SACS sanctions two Georgia public colleges

Savannah State University has six months to improve in one area and Fort Valley State University was told to address three issues in the next 12 months, according to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The colleges are still accredited but were placed on "warning" status, which is the less serious of two possible sanctions from the agency.

Accreditation shows whether a college meets widely accepted academic and financial standards. Students attending accredited colleges are eligible for federal loans and grants and other colleges are more likely to accept their credits and degrees.

Savannah State was sanctioned for failing  to show that it employs enough full-time faculty to meet the university’s mission and "ensure the quality and integrity of its academic programs," SACS said. The warning came as part of the agency's regular 10-year review of the college.

The college has not lost faculty in recent years, but it has gained a large number of new students, spokeswoman Loretta Heyward said. Enrollment increased by 11.6 percent this fall to 4,552 students.

SACS flagged Fort Valley in three areas -- control of finances, federal compliance with student aid programs, and documentation showing the college employs competent faculty.

The agency reaffirmed the college's accreditation last December, but asked for more information in the three areas that led to the sanctions, college spokeswoman Vickie Oldham said.

The college knew sanctions were possible and President Larry Rivers said he was "confident" everything will be fixed and that the warning status will be lifted next year.

"We had hoped, however, that our progress would have allowed for another year of monitoring at the most," he said in a statement. "Still, we respect SACS and will work to resolve its concerns fully."

Additional details about both colleges are expected Dec. 15, when SACS releases information on its website.

The accreditation agency gave its approval to several other Georgia colleges this week.

The following had accreditation reaffirmed: the University of Georgia, Georgia Health Sciences University, Breneau University and Morehouse School of Medicine.

The agency granted initial accreditation to Lanier Technical College. The school had been accredited by a group focused on career and technical education but SACS' approval means Lanier students should expect more two- and four-year colleges to accept their transfer credits.

Six other colleges had their accreditation enhanced so they could offer new degree programs. They are: Atlanta Metropolitan, Darton, East Georgia, Georgia Perimeter and South Georgia colleges and Georgia College & State University.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.