By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Bethune Cookman University in Daytona Beach and Bennett College in Greensboro are struggling to keep their doors open after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges placed Bethune Cookman on probation and revoked Bennett’s license.
SACS placed Bethune Cookman on probation for one year in June 14, 2018. With the one-year deadline approaching this summer, interim president Hubert Grimes asked donors via video to contribute $7.5 million to keep the school open in January, according to news reports. Grimes said Bethune Cookman needs $7.5 million by June 30, 2020 to keep its doors open.
During SACS June 11-14, 2018 meetings, it reviewed about 200 schools. Of those, four were placed on probation, five received warnings and none lost accreditation.
Nine schools had their warnings or probationary status removed because they returned to compliance. Bethune Cookman’s probation was for one year, at which point the commission’s board will meet again to review if the university is in compliance. If the school does not show satisfactory progress by that time, the probation could continue or the school could lose its accreditation.
Grimes took the helm in July 2017. His predecessor, Edison Jackson, retired early after a Daytona Beach News-Journal investigation found the university was suffering from growing debt and that a new dorm, originally estimated at $72.1 million, will cost $306 million over 40 years.
Before Bethune Cookman was sanctioned in June 2018, the Florida Board of Nursing in January placed its nursing program on probation after nearly half of its students failed the national licensing exam to become a registered nurse in 2017.
Earlier in April, the credit agency Fitch Ratings issued a rating watch warning people about investing in B-CU, in part because of its costly legal battles. It was the second time B-CU had been hit with a negative rating watch in two years.
In addition, tax filings show B-CU outspent its revenues by nearly $10 million in 2016-17. The previous year, the school had an $18 million loss.
Bennett, meanwhile, had its accreditation revoked on Dec. 9, 2018, lost its appeal in February after being on probation for two years.
It successfully sued on Feb. 22. Its accreditation was restored by a federal court in Atlanta. During the legal battle, which could last several months or a couple of years, Bennett will remain accredited.
According to news reports, Bennett is seeking accreditation with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. It will have to demonstrate financial stability in order to win full accreditation from TRACS, a process that will likely take years to complete.