Critics of for-profit higher education have of late drawn attention to what they see as a pattern of "accreditation shopping" in which for-profit entities purchase financially struggling nonprofit colleges, and then hold on to the regional accreditation that the nonprofit colleges had for years, even as the new owners expand or radically change the institutions' missions.
The accreditor of Dana College wants the world to know that it didn't revoke recognition of the college or order its closure. At the same time, the accreditor is standing by a decision that critics say is tantamount to ordering such a closure. And in an unusual move, the accreditor on Friday issued a public defense of its decision.
Like so many small private colleges, Dana College, a small Lutheran institution on the outskirts of Omaha, has long been precariously close to its death.
“I’ve worried about the college as long as I’ve known the college,” says Myrvin Christopherson, a 1961 alumnus who was Dana’s president from 1986 until 2005. During those 19 years, not only did he weather several years of budget deficits and a fire that destroyed the college’s Old Main, but he also increased the college’s endowment from $1 million to more than 10 times that. “It was always able to pull through.”
For months, top administrators at Birmingham-Southern College believed they had weathered the economic downturn reasonably well.
Then, this spring, an audit revealed the truth: years of financial mismanagement and accounting errors had allowed the small college to operate for years while spending millions of dollars more than it actually had in its budget.