Orlando Sentinel's Denise Ordway talks with FOX35 about FAMU's probation lifted by accreditation group.

FAMU got off probation Tuesday, lifting a yearlong penalty sparked in part by the hazing death of Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion in Orlando.

"While we celebrate, let's also remember we have to keep up the good work that led to this outcome," FAMU interim President Larry Robinson told university trustees during a short teleconference announcing the decision.

Last December, the organization that accredits FAMU placed the school on probation after discovering problems in finances, student safety, operational "integrity" and leadership.

Champion's beating death after the Florida Classic football game in late 2011 raised questions about whether FAMU was providing a safe and healthy environment for students, agency documents show.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges also had been investigating financial mismanagement at FAMU. The group, which accredits colleges throughout the Southeast, was troubled that FAMU had submitted more than a dozen fabricated internal financial reviews to the state in 2011.

The lifting of probation means the university has demonstrated that it now meets all the standards of educational quality set by the agency. FAMU will not need any follow-up reviews, officials said.

Robinson stressed, however, that FAMU must continue to monitor whether the changes put in place are working, including new rules aimed at preventing hazing within the famed Marching 100.

On Tuesday, the interim chancellor for the State University System also noted that "there is still important work to do" at FAMU but called the accreditation decision "a signal of progress."

The university system has been monitoring FAMU's work to fix the problems that led to its probation. The Board of Governors, which oversees the system, recently praised FAMU's efforts.

"From clamping down on hazing, to reducing the number of under-qualified students who are admitted, to rethinking certain operational and business practices, FAMU is on a path toward greater stability," Interim Chancellor Jan Ignash wrote in an email to the board.

Even so, a committee of SACSCOC had raised concerns about whether the changes will survive under the university's new leadership.

FAMU is searching for a new president to replace James Ammons, who resigned in July 2012 amid the growing scandal over hazing and other problems at Florida's only historically black public university.

Several high-level administrative posts are filled with interim employees. The university has indicated those positions will not be filled permanently until a new president is hired to build his or her own senior management team.

Robinson said changes will follow whoever takes over as chief executive officer.

"Much of what's important in dealing with the types of issues we've dealt with is making sure the remedies are institutionalized beyond the personalities of those who might come in and take the helm," he said.

Robinson also said now that the accreditation probation has been lifted, university officials can "refocus our efforts" on such things as recruiting students and improving graduation rates.

Enrollment dropped after Champion's death and the marching band was suspended. State officials have been pressing the university to boost the number of students who graduate on time. About 40 percent of students who start FAMU as freshmen graduate within six years.

dordway@tribune.com or 407-420-5470