled the recruitment budget and hired new recruiters
in an effort to boost enrollment, a move that has contributed
to a 20 percent increase in applications for Spring 2003 enrollment
"This is a new ULM. Because of all the progress we've made in such a short time, the rebirth of ULM is now being discussed not only in Monroe, but also in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and beyond. Our job next year is to continue the momentum," Cofer said.
"The entire university has worked tirelessly towards improvement and this is our reward. Members of our staff, administration, faculty and students helped make this possible. I want to thank everyone for their hard work these past few months," he said.
ULM has about 8,150 students. The university boasts Louisiana's only state-funded pharmacy program.