Saint Augustine's University Retains Accreditation, But Not Bennett College

Dec 11, 2018

Supporters greet St. Augustine's University President Everett B. Ward after an announcement on December 11, 2018 that the university will retain its accreditation.
Credit Leoneda Inge / WUNC

While one of North Carolina's historically black colleges and universities learned on Tuesday it will retain its accreditation, another college 80 miles away faces the loss of its own accreditation.

On Tuesday, officials at Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh learned the university would retain its accreditation following a two-year probationary period for the small historically black university.

“Today I am pleased to report that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges voted to remove Saint Augustine’s University probationary status,” Saint Augustine’s President Everett Ward announced on Tuesday to a roaring applause by faculty, staff, alumni and students.

Meanwhile, officials and students at Bennett College in Greensboro were not as joyful. The same accrediting body voted to remove the accreditation from the historically black women's college. Bennett has appealed the decision, according to The News and Record.

Bennett College will remain open while officials work to convince the commission by February 2019 to reverse its decision.

Back in Raleigh, Ward said the accrediting body was impressed with Saint Augustine's increase in alumni giving and other donor support, which he says has increased 73 percent since he was named interim president in 2014.

He also said the commission was pleased to learn about the $1.7 million dollars the university spent to improve financial processes, software systems and internal controls. 

Maria Springfield-Rashid was one of the cheering alumni at Tuesday's announcement. She is a 1976 graduate of Saint Augustine's and is an officer on its national alumni association board. Springfield-Rashid said she was confident her school would prevail, but admits news circulating about its possible closing was hard to take.

"That was sad. I had some emotional feelings about it," said Springfield-Rashid. "We just wanted to know what it was we could do. How are we going to make sure our doors stay open? And we went to work."

The accrediting body announced the decision Tuesday at its annual meeting in New Orleans. Ward told the crowd he flew back to Raleigh to present the good news in person.

"You are more than welcome to join me as I go to Chapel and give God praise for what he has done for St. Augustine’s University," said an emotional Ward. "It is in that Chapel, that I find my greatest strength."

Most of Saint Augustine's nearly 800 students have left for the holiday break. But the men's and women's basketball teams were present for the announcement. Derell "D.J." Harrison is a senior on the men's basktball team. He said he was never worried about being able to graduate from Saint Augustine's.

"I feel like this is a good school. And I knew the problems would sort itself out over time," Harrison said. "I feel like Dr. Ward has the school in good hands, he would get us back on the right track."

Enrollment at Saint Augustine's increased steadily over the past several years, but took a dip this fall. Ward says rumors over the summer of the school losing its accreditation and closing down hurt enrollment. But he says applications for Fall 2019 are already showing positve signs.