Bennett College has been on probation for the past two years. It won’t get a third.
The private women’s college on East Washington Street faces the loss of its accreditation after years of financial and enrollment struggles and an announcement Tuesday by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Bennett President Phyllis Worthy Dawkins said Tuesday that the college has appealed the decision by its accrediting agency. She plans to appear at a hearing Feb. 18 in hopes of convincing the commission to reverse its decision.
The 469-student college will remain open — and accredited — until then.
“The door’s not closed all the way yet,” Dawkins said.
The commission put Bennett on probation for a year in 2016 and extended that probation for another year last December over concerns about the college’s financial picture.
The commission’s rules limit a school’s stay on probation to two years. Probation is its most serious sanction short of removing accreditation.
After that two-year window closes, a college gets one of two decisions from the commission: Its accreditation is restored in full with no sanctions, or it’s removed from membership — that is, the college loses its accreditation.
Accreditation is crucial for colleges and universities. Accredited colleges have shown a regional agency such as SACSCOC that they have met a long list of academic, financial, faculty and administrative standards that ensures a basic level of quality.
Without accreditation, U.S. colleges and universities can accept no federal funds — no Pell Grants, no federal student loans, no work-study dollars — to cover tuition, fees and other student expenses. Colleges that lose accreditation will shrink substantially or close entirely. Students at these institutions can find it difficult to transfer course credits, enter graduate school or find jobs that require a degree from an accredited college.
The commission announced Tuesday that it would remove Bennett from membership. A commission spokeswoman said Bennett was out of compliance with its rule requiring colleges to have sound financial resources and a stable financial base.
SACSCOC, based in Decatur, Ga., accredits nearly 800 public and private colleges and universities in 11 Southern states. Its decision on Bennett came at the end of its annual meeting in New Orleans.
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