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Review clears state's College System Foundation

By M.J. Ellington
mjellington@decaturdaily.com (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama College System Foundation received its OK on Thursday, and state Board of Education members smiled in relief.

"It appears that the Alabama College System Foundation has generally complied with the terms of its mission and its tax-exempt purpose, and it appears that its tax-exempt purpose and financial resources appear to be have been managed properly," said Don Edwards, two-year college system vice chancellor for operations.

Back payments

The state board also heard good news on another front.

System Chancellor Bradley Byrne said Bishop State Community College in Mobile will receive back student financial-aid payments, which federal officials withheld during an investigation of that college's financial management.

Byrne said the first $800,000 payment will arrive at Bishop before the end of October and a $1 million payment will follow in November.

Board member Mary Jane Caylor, D-Huntsville, said the system has made "giant strides" to overcome financial questions, some of which have resulted in the indictment of system officials, uncovered during several years of federal investigations.

"We are not there yet. It is possible there will be additional criminal investigations, still possible we will have other indictments," Caylor said. "But I believe we are fully informed. Our meetings are not fluff. I think we are on track to become the best of the best. That is why I stayed for a fourth term."

Discovery

Edwards reviewed the Alabama College System Foundation's records after Chancellor Bradley Byrne discovered its existence last summer.

At the time, Byrne wondered why he'd never heard of it during the eight years he served on the Board of Education, and he was unsure about the foundation's 2006 financial statements.

Edwards said foundation board members did not always meet regularly or keep minutes, but foundation records show its money went for its intended purpose.

Like Byrne, Edwards said the foundation should focus on its original purpose: funding scholarships for graduating two-year college students who plan to continue their education.

Bryne, who originally questioned the need for a system foundation, said it is appropriate to continue the re-focused foundation.

Changes to the foundation include a new name, The All-Alabama Academic Team Foundation, which reflects the foundation's mission; a yearly independent audit; and regular foundation meetings with written minutes.

The foundation is separate from other foundations that support particular colleges in the system. Edwards said those foundations were not part of his investigation and their operations were not under question.

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