State News

NCCU operated satellite campus near Atlanta

Posted August 10, 2008
Updated August 11, 2008

— North Carolina Central University officials are trying to decide what to do with about 50 students who attended a satellite campus at a megachurch near Atlanta run by a school trustee.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Sunday that the campus at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., whose pastor is NCCU trustee Eddie Long. The newspaper said University of North Carolina officials never properly approved the programs offered by the New L.I.F.E., which operated for four years.

"I can think of no justifiable reason why the former NCCU leadership would have completely ignored and failed to abide by the appropriate approval process in creating this program," UNC system President Erskine Bowles said in a statement. "Such action is contrary to all university policy. To say the least, it is very disappointing. We are working closely with Chancellor (Charlie) Nelms and his new leadership team to examine the various academic, legal, and financial questions associated with this Georgia-based program."

Nelms came to NCCU a year ago and said the program quit admitting new students in March 2007. "Since no members of the current executive leadership team were involved in creating the New Birth program, we can only infer that it was established in order to provide quality educational opportunities for participating students," he said.

NCCU is "currently developing a teach-out option for students nearing degree completion," Nelms said.

The name and signature of Beverly Washington Jones is on several documents, but she declined to comment. Jones was dean of NCCU's University College when the New Birth program was created and later became provost, a position she held until earlier this year.

And NCCU's chancellor at the time was James H. Ammons, who's now president of Florida A&M University. He didn't respond to written requests for an interview, The News & Observer said.

The New Birth program, which began in 2004, ended in June when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, refused to authorize it.

Tom Benberg of SACS' Commission on Colleges, which accredits NCCU programs, said the organization denied NCCU’s request for changes to the Georgia programs, which included bachelor's degree in criminal justice, general business administration and hospitality and tourism.

The university hadn't properly informed SACS of the programs, Benberg said, adding that he believes the programs were being run without accreditation. He said he didn't know what would happen to students enrolled in the programs or those who had received degrees.

NCCU spokeswoman Miji Bell said 39 students were enrolled in the program and another 25 had already graduated. She said the degrees are valid since the courses are the same as those taught in Durham and the adjunct faculty were screened before hiring.

Long, the trustee who's the church pastor, also is a 1976 NCCU graduate named to the university's board of trustees in 2002.

Long released a statement through his Washington-based spokesman, Dan Rene, describing his church as "one of the largest congregations in the United States" and said it "uses a variety of institutions and programs to meet the needs of its members."

Last week, Long announced a $1 million gift to create a distinguished professorship fund at NCCU, and he has delivered at least two commencement addresses at the school.

A UNC system officials said the program should have been reviewed, but there's no mention of it in minutes from trustee meetings in 2003 and 2004. And Long's role in the program's creation isn't clear.

Kay Thomas, the NCCU board's chairwoman now, said she didn't recall being briefed or voting on the program, but added that her board doesn't routinely approve specific distance education programs.

"I see no problem with it," Thomas said. "The idea is to get people certified for jobs, even if they're not North Carolinians."

But Alan Mabe, the UNC system's vice president for academic planning and university-school programs, said the UNC Board of Governors should have vetted it. "We don't have any records of it being presented," Mabe said.

NCCU's Faculty Senate did discuss the program briefly in a contentious debate, said Kofi Amoateng, a finance professor who headed the faculty in 2004.

"It was not an easy approval; it was a close fight," he said. "I was not very happy. We never thought it through. We needed time to study, but it got pushed through."

Amoateng, who has taught at New Birth, said the students there got the same education as those in Durham. is one of several business professors to occasionally teach at the New Birth site.

In four years, 25 New Birth students earned undergraduate degrees from NCCU. The program didn't receive tax dollars. Instead, NCCU raised the money to pay instructors and rent the church space through tuition receipts.

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8 Comments

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  • ABM Aug 11, 2008

    issymayake...

    Stop trying, you said made your point when you said the news wants to create something that's not...

    These people on this blog don't want good things for NCCU, or any other HBCU.. But it is scary that we may work next to or live next to one... Well maybe you live next to one, I live in the heart of Durham, they wouldn't be caught dead here..

    NCCU Grad 2004

  • issymayake Aug 11, 2008

    wwyoud,

    Bishop Long wasn't under investigation (to my knowledge) when the program started. He also wasn't involved in the day-to-day operations of the program. Everything in the program was handled legally. The problem was that it was not properly declared to the 'right' officials (I wonder if they were the right officials four years ago. . .hmm). There was no shadiness about the program, everything was rather transparent.

    Under the former chancellor, and the former UNC President, universities were mandated to generate new revenue streams to deal with the faltering economy. Several schools have and continue to do it through certificate programs, executive master degrees, and yes a few operate outside of the state of NC.

  • TheAdmiral Aug 11, 2008

    They operated it - but don't know anything about it?

    Something is fishy. How much money did they get from the public last year?

  • wwyoud Aug 11, 2008

    The whole thing sounds questionable. Why was a UNC school able to find a way to educate people in Atlanta, when there are still many places in NC that could have used such support? Why work with a pastor who's been under investigation at least twice for suspicious spending? He's one of the pastors currently under investigation by the US Senate Finance Committee.

  • issymayake Aug 11, 2008

    gammasandi,

    I'm well aware of the program, and I know it's receipt driven. Each of the on-campus entities involved in the administration of the program has their individual efforts compensated according to a certain rate. The facilities rental at the church is paid for from receipts as well.

  • gammasandi Aug 11, 2008

    and where is the proof that no tax dollars were spent?

  • issymayake Aug 11, 2008

    Wakemom,

    Damage control. You mean to tell me that the program honestly operated for four years without anyone at UNC-GA knowing? Or despite us having two SACS officials on campus who knew about the program? You mean to tell me that it didn't raise a red flag? Why is there no mention of the Georgia Non-public Postsecondary Education Commission?

    No state funds were used, and we aren't the only UNC institution operating outside of NC borders (a template for operation and program design had to come from somewhere).

    There may have been some mistakes made, but the program went through evaluation two and three times a year. The News and Observer can be newshawks at time. . .trying to create a story when there isn't really one.

  • wakemom Aug 11, 2008

    soo no tax dollars was spent on this. what is the problem? is it bc this is something that the unc system couldnt control?