For many, it’s a given that historically Black colleges and universities will be around. After all, as institutions, they’ve been in existence for more than 150 years, established during a time when Blacks had no other alternatives to pursue higher education. For many, it’s a given that historically Black colleges and universities will be around. After all, as institutions, they’ve been in existence for more than 150 years, established during a time when Blacks had no other alternatives to pursue higher education.
In the past few decades, though, mismanagement issues—some fatal—have arisen on these campuses. Just recently, Morris Brown and Mary Holmes colleges had their accreditation withdrawn—though Morris Brown officials have said they will appeal the decision. Grambling State University remains on probation.
The specters of fiscal competency and academic competitiveness, have some questioning whether HBCUs have outlived their usefulness. While some supporters say these are aberrations, others fear that what has happened in recent weeks is just emblematic of deeper problems that have been allowed to fester.
“There tends to be a lot of finger-pointing,” said Grant D. Venerable II, vice-president of academic affairs at Lincoln University. Until this summer, he had served as provost and vice-president of academic affairs at Morris Brown.
“Believe me, presidents all over the HBCU circuit are very concerned,” Venerable said. “They know there is a lot of grace of the good Lord that has kept a lot of our schools going.”
The situation at Grambling was not as dire as some. The bookkeeping issues that raised flags earlier showed signs of correction. The college commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) decided to give Grambling another year to meet all the outlined regulations, said James T. Rogers, the commission’s executive director.
The verdict was far different for Morris Brown in Atlanta and Mary Holmes in West Point, Miss. Both were stripped of their ability to accept federal funds. For Morris Brown, there were great questions about how the school could raise the estimated $23 million needed to alleviate its debt. Mary Holmes just completed its second year of probation—the maximum allowed under federal regulations—and SACS still had concerns regarding the two-year Black women’s college.
As private schools, both are dependent upon tuition. As institutions serving a largely lower socioeconomic population that relies on federal aid, the loss of these funds decimates their operating budgets. As de-accredited private institutions, they also lose support from the United Negro College Fund.
Morris Brown President Charles E. Taylor announced plans for an appeal, allowing for a little more time to operate as an accredited institution. While Morris Brown officials did not return calls from The Tribune, the college did send a letter to parents updating them on the situation. It also offered answers to common questions, such as would they lose their financial aid and whether their degrees would be worth anything should the school lose its accreditation.
Alumni have rallied to support the college but admit that things look somewhat dim. At the appeals, no new information can be introduced. Instead, the review committee will revisit the process to see whether the SACS commission followed the rules fairly.