By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools stripped Paine College of its accreditation at its board meeting on June 15 in Memphis. Despite a fundraising effort in May that generated $1.35 million, plus a budget that will be balanced for the first time in 14 years beginning July 1, Paine is still accredited but on probation.
According to The Augusta Chronicle, SACS removed Paine from its membership for failing to meet three standards: financial resources and stability; financial stability. SACS records indicate the university failed to control sponsored research/external funds. Placed on warning status in 2012, Paine will have 10 days to file an appeal after it receives a written letter of the findings.
Of the recent decision, Interim President Dr. Samuel Sullivan said in a recent statement on Paine’s website, “Although we respect their decision, we will pursue and avail ourselves of all appeal rights available.” Sullivan, who assumed office in September 2014, added in a statement on the university’s website, “We are confident that with our submission of additional evidence regarding the strategy to improve financial conditions, our appeal will be successful … Paine College has not lost its accreditation. During the appeal process, the College will be able to qualify for Title IV and Title III funding. The College will still be able to offer federal financial aid to students.”
But financial challenges are not new to Paine. Launched as a high school in 1882 in rented quarters in Augusta, Ga. with a $2,000 donation from a white Methodist minister and about $16 that former slaves donated penny-by-penny, Paine opened its doors about two decades after slavery ended in 1865. It was founded by, what are now, the United Methodist Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
While Paine experienced steady enrollment increases in the years to come, and was accredited by SACS in 1931 as a Class B institution, which was upgraded to Class A status in 1945, it has experienced dramatic enrollment declines in the past few years like many Historically Black Colleges and Universities after rules for PLUS federal loans tightened in 2011. In plain terms, tighter PLUS loan rules meant that there were 45 percent fewer PLUS loan students enrolled at HBCUs nationwide from 2011 and 2013, according to U.S. News & World Report. Specifically, this represents a nearly 50 percent decline in enrollment at all HBCUs. Currently, about 95 percent of Paine’s students participate in federal financial aid programs.