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07/10/2012 11:41 am ET | Updated Jul 10, 2012

FAMU Problems: Administrators Tasked To Repair Image, Fix Academic Performance

Florida A&M University has some problems, and the Board of Trustees is trying to figure out how repair the state's only public Historically Black College.

FAMU President James Ammons already received a vote of no confidence over his handling of fallout from the hazing death of Robert Champion, a Marching 100 band drum major. Now Ammons is facing mounting criticism over poor academic performance at the school and financial problems.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Thousands of students enter FAMU despite being ill-equipped for the rigors of university course work. Only 12 percent of those who start as freshmen finish in four years. Only 39 percent graduate within six. And those who eventually earn bachelor's degrees leave with the highest debt load, about $29,000, of any state university.

Part of this is blamed on FAMU's "profile admits" -- admitting students who failed to meet basic requirements concerning SAT scores, grades in high school or how much math they took. Prior to Ammons's tenure, in fall of 2006, only 14 percent of FAMU's undergraduates were "profile admits," but today that number is over 50 percent.

When it comes to FAMU's finances, three separate agencies recently released some unflattering audits.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture found some employees in the federally subsidized Marching 100 band were paid too much. FAMU also spent money on dozens of members who were unqualified to be a part of the program, according to the Sentinel. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently investigating irregularities related to band finances.

FAMU's financial aid office was also recently ordered to return as much as $5.2 million in federal money it owed, while the school's Division of Student Affairs found the FAMU didn't keep proper records of $27,000 collected from students purchasing travel packages to attend football games.

This isn't to say that things have fallen apart in Ammons' five years leading FAMU. When Ammons took charge in July 2007, the university was on probation for its accreditation status, and facing financial problems. The accreditation issues have since been resolved and FAMU has received clean audits during Ammons' tenure.

The Board of Trustees held a special meeting on June 27 to discuss potentially spending $800,000 on a campaign to repair the school's image following Champion's death. They also talked with Ammons about hiring student debt counselors, and setting up a faster system to identify students who are having problems with academics at the university, according to WTXL.

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