Governor references “fine line” regarding Northeast State situation

BLOUNTVILLE, TN (WJHL) – Gov. Bill Haslam said despite what led to the financial problems at Northeast State Community College, he “feels really good” about the future there.

As we reported Thursday, public records show the Tennessee Board of Regents knew of financial red flags at Northeast State as far back as 2013. During that year the college’s Composite Financial Index score dropped below a one, which signaled questions about its future survival, according to state records.

TBR said the low score led to phone conversations at the time and eventually landed Northeast State on the agency’s watch list in 2015. While TBR stepped up its involvement last fall, it wasn’t until February that the agency sent a team to the community college.

“In hindsight, we can all go back and look at things,” the governor, who is a voting member of TBR, said. “There’s a fine line between a board over managing and stepping in at the right time. I think the important thing for all of us going forward is I do think they’ve made the right decisions, right leadership’s in place and I feel really confident of the direction of Northeast State going forward.”

Following our review of hundreds of internal emails and memos, TBR admitted it could’ve intervened sooner and stronger ahead of the financial crisis at Northeast State. Eventually, a $5 million shortfall led to massive cuts at the college. However, TBR also confirmed there’s plenty of blame to go around. In September, TBR auditors substantiated faculty concerns that Northeast State ignored warnings of overspending, overextension and questionable priorities.

“As governor, my job’s not to run each campus, but we do have a Tennessee Board of Regents who’s involved there,” Gov. Haslam said. “I think the important thing to note is they’ve righted the ship there. I think they’ve corrected the issues that needed to be addressed and I feel really good about the next steps for Northeast State.”

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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