Durham, N.C. — How did North Carolina Central University open a satellite campus in another state without the university system knowing about it? That is what UNC system President Erskine Bowles tried to answer Thursday afternoon for the Board of Governors.
NCCU opened the program on the campus of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., outside Atlanta, in 2004. It was run by the church's pastor, Eddie Long, who is also a NCCU trustee and large donor to the university.
The New Birth program was ended in June when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools refused to authorize it.
UNC System President Erskine Boles has said he is disappointed that university leaders would ignore and fail to abide by the appropriate approval process.
He also said the system may have some liability with the Department of Education because of laws governing financial aid. Off campus programs must be accredited before financial aid can be given.
“We will have a significant liability. How much, we do not know at this time. What the sources of the funds are and what the plan will be, we do not know,” Bowles said.
A UNC system officials said the program should have been reviewed, but there was no mention of it in minutes from trustee meetings in 2003 and 2004. The role of Long in the program's creation was not clear.
The New Birth program was started under the tenure of then-Chancellor James H. Ammons, who has become president of Florida A&M University. Chancellor Charlie Nelms took over NCCU in August 2007.
Twenty-five students have been graduated from the program, and 40 were enrolled when it was shut down. Nelms said NCCU was working with the students to help them complete their degrees.
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 did not properly informed SACS of the programs, Benberg said, adding that he believes the programs were being run without accreditation.
The New Birth program did not receive any taxpayer money; instead, it was funded by tuition receipts.
In August, 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.