BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Southern University has been placed on a warning status by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It's the first action that could lead to loss of accreditation.
"It's not something you want to have, but at the same time, the system works and I'm confident that they'll make sure that they get off within the year," said Dr. Joseph Rallo, Louisiana commissioner of higher education.
A loss of accreditation could render future degrees offered by the university useless and hinder the school's ability to receive federal funds. Rallo, who spent time serving on the SACSCOC board, says a warning is the least severe sanction that can be leveled against a university.
"Being placed on a warning with a year, what my sense is that they know Southern can fix it, but they want to at least give them a heads up that there were some issues that they really need to look at," he added.
SACSCOC did not provide much detail about why the university was warned, but according to the letter from the accrediting agency, the institution failed to demonstrate compliance with four key requirements including faculty, institutional effectiveness, student achievement, and student complaints. The school now has a year to fix those issues.
In a statement released to 9News Friday, a Southern University spokesman said, "Because the university has already begun to address each issue and significant progress has been made, we are confident that monitoring beyond next year will not be necessary."
"What I can say is that they take the job very seriously," Rallo said. "In other words, they want to make sure that the students are receiving a quality education."
While Rallo says he is confident Southern can overcome these issues, he believes many of the problems stem from the almost constant budget cuts that Louisiana colleges and universities face, which falls on lawmakers at the capital.
"Given the dire budget cuts that have occurred and certainly Southern has taken a lot of budget reductions, it's very hard to recruit and retain faculty and if you don't have faculty, then you don't have classes, and I think that's probably what was at the heart of this issue," said Rallo.
Rallo says this is a prime example of why higher education must become more of a priority in Louisiana.
"We are still at the bottom of our peer groups and by that I mean by thousands of dollars less spent on the student and on the faculty and this is one indication of what happens when you start cutting higher education," he added.
Here is the letter from SACSCOC regarding Southern University's warning status: