During UNC system governance board meetings Thursday and Friday, UNC system President Erskine Bowles gave blistering status reports on his investigation into the saga surrounding N.C. Central University and its unauthorized satellite campus at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.
It is jarring to realize that NCCU is on the hook for the federal financial aid money it distributed to students in the program. Bowles is clearly not happy with the situation. I've posted some of his comments in other forums, but here is a transcript of exactly what he said Friday morning during a full board meeting of the UNC system's Board of Governors.
He does not mince words.
"I want to give you a general status report on the steps we have taken to resolve the issues
associated with the unapproved program NCCU operated at the New Birth Missionary Baptist
Church in Georgia from 2004 through this summer.
And I want to say up front, thank God for Charlie Nelms, for he inherited a mess. But under his
leadership, we are going to get it right.
This program was not approved by SACS, by General Administration, by the NCCU Board of
Trustees, or the Board of Governors. Why, we still do not know. I can think of no justifiable
reason why the former leadership at NCCU would completely fail to abide by the appropriate
approval process—one that there is no question that they understood completely.
I believe we could spend the next year trying to figure out the specifics of Who, What, When,
Where, and Why.
Chancellor Nelms and his staff and our team from GA are examining the many legal, academic,
and financial questions associated with the creation, operation, and closure of this New Birth
We have kept state officials, the State Auditor, and state law enforcement fully apprised and will
continue to do so.
But our primary focus remains:
1. Doing right by the 125 affected students—25 of whom have graduated and have NCCU
degrees—and 38 of whom had attempted to register for courses this fall. [“Teach-out”]
2. Getting things straight with SACS, and with the help of SACS President Belle Wheelan
and her staff, I believe we will do just that.
3. Getting related financial aid issues straight with the Department of Education. Since DOE
guidelines clearly require that regional accrediting agencies like SACS approve all off-
campus program sites before students enrolled at those locations can be eligible for federal
financial aid, we will have a significant liability. How much, we do not know today. The
source of funds or the timetable for repayment, we do not know.
4. Taking steps to ensure that this never happens again on a UNC campus. To do that we
have examined the more than 400 off-campus degree-completion programs we have at all
of our campuses. While we have found a handful of procedural oversights, we have found
nothing that is remotely comparable to the New Birth Program. "