Norfolk State University

After a year of being on “warning” status, Norfolk State University has been placed on probation by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges.

In July 2013, the accrediting agency placed the Virginia-based historically Black institution on warning, citing troubling issues in the areas of finances, governance and availability of qualified administrative and academic officers. In August 2013 the university’s board fired then-president Tony Atwater, who had refused to resign, saying he was being blamed for problems that he had inherited, according to news reports.

An entry under the accreditations tab on the university’s Office of the Provost and  Vice President of Academic Affairs’ webpage seemed to question the circumstances surrounding the adverse action. The warning, the entry stated, stemmed from “the receipt and review of unsolicited information contained in news articles.”

Under the new sanction, Norfolk has 12 months to demonstrate acceptable progress in addressing the problems. When the Southern Association revisits the issue in December 2015, it could extend the probation for a year, restore the university to good standing, or revoke accreditation, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

Interim Norfolk State President Eddie Moore Jr. issued a statement saying the institution was taking the necessary steps to shore up its standing.

“Norfolk State has made substantial progress in the past 15 months,” he said, as quoted by JBHE. “The University is on track to becoming more efficient and focused on ensuring the success of the institution and its students. An extensive overhaul of institutional policies and practices is continuing to ensure compliance with requirements on the federal and state levels, proper reporting, and operational efficiency.”

Accreditation is a critical process for universities, particularly HBCUs, since it is required for participation in any federal student financial aid program. According to JBHE, which cited latest Department of Education figures, two-thirds of Norfolk State’s student body receive federal financial aid.