GPC sanctioned by accreditation agency

ATLANTA -- The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has sanctioned Georgia Perimeter College for its financial shortfall.

During its annual board meeting on Tuesday, SACS, which is the accrediting organization for educational institutions in the Southeast, issued a warning to GPC after an audit found the school was operating with a $25 million budget shortfall caused by chronic overspending and lack of financial oversight.

"A warning is not unanticipated in this situation," said Barbara T. Obrentz, chief public information officer for GPC, in a press release on the college's website. "It is expected that the college will be able to demonstrate to SACS that these issues have been completely resolved within twelve months."

The maximum total time during one monitoring period that an institution may be on warning is two years, according to the SACS website.

The site states that a warning is the less serious of the two sanctions, which also include probation. It is usually given in the earlier stages of institutional review.

The college will keep its accreditation at this time.

"While GPC is under this warning, the institution's full accreditation remains in place," Obrentz said.

She did not specify what exactly the college would have to do as a result of the sanction and what the future holds for the college's accreditation, and the college's media relations department did not respond to questions as of press time Wednesday.

"Georgia Perimeter College has already made notable strides to correct budgeting issues and return the institution to solid financial footing," Obrentz said. "We will continue to implement and strengthen the controls put in place during the summer of this year so that we may resolve any remaining deficiencies and bring the budget back into balance."

Over the summer, GPC had to reduce its staff of 3,000 by nearly 300 employees, after the University System of Georgia announced it could face a multi-million deficit this year. In May, then-president Anthony Tricoli stepped down after financial problems led to a budget shortfall at the two-year institution; later Rob Watts was appointed as the interim president.

"We value the standards that SACS sets for its members," Obrentz said. "These standards allow us to achieve our mission as Georgia's largest access institution."

GPC is the third largest institution in the University System of Georgia and the state's fourth-largest public college, serving nearly 27,000 students on its campuses, as well as several sites in metro Atlanta, including partnerships at the Rockdale Career Academy in Conyers and the Newton College & Career Academy in Covington.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.