Institution accreditation has been a hot topic in the HBCU community for years, with schools falling into probation periods and some even closing their doors. It's a tough and often frustrating situation for HBCUs, which is why it's important to understand how vital it is that your school stays accredited.
Accreditation is a process that evaluates colleges, universities, and other educational programs for the quality of their educational structure and their plans in place for future growth. There are six regional accrediting agencies that determine if institutions are accreditable. These are:
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
- North Central Association (NCA)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
Schools can lose their accreditation for a few reasons. For example, if the educational quality is lacking, financial troubles are affecting the school, or total enrollment has significantly fallen, then they will be warned. If this warning isn't taken into serious consideration or isn't addressed immediately, the accrediting agency can place the institution on probation for a set amount of time. This is the last step before complete removal of accreditation. In probation, schools must quickly adhere to the recommendations given by their accreditor; otherwise, trouble will be spelled out for them. HBCUs losing accreditation is a concern that consistently looms year after year.
If your HBCU loses accreditation, meaning it had accreditation when you began, but lost it along the way, then you will be met with a few consequences. You'll quickly find that your financial aid is no longer available. With this, your diploma may also become invalidated. Employers, schools, and financial aid options cannot accept a diploma from an unaccredited institution. If you try to transfer before graduation, you may experience difficulty when trying to transfer credits. Depending on the school's policy, it may not accept them.
Many HBCUs have been given warnings or placed on probations due to ongoing financial complications in a country where PWIs reign supreme. Recently, three North Carolina HBCUs were placed on probation for about two years: Saint Augustine's University, Bennett College and Johnson C. Smith University. While Johnson and Saint Augustine's have had their accreditation extended for 10 years, Bennett College has been dropped as a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Despite this, Bennett is appealing the decision, working with large businesses and corporations like UNCF to fight for accreditation. This fight is an important one, with the degrees of an entire student body lingering in the fray. Recent updates on the case suggest Bennett may be getting closer to victory.
Unfortunately, some HBCUs weren't able to save their campus, resulting in permanent closings. Two of the most recent schools forced to close their doors were Mary Holmes College in Jacksonville, Mississippi (2004) and St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Virginia (2013). Both schools succumbed to financial debts. Closings like this should serve as wake-up calls to students, alumni, and supporters of HBCUs. To aid these institutions, we must ensure we're giving outside of tuition and other enrollment costs. By donating to schools like Bennett College, we can save them. HBCUs losing accreditation is not something we can afford.