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Audit is problem for state college

By M.J. Ellington ∑ (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — The State Board of Education heard more good than bad news Thursday about how the two-year colleges handled their finances.

Earlier the board also approved appointment of new presidents at two of the systemís colleges.

Claire Milligan is the systemís newly hired director in charge of internal audit. She told the board during a work session that audits of the systemís 32 colleges by the Examiners of Public Accounts showed most conducted their financial operations well.

In a system that serves 147,000 students across the state, only one college had a consistent and long-standing history of questionable accounting practices, Milligan said.

At the college in question, Bishop State Community College in Mobile, Chancellor Bradley Byrne recently sent a letter of termination to the finance director. He is advertising for a replacement.

Board Vice President David Byers, R-Birmingham, said the audits should be good news to the majority of the systemís 9,400 employees. He said they go to work and do a good job every day amid reports of scandals.

Problems at Bishop State are not over. Financial scandals led to the firing of former President Yvonne Kennedy and resulted in criminal indictments for other employees.

The regional college-accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, put the college on probation.

The federal government withheld student financial aid. This month, financial aid started flowing to the college after reforms at the school.

Byrne told the board that accreditation reports from SACS about Bishopís status are encouraging. The agency meets Dec. 7 in New Orleans and will consider Bishopís status. He doubts if Bishop will be removed from probation.

The board approved selection of presidents at two colleges: Stephen Franks, president of Central Alabama Community College in Alexander City; Robert Exley, president of Snead State Community College in Boaz.

Members endorsed Byrneís 2009 budget recommendations that include almost $31 million more than the 2008 budget. Many of the increases involve splitting Enterprise-Ozark Community College into separate colleges.

If the Legislature approves budget increases, much of the added amount will go toward establishing a separate aviation college in Ozark with satellite programs at two other locations.

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