Bennett College still standing, awaiting hearing

OLIVIA CHIPI

Bennett College was established in 1873 and is one of the only two women’s HBCUs in the nation. As of Feb. 22, the college’s accreditation status is at risk.

Following a hearing on Feb. 18 with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the historically black college learned that it will not be able to keep its accreditation.

Located in Greensboro, North Carolina, Bennett College became a women’s college in 1926. Since then, it has served as an “oasis…of black women’s history,” according to a release by Bennett’s editorial board on Dec. 14.

Drastically declining enrollment predicated Bennett’s financial struggles. While the college previously held upwards of 1,000 students, according to an article by John Newsom of the Winston-Salem Journal only 410 undergraduates are now enrolled, which is lesser than the growing trend of declining enrollment in private colleges.

This led to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSOC) decision to remove its accreditation status in December, after placing Bennett College under two years of probation.

Since beginning the fundraiser in December, with the tagline “Stand with Bennett,” the women’s college received donations from institutions, including High Point University, corporations and banks, like the Z. Smith Reynolds and BB&T.

With the help of alum and the plethora of other local donors, Bennett College was able to surpass the original $5 million goal, raising $8.2 million in time for the Feb. 1 deadline.

Of course, Salem College is facing its own financial struggles and the potential threat to its accreditation status through SACSOC.

“Step Up for Salem” was launched in the fall under President Sandra Doran. Through this campaign, Salem College was able to gather the support of its own alum and community partners, including BB&T and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, that awarded a $2 million matching grant and $200,000 respectively.

On Valentine’s Day, the annual alum Giving Day 2019, under the #SalemLove hashtag, was able to gather the support of over 400 anonymous alumni donors, whose donations would then be matched by another donor’s $4,000 gift. Salem College was able to reach this 400-donor matching goal before 4 p.m., helping the college move that much closer to reaching the $10 million goal needed to prove to SACSCOC of its improvements and maintain its accreditation.

Bennett College surpassed its $5 million goal and still SACSCOC voted to remove its accreditation, which prompted the college to appeal this decision. Bennett will attend a hearing set in Atlanta on Feb. 18 to determine whether the historically black women’s college can keep its status. Until then, the college is still accredited.

The fate of Bennett College’s accreditation is still uncertain. “Stand with Bennett” could help prove to SACSCOC its importance to the community and country according to Lodriguez Murray in an article by the Winston-Salem Journal.

“This [“Stand with Bennett”] proves…that these schools have far-reaching support,” Murray said. “Folks across the country are saying they don’t want to lose any more of these schools. That’s why people stood with Bennett.”

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