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The accrediting agency for the Southern United States has granted initial accreditation to Bob Jones University, another step in a years-long process by the Christian institution -- which has a long history of discrimination -- to try to join the higher education mainstream. Bob Jones long shunned all federal accreditation, but before the approval by the college commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the university had been accredited for about a decade by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

In other actions at its meeting this month, SACS also gave its initial approval to a proposed transaction in which the Dream Center, a missionary group, would purchase numerous campuses of the Education Management Corp., the parent company of the Art Institutes and other for-profit colleges. The approval is just one step in a process that would allow the transformation of the for-profit institutions into secular nonprofit ones. The next stage for the EDMC campuses under the Southern agency's jurisdiction -- the Art Institutes of Atlanta and Houston, Miami International University of Art and Design, and South University -- would be the appointment of a "substantive change" committee to decide whether the shift would sustain the institutions' ability to carry out their missions.

SACS also took three institutions off probation -- Angelina College, Bethel University in Tennessee and Centenary College in Louisiana -- placed Central Alabama Community College on probation for financial issues, and continued probation for Georgetown College, in Kentucky.