One of only two historically black colleges for women in the country approached the brink Tuesday when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges announced it intends to revoke Bennett College's accreditation.
Bennett, a private institution in Greensboro, N.C., related to the United Methodist Church, had been on probation for two years. The college was out of compliance with its accreditor's rules on financial resources, and its probation cannot be extended for a third year.
The college, which has undertaken significant cost-cutting and fund-raising efforts in an attempt to shore up its financial position, is appealing the decision. Its president, Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, told the News & Record she plans to make the college's case at a Feb. 18 hearing.
“The door’s not closed all the way yet,” Dawkins told the newspaper.
SACSCOC does not extend probation for a third year, so the accreditor had the choice between restoring Bennett's accreditation or revoking it. A college or university that loses accreditation also loses access to federal Title IV funds, which is widely considered to be a fatal blow.
Bennett plans to reach out to donors in an attempt to improve its financial picture before the February hearing. Donors have already given generously, allowing the college to beat a $4 million fund-raising target set last year with $4.2 million in gifts and pledges.
The college's operating results had improved as well, with leaders reporting a surplus of $461,000 last year after a $1.1 million deficit for 2016-17. Undergraduate enrollment is up 15 percent year over year to 469 students, although enrollment is still far below the 780 reported in 2010.
This is not the first time Bennett has run into accreditation trouble. The college was on probation for two straight years before fund-raising convinced accreditors it had found sounder footing in 2003.