July 23, 2004
Barber-Scotia College loses accreditation
No appeal of revocation means no financial aid for students
by Evan Silverstein
LOUISVILLE — After its accreditation was revoked last month, officials at financially strapped Barber-Scotia College decided not to appeal the decision.
Officials had 10 days to file an appeal, but let the deadline pass.
That means students enrolled for the fall semester at the private Presbyterian-related four-year college in Concord, NC, are ineligible for federal financial aid.
The loss of accreditation is a severe blow to the 137-year-old, historically black institution, where more than 90 percent of students typically receive some form of government assistance.
However, Barber-Scotia’s new president, Gloria Bromell-Tinubu, said classes will begin on schedule on Aug. 25.
Bromell-Tinubu said the liberal arts college near Charlotte hopes to raise enough money to compensate students for the lost federal aid while it prepares to apply for re-accreditation and works to improve its financial condition.
“We’ll do what’s necessary to get back on the right track,” said Bromell-Tinubu, who became the institution’s president on June 17, a week before officials learned that its accreditation had been revoked. “We really believe ... things will be put back in place. The school will live up to its potential.”
Officials planned initially to appeal the June 24 decision of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), which would have allowed students to continue receiving aid while the appeal was pending. But Bromell-Tinubu it would have cost $15,000, and such appeals are seldom successful.
To win its case, Barber-Scotia, which had about 750 students last year, would have to show either that SACS violated its procedures or that its decision was arbitrary.
“We figured, Why not use our resources to go ahead and get back on track, rather than fighting what would be a losing battle?” said Bromell-Tinubu, a former member of Atlanta’s city council and former Spelman College professor.
She declined to detail the school’s debt, but said it is planning a campaign to raise $6 million for student scholarships for the coming academic year.
“Right now we’re proposing to give students 80 percent (of expenses) in the form of scholarship funds, have them work off (an additional) 10 percent ... (and) the remaining 10 percent would have to come out of their pocket,” said Bromell-Tinubu, an economist. “At the end of the year, if we’re successful with that, they won’t have a debt.”
The college got a boost recently when the Tom Joyner Foundation announced that it will provide $500,000 in scholarships. The foundation, named for radio personality Tom Joyner, supports African-American students at historically black colleges and universities.
Barber-Scotia was founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1867 as a seminary for daughters of former slaves.
The decision to revoke its accreditation was based on “a fundamental issue of integrity,” according to James T. Rogers, executive director of SACS’s Commission on Colleges. Rogers said the school awarded degrees to nearly 30 students in the adult program who SACS determined hadn’t fulfilled the proper requirements.
“It was a series of things, but primarily it had to do with what happened with grade changes, and degrees being offered without students having completed work, and that sort of thing,” Rogers said.
Bromell-Tinubu said the school has corrected these problems and hopes to regain accreditation through SACS or another such institution. She said it will probably take at least two to three years to regain full membership in SACS.
“Our hope is that we will be able to have our ducks in a row to be a candidate for membership by this time next year,” she said. “Once we’re a candidate, we’re then eligible for the federal funds again.”
Last year, the college employed 26 full-time faculty members, six part-timers and about 50 other staffers. Bromell-Tinubu acknowledged that some employees — she said she couldn’t say how many — will be laid off because of the accreditation problem. She said some cuts were lone overdue.
“Some of the cuts that we’re doing now should have been cuts before, because we really didn’t have the student enrollment necessary in some of these majors to justify the expenses associated with faculty salary,” she said.
Early this month, the college avoided having its electricity turned off by paying the city of Concord $75,943 for utility bills from April, May and June. In June, the school had to delay a portion of employees’ pay.
Barber-Scotia was put on “warning status” by SACS in December, partly because of its continuing financial problems. Former President Sammie Potts resigned in February.
Bromell-Tinubu said she knew when she was hired that the college might lose accreditation, but thought it was more likely to be put on probation instead.
She said she doesn’t regret coming to Barber-Scotia.
“I am supposed to be here at this time and at this point in the college’s history,” she said. “I really believe that everything is in divine order. Things are as they should be, and we’ll be where we need to be.”