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July 17, 2006

Barber-Scotia College plans to reopen this fall

PC(USA)-related institution to offer first classes in over a year

by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE — Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)-related Barber-Scotia College in Concord, NC, its doors closed since May 2005, plans to reopen to students this fall by offering a four-year residential degree program in business administration with a concentration in religious studies and hospitality management.

     Officials at the financially-strapped school near Charlotte, NC, said classes will begin sometime late next month but have not set a firm opening date, according to Carl M. Flamer, Barber-Scotia’s new president.

     However, he said the goal is to start the fall semester on Aug. 29.

     “We plan to reopen in August with first year students,” Flamer said of the 139-year-old historically black institution. “We are back in business.”

     Flamer estimated that 10 to 12 students have enrolled so far in the college’s only degree program but did not know the exact number. He said he would be surprised but elated if Barber-Scotia had 40 students when the fall semester begins.

     Flamer said 127 hours of course credit will be required to earn a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration, which will include coursework in religion and ethics.

     The focus on religion is because school officials want to bring the college back to being a faith-based institution, Flamer said. Barber-Scotia was founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1867 as a seminary for the daughters of former slaves.

     “I really feel that the mission they started in 1867 is so very true today and it is imperative that we keep the doors of schools like Barber-Scotia open,” Flamer said. “Because our young folks really don’t need fewer opportunities, they actually need more opportunities.”

     Flamer said the college is in the process of hiring a limited number of faculty for the business administration program and additional instructors with teaching experience in religion, economics and hospitality management.

     Some instructors will donate their time free of charge, said Flamer, who is not accepting a salary either.

     The 53-year-old retired teacher, administrator and Barber-Scotia graduate, who started his job as president June 1, said he’s donating his time without pay to help his alma mater regain its financial and academic footing.

     “I firmly believe in the mission of this college,” said Flamer, a native of Philadelphia, who graduated from the school in 1974. “I know what Barber-Scotia has meant to me and what it has meant for so many others.”

     The school’s Faith Hall and Honors Complex will house the residential students, though interested students who want to commute may also apply for the program, Flamer said.

     For those living on campus, tuition for the 2006-07 school year will be $2,000 for room and board, Flamer said, adding that a small number of scholarships will be available. Students not staying on campus will pay $1,000 for the year, he said.

     Barber-Scotia has been holding alumni events to help raise funds for operating costs. The college received a financial boost in April with a $100,000 gift from its Alumni Association.

     The school recently received a $10,000 check from Allstate Insurance Co. and an alumni organization is asking each graduate to donate $1,867, Flamer said.

     Barber-Scotia received $160,000 for 2006 from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s annual Christmas Joy Offering, a collection from the denomination’s churches that goes to support seven Presbyterian-related racial-ethnic schools and colleges.

     The grant was approved after a PC(USA) delegation visited the college in February amid discussion of discontinuing longtime church funding to the troubled institution. Barber-Scotia received $323,419 from the Christmas Joy Offering for 2005, although $100,000 was retained by the church to cover property insurance.

     Flamer thanked the PC(USA) for its continued financial support and said reopening the college next month would not be possible without the denomination’s backing.

     “We have really been blessed by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),” Flamer said. “They have without a doubt been the most consistent giver to our institution. Those dollars certainly have been precious to us.”

     Barber-Scotia recently announced a partnership with Saint Augustine’s College in a deal that will allow the Raleigh, NC, school to use classroom space for an adult-education degree program.

     Under the agreement, Saint Augustine’s will pay Barber-Scotia for the space for its “Gateway Lifelong Learning Program” starting this fall.

     Despite the recent surge of support, Barber-Scotia College still owes about $1 million in past-due bills, according to Flamer.

     “We definitely are not out of the woods, and I don’t want anybody to think that we are out of the woods,” he said.

     The last two years have been tumultuous for the college, which last had students on campus at the end of the 2004-05 school year, which concluded in May 2005.

     Barber-Scotia lost accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges in June 2004 for awarding continuing education degrees to unqualified students. Because students who attend unaccredited schools do not receive financial aid, enrollment at the college plummeted.

     Flamer said working to restore the college’s accreditation remains a top priority along with student recruitment.

     Classes were suspended for fall 2005 after the school announced in August that it was closing on-campus housing because of low enrollment.

     Barber-Scotia officials then opted to take an administrative year for 2005-06 to determine the future of the institution after the resignation of former president Gloria Bromell-Tinubu on Nov. 8.

     At that time, Barber-Scotia alumna Mable Parker McLean, who previously led the college from 1974 to 1988 and 1994 to 1996, stepped in to act as interim president until Flamer’s arrival last month.

     The setbacks raised fears that Barber-Scotia would be forced to close its doors permanently, as happened in March 2005 to another PC(USA)-related, historically black school that had lost its accreditation — Mary Holmes College, in West Point, MS.

     But now word of Barber-Scotia reopening is stirring the hopes of school supporters that the college, which once had more than 1,000 students and dozens of staff members, will rise again.

     “We continue to support the mission of Barber-Scotia College, and hopefully they’ll be like a Phoenix rising from the ashes to once again become a thriving institution,” said Beneva Bibbs, the PC(USA)’s associate for racial-ethnic schools and colleges.


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