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Imhoff agrees to step aside amid funding woes

BY KATHLEEN FOXkfox@paducahsun.com

Robert Imhoff, president of Mid-Continent University since 2000, has agreed to step aside pending the next meeting of the school's Board of Trustees, which could come within days.

Board chairman Tom Butler Sr. said Wednesday that all discussions and possible action plans, including changes to the management structure or appointment of an interim president, are tentative pending approval from the trustees. Butler said he couldn't disclose any specifics of a leadership change or other related plans until then.

The school has had two rounds of student financial grant and loan paperwork from the U.S. Department of Education and in-state higher education funding rejected, according to Butler. He said issues have been ongoing but the school's funding was cut off and the Board of Trustees was notified in October.

Key members of the college's administration and officers have held intensive meetings throughout the week to discuss potential solutions. One possibility includes new leadership, according to Butler.

"We have spent days developing an action plan and feel favorable that our new submission will solve the problem," he said. "But everyone understands that the clock is ticking."

The school has submitted a third bundle of documents but if a worse-case scenario arises and the school receives another rejection, the institution will not have enough money to sustain it through this semester, Butler said.

"The money is nearly gone," he said. "There is great concern for the financial future of the school."

He said the forms are complicated and issues have arisen with the compatibility of the school's and the Department of Education's computer software systems. The college had to wait more than two months to receive a reply to its second submission.

In the past five months, the Mayfield college has had to use between $7 million and $9 million from the bank for tuition, books and other education expenses to keep current students in school. The money would typically be used for salaries, maintenance and utility costs. Butler said because of the college's relatively small budget of about $22 million annually, the impacts have been felt heavily.

The school's Washington-based attorney has notified the Department of Education and urged immediacy given the school's predicament. Butler emphasized that the long gaps in federal notification were the reason for a lack of information flow from the leaders of the community college to the public.

"We weren't trying to keep anyone in the dark. Due to the delay we didn't have any new information," he said. "It wasn't an unwillingness to share information."

U.S. Department of Education press officer Jane Glickman said Mid-Continent University is currently on heightened cash monitoring. Monetary resources have to be disbursed to the students first, then will be allocated to the school through an electronic request. Funding has to be properly documented and meet all Title IV requirements to receive reimbursement.

A school is placed into the category if the Department of Education determines that participation in federal student aid programs should be strictly monitored, Glickman said.

The Mid-Continent Board of Trustees, which postponed a meeting Saturday, will meet as soon as this weekend, according to Butler. He said the first step could also be a meeting of the Executive Committee, which is empowered to act as the Board of Trustees in certain scenarios.

"So much is still up in the air, but there is no question that this is a serious situation," he said. "But we are still optimistic that we can resolve it."

Imhoff didn't return multiple messages left at his office.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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