SACSCOC Places Johnson C. Smith University on Probation - Higher Education
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SACSCOC Places Johnson C. Smith University on Probation

by Reginald Stuart

Johnson C. Smith University, the small private 150-year-old liberal arts institution in Charlotte, N.C., was placed on probation by the influential Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), a move considered an additional worry about the long-term viability of an institution.

The SACSCOC action was one of more than 150 taken this week by the Atlanta-based higher education accreditation panel at its semiannual meeting that ended Tuesday afternoon in Dallas.

In addition to moving Johnson C. Smith higher up the worry list, SASCOC also said it was extending by another year the warning status of Bennett College in South Carolina and St. Augustine’s University in North Carolina. Like Johnson C. Smith, Bennett and St. Augustine’s are small, private liberal arts institutions with rich histories that today are facing enrollment and financial challenges. They are also HBCUs.

The SACSCOC actions do not immediately impact the institutions’ accreditation, although failure to correct the standards cited could cause them to lose accreditation and eventually risk the loss of ability to receive federal student aid.

All three institutions are tuition-dependent, meaning they enroll a high percentage of students who need federal financial aid to attend college.

In commenting on the SACSCOC decision about placing Johnson C. Smith on probation, university president Ronald L. Carter, noted in a statement that he felt the university had made a “strong financial case” to avoid probation.

During its 12-month probation period, SACSCOC will appoint a committee to visit the institution in the fall of 2018 “to review our status,” Carter said.

“The University acts with integrity, responsibility, reliability and trust in everything we do,” said Carter, chief executive at Johnson C. Smith for the past nine years. “We are not daunted by the denial of our reaffirmation and see this as an opportunity for continuous quality improvement which will result in even greater institutional effectiveness,” his statement said.

Among other key actions the SASCOC board took at this week’s meeting, it removed Elizabeth City State University from “warning” status, giving it a clean bill of health.

The panel also gave its blessing to another move by the State of Georgia to consolidate its higher education institutions and reduce costs and overlap. It approved proposed mergers of Georgia Southern and Armstrong State universities into one institution to be known as Georgia Southern University.

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