Pfeiffer president responds to accrediting body putting school on probation

Published 2:56 pm Friday, July 23, 2021

Pfeiffer University is an accredited institution of higher learning but the body which accredited it has put it on probation amid the school’s efforts to rectify recent issues.

The probation decision came in a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissioner on Colleges (SACSCOC).

SACSCOC is an accrediting body for 11 states in the southern United States and Latin America. Schools must comply with certain standards and policies as set out by the organization.

With Pfeiffer, the school still has its accreditation but was placed on “probation for good cause” for failure to comply with two standards, according to a document obtained by the Stanly News & Press.

Pfeiffer was cited for violating Core Requirement 13.1 (financial resources) and 13.3 (financial responsibility).

The first standard, 13.1, states “the institution has sound financial resources and a demonstrated, stable financial base to support the mission of the institution and the scope of its programs and services.”

In 13.3, the standard states “the institution manages its financial resources in a responsible manner.”

Scott Bullard, president of Pfeiffer University, responded to the probation.

“Any time you’re up for review with an accrediting body, they focus on trends,” he said.

In the case of the SACSCOC, the trend is a school’s finances for a three-year period. The budgets reviewed in the most recent audit by the SACSCOC were for fiscal years ending in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

According to the website propublica.org, a non-profit organization for journalism and research, Pfeiffer operated in the years ending in June 2018 and 2019 with unbalanced budgets. Net income fell below expenses by $3,213,697 in 2018 and $2,530,895 the following year.

Pfeiffer also parted ways with the school’s chief financial officer at the time, Jeff Plyler. In 2019, Plyler pled guilty on a federal felony charge and was sentenced to 32 months in prison. (For a related story, visit: https://www.thesnaponline.com/2019/08/19/plyler-sentenced-to-32-months-in-prison-for-fraud/ )

Bullard noted in his first full year with Pfeiffer, the budget was balanced. Records from propublica.org state the Pfeiffer budget in the year ending 2020 had $6,804,000 more net revenue than total expenses. Pfeiffer’s net assets also increased in the year ending 2020 by $6,060,238.

The Pfeiffer president added in the 2021 fiscal year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the school’s budget had a surplus of approximately $1.6 million.

“Pfeiffer has balanced its budget for two consecutive years. Clearly, Pfeiffer has some areas in which (the school) needs to improve. However, it is also true many of Pfeiffer’s current problems were caused by senior level administrators who are no longer working at the college.”

Bullard said he would set the results of the past two years’ audits up against any other school in the region.

As part of the probation, a three-person committee from SACSCOC will visit Pfeiffer in the spring. Bullard said that committee, which will probably be another college president and two financial experts, will “lend another perspective on the accrediting body’s evaluation of Pfeiffer.”

“I can not wait for that visiting committee to come and see what we’ve done at Pfeiffer,” Bullard said.

He said organizations like the SACSCOC “render their decisions deliberately as their boards meet to make evaluations and our boards need to do things like approve audits.”

Pfeiffer’s president noted the successes of the school, saying 21 of the school’s recent 22 nursing graduates had full-time job offers on their graduation day. Those offers, he added, ranged from Atrium Stanly to the oncology wing at Duke University Medical Center.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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