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With 4 students Enrolled, this North Carolina HBCU Is Betting On a Five-Year Turnaround!

With 4 students Enrolled, this North Carolina HBCU Is Betting On a Five-Year Turnaround!
Posted By: Sofía Montiel on December 02, 2022

Barber-Scotia College alumni fondly remember a flourishing and bustling college, Friday night line dancing and packing out the yard on school evenings. These memories came alive again in October when they returned for the 155th homecoming.

“It felt like the days we were on campus,” Pam Day, president of the National Alumni Association, said. “It was like we were back at Barber-Scotia when we all attended.”

Back then there were hundreds of students. The current enrollment has only four students — and they all attend the college online. The Concord-based HBCU has faced declining enrollment and its fair share of hardships since losing its accreditation in 2004.

But alumni are hopeful. School leaders have launched a five-year plan to restore the school to prominence. The 2022-2027 strategic plan outlines the college’s pursuit for accreditation, its financial and academic goals. It’s spearheaded by three alumnae who see it as an inimitable opportunity to restore a college they all hold dear.

“When you lose your accreditation then you automatically lose students,” Roberta Pinckney, chair of the school’s Board of Trustees, said. “You lose your financial base.”

Finances are what caused the college to come up short when it last tried to restore accreditation years ago, she said.

The school received a break when the Department of Education discharged nearly $12 million in debt last year. In April, school officials were inspired when Morris Brown, an Atlanta-based HBCU, announced its accreditation was restored.

Located in a hub among other HBCUs — Spelman College, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University — the news came after a 20-year journey for the HBCU that lost its accreditation in 2002.

What also differs this time, Pinckney said, is the singular vision shared between the Board of Trustees, the National Alumni Association, and the current interim president.

“I just feel strongly that it’s God’s will to get this college up and running again,” Pinckney said.

A LONG ROAD AHEAD

In 2004, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked the college’s accreditation. The school awarded degrees in its adult program to 30 students who did not fulfill proper requirements, the Charlotte Observer previous reported.

This came after problems with financial resources prompted the accreditation organization to issue a warning.

The move cost Barber-Scotia’s ability to participate in federal student financial aid programs. While the school can still give out four-year degrees, a sharp decline in enrollment precipitated continued financial challenges.

A plan to have at least 24 students attend in-person this fall stalled when the school’s buildings didn’t meet the city’s code inspection, Tracey Flemmings, interim president of Barber-Scotia, said.

Despite challenges, the college still has a rich history to offer students as well as relevant curriculum, she said. There are three undergraduate concentrations currently offered: business entrepreneurship, renewable energy and religion.

School leadership outlined four goals in its new strategic plan:

• Strengthen and evaluate current programs through internal academic program reviews and target an enrollment of 20 students per program.
• Build operational capacity with a focus on leadership and financial strength. This includes finding short-term funding through donors in the plan’s first three years to stabilize the school, creating a facilities plan, and focusing on retention of students.


• Growing community trust with Barber-Scotia alumni and the city of Concord.
• Restoring accreditation, which includes establishing committees focused on each of the 17 standards required by Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

“It’s just a matter of doing the legwork now,” Flemmings said. “It’s a process.”

With $12 million in federal debt forgiveness, an additional $2 million remains. This includes a disputed $380,000 debt with the city currently in litigation, according to Pinckney.

Lindsay Manson, Concord’s public affairs and project manager, did not respond to requests for comment.

Restoring accreditation is challenging for any institution, said Timothy Eaton, who heads Virginia-based TRACS.

“It is possible, it’s not probable,” he said.

TRACS tries to meet colleges where they are and then raise them to the appropriate level of compliance, he said. In the early stages, where Barber-Scotia is currently, a compliance officer works with the school.

The best way to get accredited is to limit the degree programs and focus on the school’s skilled personnel, Eaton said. Morris Brown’s recent journey is not easily replicated. That journey included periods of time where school closure seemed inevitable. A core group of people over the years pushed the college across the finish line, he said.

“People think that if Morris Brown did it it must be easy,” Eaton said. “The people at Morris Brown went above and beyond when we talk about sacrifice.”

“WE DO NOT WANT TO SEE OUR SCHOOL CLOSE.”

In the past 20 years, at least six HBCUs have closed, while several others remain open in name only after losing accreditation, according to a New York Times report.

The loss of any HBCU is the loss of rich history for Black people, Day said. It’s also a blow to what has long served as a crucial pipeline for the Black leaders of the future, she added.

Many political leaders have attended HBCU’s: Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Vice President Kamala Harris. Famed civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune was a student at Barber-Scotia College.

“There’s so many people that’s walked those grounds that have made a great impact throughout this world,” Day said. “We do not want to see our school close.”

While the spotlight has shined bright on HBCU’s in the past couple of years, Barber-Scotia has watched from afar. Billionaire Mackenzie Scott donated millions to several historically Black colleges. Nearby in Charlotte, Mayor Vi Lyles’ Racial Equity Initiative has raised over $80 million for Johnson C. Smith University.

Funding is a crucial aspect of this new, five-year plan. In the last six months, alumni have raised $125,000 for Barber-Scotia, according to Day.

The relationship between the National Alumni Association and Barber-Scotia College’s leadership wasn’t always congenial. In 2018, the Board of Trustees sent the Alumni Association a cease and desist demand telling the group to stop its fundraising activities, WSOC-TV previously reported.

A lack of transparency from previous school leadership drove a wedge between alumni and their school, which contributed to poor relations, Day said.

“But we’re not looking back at that anymore,” she said. “We have bridged that gap.”

And now alumni feel there’s momentum behind restoring their beloved school, she said.

“We know it’s going to be a long road, but the key players are at the table and we’re ready to ride down that long road,” Day said.


SOURCE The Charlotte Observer

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