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Education

Bennett Officials Present Case To Have The School's Accreditation Reinstated

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Bennett College

Bennett College officials say they are confident their accreditation will be reinstated after making a presentation before the school’s accrediting agency in Atlanta Monday. The accreditation of the historically black college for women was revoked in December by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools because of concerns about Bennett’s long-term financial stability.

Bennett officials appealed the SACS decision. The school’s accreditation remains intact during the appeals process.

School officials launched a fundraising campaign in December to convince SACS officials that the Greensboro-based college is financially sound. Their goal was to raise $5 million by Feb. 1. Donations came from thousands of alumnae, black sororities and fraternities, other HBCU graduates, businesses and individuals from across the country.

[Related Content: Bennett College Officials Raise $8.2 Million, Exceed Fundraising Goal]

Two of the largest donations of $1 million each came from a California entrepreneur whose mother and aunt were Bennett graduates. The other $1 million donation came from High Point University, whose officials also presented the school with checks totaling more than $360,000 from other donors. By the deadline, more than $8.2 million had been raised through the campaign.

In a statement released Monday after Bennett officials testified before the SACS appeals committee, the college’s President Phyllis Worthy Dawkins said:

“We presented our case to SACSCOC officials this morning, buoyed by our successful #StandWithBennett fundraising campaign, which to date has raised $9.5 million. We not only discussed our recent fundraising efforts but also presented a path forward for the College.”

During the fundraising drive, Bennett officials said they were developing a new business model for the school that would focus on increasing enrollment, finding ways to cut costs and increasing the school’s endowment four-fold, which currently stands at about $13 million.

The school currently has a budget surplus of more than $400,000, but that’s after having budget deficits for seven of the last 11 years. About 10 years ago, Bennett officials borrowed more than $20 million from the federal HBCU Capital Finance Program to construct three buildings. Last year, that loan was deferred, interest-free, for six years. Dawkins said they will use that time to stabilize the school financially for the long term.

Dawkins said she is confident that they presented a strong enough case before the SACS appeals committee to convince them that Bennett is on solid financial ground and its’ accreditation should be reestablished.

“SACS must notify us of their decision within a week, by Feb. 25, and we are hopeful for a favorable outcome,” Dawkins said.”

Colleges that lose their accreditation cannot participate in the federal student loan program and usually end up closing. Bennett is a United Methodist college and officials have also applied to the Transnational Association for Christian Schools in case their accreditation is not reinstated by SACS.