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'Planning strategically for the future' | Pfeiffer University president has plans despite probation status for accreditation

Dr. Scott Bullard was hired to change policies amid financial woes at the Stanly County-based school.

ALBEMARLE, N.C. — The current president of Pfeiffer University, a Stanly County-based school that teaches a liberal arts curriculum and the faith of the United Methodist Church, hopes his school's fiscal probation could soon come to an end. 

The accreditation status was placed "on probation for good cause" in 2019 after issues were uncovered by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Board of Trustees. 

The chief financial officer at the time, Jeff Plyler, pleaded guilty in 2019 in federal court for embezzling over half a million dollars from the university.

The Board of Trustees determined the university failed to demonstrate compliance with accreditation standards related to finances. The trustees found the institution must have a sound financial base to support its programs and manage its resources responsibly.

Short of loss of accreditation, probation was considered the most serious public sanction.

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"Jeff [Plyer] was here during an unfortunate period for the university before I arrived," Scott Bullard, the current president of Pfeiffer University, said. "I was brought to Pfeiffer to change the spending policies and to change the spending practices as well as planned strategically for a secure future."

Bullard, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Divinity from Duke University and a Ph.D. in theology from Baylor University, was hired in 2019.

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"We were in a great deal of financial distress from 2015 to 2019," he said. "But thanks to new academic programming, thanks to new practices, innovative faculty and staff members, Pfeiffer is gearing up for a strong future."

Restructuring undergraduate studies

Some of the financial changes included restructuring some of the undergraduate general studies. 

Pfeiffer University's new Center for Health Sciences in Albermarle is an area seeing growth in both their physician assistant and occupational therapy programs. 

"The trustees have decided that they would like to invest more in certain academic disciplines and invest less in some academic disciplines," Bullard said.

The school has campuses in Misenheimer, Charlotte, and Albemarle. They also offer online courses.

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Next accreditation status review

The next fiscal review for Pfeiffer University will be in June. Bullard said he hopes to come off probation status. This would allow administrators to start more new programs for the university, according to Bullard.

"What accrediting bodies like to see are trends in positive directions," he said. "Anybody could get a fortunate gift in one year that will help them remain in positive territory. But they like to see trends. So my number one goal upon arriving was to balance the budget for three consecutive years."

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A committee visited Pfeiffer University for a preliminary review in April 2022. 

"They commended our work for balancing the budget for two consecutive years," Bullard said. "We agreed readily that we have work left to do but look forward to making a full case in June."

Contact Jane Monreal at jmonreal@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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