February 2, 2009
Vanguard U. Risks Losing Accreditation
The Assemblies of God school is $42 million in debt, lacks permanent leadership.
Heeding warnings from an accrediting team about its shaky finances, Vanguard University of Southern California has faced major transitions in the last two weeks to prepare to meet with the accreditor February 19. Under the direction of acting president Carol Taylor - who stepped in last week after the school's interim president and board chairman quit - Vanguard will aim to show the accreditor that it's implemented a plan to pull itself out of $42 million in debt.
Last September, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) visited the school, owned by the Southern California district of the Assemblies of God, and concluded that it was in "profound crisis." The accrediting team said Vanguard had tolerated incompetent financial reporting for years, which had masked its deep debt.
According to The Orange County Register, which has covered this story extensively, the WASC report charged, "the past two presidents and key (board members) engaged in practices which the WASC team find to be major breaches of institutional integrity and serious violations of Commission standards, thus calling into question the fundamental accredability [sic] of the university." The report, which has not released publicly, goes on to say that school officials "intentionally masked" the financial problems.
At WASC president Ralph A. Wolff's request, board chair Ray Rachels and interim president Wayne Kraiss stepped down last week "in order to facilitate the new leadership necessary to move Vanguard forward," according to a Vanguard statement. The Rev. Rachels is the superintendent of the Assemblies of God Southern California district and has been board chair for 21 years. The board says it plans to change its bylaws so that the district superintendent doesn't become chairman by default. Dr. Russell Spittler (whom CT interviewed in 2006) is now acting board chair.
Acting president Taylor expects WASC to give its final recommendation four to six weeks after meeting with school officials February 19.
Vanguard, a CCCU member university and graduate school, is located in Costa Mesa, Orange County, and is home to over 2,150 students.