The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges placed American InterContinental University and St. Andrews Presbyterian College on probation at its December meeting.
But in a year in which it faced a court fight over the revocation of the accreditation  of Edward Waters College, the accrediting group stopped short of any such actions this time around -- which its officials insist had nothing to do with the legal challenge.
“We review every institution based on its own merit,” said Belle S. Wheelan, president of the regional accreditor. “Nobody likes to be sued, but that doesn’t stop the world from going around.”
American InterContinental, which is owned by Career Education Corp., a leading for-profit provider of higher education, was placed on probation for 12 months for falling short of a wide range of the group’s standards, including among other things the “integrity of student academic records and accuracy in recruiting and admission practices.” In a statement last week,  George Miller, the university’s chief executive officer, said, “We are committed to addressing the commission’s concerns while continuing to provide quality education to our students.”
Southern cited St. Andrews Presbyterian, which was ranked as a 2005 “best college” by U.S. News & World Report, for continuing financial problems at the institution, Wheelan said. “A lot of small liberal arts schools have problems,” she said. “And we don’t want to revoke anyone’s accreditation. We just expect the same standards of every institution.”
Officials at the college expressed disappointment. “This action comes at a time of unprecedented growth and success at the college,” said John Deegan, Jr., the president of St. Andrews. “In the past three years alone, St. Andrews has seen its enrollment increase by 29 percent, its Capital Campaign surpass $34 million, and more than $5 million spent on capital improvements. In a short period of time, we are confident that we will fully satisfy the accreditation standard regarding financial resources and that our sanction will be removed.”
The Southern Association removed seven institutions from probationary status: Beacon College and Chipola College in Florida, Kentucky’s Georgetown College, Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina, Louisiana College, Texas College and the University of Southern Mississippi.
Some officials believed they’d been treated gently. The president of Louisiana College, for instance, labeled the commission’s decision to end the institution’s probation after 11 months “miraculous.”
"The fact that we got off in 11 months is, in our estimation, miraculous, but the diligence that we used to attack the issues were recognized as being so appropriately handled that they found us in compliance," the president told the Associated Baptist Press Monday. "Our procedures, policies and the path we followed has proven to be the correct path."
Even colleges that faced negative actions said the commission’s process was fair. Trudie Kibbe Reed, president of Bethune-Cookman, one of two institutions denied the ability to have new advanced degree programs accredited, said that she didn’t have any negative feelings regarding the body’s actions. She indicated Monday that the committee’s reason for denying accreditation to the institution’s master’s program in transformative leadership was valid. “We did not turn in the necessary paperwork,” she said. “But we will be given the chance to resubmit in June.”
The accreditor also put or kept several other institutions on “probation for good cause,” which means that the commission took leniency in extending probation, when it had the authority to revoke their accreditation.
Still, Deborah Brodbeck, president of Beacon College, which was removed from probation after one year, didn’t find the committee process to be “particularly lenient at all.” She noted that the body not only required an audit of the institution’s financial situation, but also made a campus visit to verify the status of construction of new housing at the institution.
In addition to the actions and institutions mentioned above, the commission:
- Continued the following institution on probation: Talladega College, Talladega, Ala.
- Denied reaffirmation, continued accreditation, and placed the following institution on probation for good cause: LeMoyne-Owen College, Memphis
- Continued accreditation and placed the following institutions on probation for good cause: Art Institute of Dallas, Dallas; Ashland Community & Technical College, Ashland, Ky.; Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Fla.; Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C.
- Continued accreditation and continued the following institutions on probation for good cause: Huntingdon College, Montgomery, Ala.; Lees-McRae College, Banner Elk, N.C.
A full list of 2005 committee actions is available on the Southern Association's Web site.