GREENSBORO — The president of Bennett College said Monday she remains confident that the private women’s college will keep its current accreditation.
Phyllis Worthy Dawkins presented the college’s formal appeal Monday morning to a panel of former Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges trustees.
At that meeting, Dawkins said the appeals panel heard about Bennett’s recent fundraising success as well as a plan to re-engineer the college.
“We are hopeful for a favorable outcome,” Dawkins said in a statement that the college sent out Monday afternoon.
Bennett’s fate won’t be decided immediately. The appeals panel will notify Bennett of its ruling by next Monday. If the panel says the commission should reconsider Bennett’s accreditation status, the full SACSCOC board of trustees won’t make a final decision until its next meeting in June.
Dawkins, according to the Bennett College news release, said the college “presented a strong case” for keeping its accreditation.
Monday’s appeal focused largely on two recent developments. Bennett announced Feb. 4 it had raised $8.2 million — well above its $5 million goal — from more than 11,000 donors in less than two months. The Stand With Bennett campaign has collected $9.5 million since mid-December, according to its website.
Bennett also said it has appointed a committee to help consider changes to make the college viable over the long term. The college hasn’t yet made public specific details about its re-engineering effort.
According to the college, Dawkins, four other Bennett staff members and trustees, an attorney and state Sen. Gladys Robinson, the chairwoman of Bennett’s Board of Trustees, made the trip to Atlanta for the hearing. The commission that accredits institutions of higher learning throughout the Southeast is based in an Atlanta suburb.
Bennett had been on probation for the two previous years — the most allowed under the commission’s rules — largely because of financial issues. The college posted annual budget deficits for six straight years until the 2017-18 academic year, largely because of a steep decline in enrollment.
The college has about 410 students on campus for the spring semester and says it has received 4,000 applications for admission for next fall’s first-year class. Bennett got about 2,000 freshman applications a year ago.
If Bennett loses its appeal, college leaders have said the school will sue the commission and seek accreditation from another agency. Colleges and universities must be accredited to receive federal Pell grants and federal student loans as payment for tuition and other college expenses.
Bennett has kept its SACSCOC accreditation throughout the appeals process.