The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools announced it had revoked Bennett College’s accreditation Friday. But late in the day a federal court in Atlanta, Georgia granted a restraining order that will allow the college to remain accredited as the suit proceeds.
“We urge everyone to keep the faith and know that Bennett College is standing strong,” said Bennett President Phyllis Worthy Dawkins in an evening press conference.
As the college fights to maintain its accreditation with the association, it is also pursuing accreditation through the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Dawkins said.
Representatives from that organization will visit the campus on March 14.
Bennett needs accreditation in order for its students to receive federal student aid, including loans and Pell Grants.
Despite a high-profile two month fundraising drive that raised almost $10 million, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools said Bennett came to the end of its two-year probation without being able to demonstrate “sound financial resources and a demonstrated, stable base to support the mission of the institution and the scope of its programs and services.”
A small historically black private college for women in Greensboro, Bennett a long history of operating on the financial edge. The school posted a financial loss for six consecutive years until 2016, when Dawkins became its leader. This year, before its emergency fundraising drive, the college had projected a $700,00 surplus.
The school currently owes about $30 million related to new buildings and renovations and has only $13 million in its endowment, the fund that is often seen as a key indicator of a college’s financial health.
The college saw a 40 percent decline in student enrollment between 2010 and 2016, its period of greatest financial crisis. It currently has just over 400 undergraduate students. College officials say the national headlines about its struggles and the energy generated to support the school has led to 4,000 applications for the coming fall semester – about twice as many as usual.