After 125 Years of Service, St. Paul’s College Shutting Down June 30

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by Denise B. Hawkins

In the coming weeks, the focus at Saint Paul’s will be the business of shuttering the rural 184-acre campus.

In the coming weeks, the focus at Saint Paul’s will be the business of shuttering the rural 184-acre campus.

Saint Paul’s College, the beleaguered HBCU in Lawrenceville, Va., will cease operation on June 30, according to its board of trustees.

A spokesperson for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) confirmed that Belle S. Wheelan, president of the regional accrediting body, had received a May 28, letter from the chairman of the board of trustees at Saint Paul’s College notifying her of the decision to close the 125-year-old institution. Efforts to reach Board Chairman Oliver W. Spencer Jr., were unsuccessful.

In recent years, SACS cited Saint Paul’s for a series of deficiencies and violations, among them the lack of financial stability and too many faculty without terminal degrees. The college was eventually stripped of its accreditation.  A federal judge later issued a preliminary injunction, allowing the college to keep its accreditation on a probationary basis so that Saint Paul’s could continue to enroll students and hold classes. It opened last fall with about 111 students.

During a two-year probation, the private college struggled, but couldn’t fix what accreditors found lacking at the institution that largely serves low-income, first-generation students. Saint Paul’s struggled to rebound. Student enrollment continued to tumble, slipping below 100 and the money it raised from gifts, alumni donations, and desperate appeals, never seemed to be enough for the fledgling college to thrive.

Late last year, a merger-acquisition plan with Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C., seemed to be the lifeline Saint Paul’s College needed. But in May, Saint Augustine’s dashed those plans, saying that acquiring the college was “not a fiscally responsible option.” The proposal, which some in the Black college community called innovative and historic, would have created “the Saint Paul’s College campus of Saint Augustine’s University on the Saint Paul’s College,” said Millard “Pete” Stith, Saint Paul’s vice president for Institutional Advancement. Stith said the two institutions had also discussed making Saint Paul’s “an extension of Saint Augustine’s University, with academic programs accredited as Saint Augustine’s University programs and operations.”

The acquisition would have also meant assuming Saint Paul’s debts which were estimated at between $4 million-$5 million dollars, Stith told Diverse.  Although the St. Augustine’s decided not to pursue the acquisition, it did agree to hear an appeal on May 31, from Saint Paul’s trustees hoping to reverse the decision. Saint Paul’s College and Saint Augustine’s are two of three Historically Black Colleges and Universities founded by the Episcopal Church. The other is Voorhees College in Denmark, S.C.

Until now, with each setback or bad turn, Saint Paul’s College seemed to dodge demise. A recent message and urgent appeal on the college’s website from national alumni President Hardi Jones was hopeful, but late: “The administration and staff press forward with an operating plan to increase enrollment, serve our beloved students, reduce debt, and raise gifts and grants that will contribute to the successful outcome of a balanced budget, extended accreditation and a continuum of mission.  These outcomes, while challenging, have been accomplished before, but only with your help did we succeed.”

In the coming weeks, the focus at Saint Paul’s will be the business of shuttering the rural 184-acre campus. According to documents obtained by Diverse, those efforts will include notifying teen parents enrolled in the College’s Single Parent Support System Program that they will no longer be able live on campus or pursue a degree there. Close-out plans will also mean satisfying faculty and staff contracts, and transferring students to neighboring Virginia institutions, such as Norfolk State University and Virginia Union, selling off more than $30 million in property and buildings, and settling debts.

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6 Responses to After 125 Years of Service, St. Paul’s College Shutting Down June 30

  1. It is a shame that another HBCU is closing. Just when I am learning about the many Historically Black Colleges/Universities that in this country, they are closing shop. Too Bad.

    Karen
    June 1, 2013 at 9:37 am
    Reply

  2. This news has sadden my heart today.I was able to attend St.Paul’s on a wing and many prayers in the early 70 ‘s. In spite of the many obstacles I was the first in my family to obtain a college degree.I received a sound education and have been a teacher for 30 years. I truly hate to see my school close.I have many friends that I have continued to love and associate with St.Paul’s
    I thank God for Father Easley,Golatt family, Ms.Lee, Dr.Russell, Coach Thompson,and many others whose names escape me at this time but was truly valuable in my journey
    God’ Speed
    Pat j

    Pat Jefferson
    July 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm
    Reply

  3. I am very saddened by the news that Saint Paul’s College has shut down. I will always cherish the fond memories that occur while attending the college.

    Dee
    July 12, 2013 at 8:01 pm
    Reply

  4. It is unconscionable and inconcievable that Black alumni of HBCUs allow Black institutions such as St. Pauls College to close. There are thousands, possibly a million, graduates of HBCUs who are financially able to support their respective college or university. However, the vast majority choose not to do so. According to the U.S. Dept. of Education only 8 percent of HBCU alimnu contribute money to their school, while the national average is 13 percent. How quickly we forget that if it was not for our Black schools the majority of us would not have received a college education, would not have attended graduate school, would not have gotten a good paying job and advanced positions through retirement. After 125 years of service, we see the demise of one of our treasured Black institutions. This is not only a shame and disgrace, but a very sad commentary on Black alumni.

    Julius H Cromwell
    July 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm
    Reply

  5. Sorry to hear that SPC has closed. This was a total suprise to me that no other University would step in to help or take over the school. This is where I wish our government could have given out money.

    Farewell SPC…I will remeber the times that I had with the forever friends that I made along the way.

    Where will all the student documents (transcripts) be stored?

    Bene'
    September 6, 2013 at 3:33 pm
    Reply

  6. It was with much sorrow when I learned that dear ST. Paul’s college would be closing.
    My family is from that area and ST. Paul’s gave two of my aunts two cousins and more than a few friends a good education. The small town of Lawrenceville Va. will feel the missing presence of the student population , the staff and the various persons that make that community tick. More than a few students will miss the impact that ST. Paul’s could have made on their life.
    It is like a good friend going to rest. Good bye Dear ST. Paul , you will be gone but never forgotten …..Freda

    F. Corbett
    November 1, 2013 at 7:14 pm
    Reply

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