The universities approved for accreditation included Alabama State, Bethune Cookman, Grambling, North Carolina A&T, Prairie View, South Carolina State, Southern University-Baton Rouge, Xavier of New Orleans, Virginia Union and Winston Salem State University in North Carolina.
Universities must seek out accreditation once every 10 years. There are over 80 different standards that campuses must meet to be reaffirmed. Accreditation is important for every university, with some HBCUs struggling to make the mark. The struggle can be linked directly to a lack of resources, leading to many HBCUs hiring professors from other countries to fulfill research requirements. In fact, in business and the sciences, many HBCUs don't have more than one or two African American professors, which seems to defeat the purpose of attending an HBCU in the first place.
The starlet received a degree in English considered pursuing a career in law. However, she decided to get her masters at the prestigious Yale School of Drama instead.
Endorsements by SACS matter primarily for one reason: money. Based on the SACS accreditation, universities are chosen by the federal government for financial aid programs, the economic lifeblood for most HBCUs. It can also make a difference for various types of fund raising, since it directly impacts a university's academic reputation. But even on a shoe string budget, some HBCUs are among the best institutions in the world.
Part of Tennessee State's problem stems from its inability to communicate the effectiveness of it's planning efforts and student assessment. After being placed on warning status, the university has been given time to address the problems raised by the committee. If they address the problems, they will likely be reaffirmed.
Fisk University is not in the same shape as Tennessee State. They recently failed the accreditation process for a second time, and have not properly addressed the problems brought up in the past. The school has until April to file additional information, particularly regarding the school's financial resources and stability. If the school fails again next spring, they may then be placed on probation.
One of the great challenges for Fisk, Tennessee State and other outstanding universities is that they are being evaluated on financial stability, while access to that stability is extremely limited. Unlike larger universities, like Harvard and Yale, who can benefit from hundreds of years of oppression and enslavement of people of color, HBCUs have far less to get them over the tremendous economic humps that come with being a struggling educational institution.
Fisk met controversy earlier this year when it tried to sell a valuable art collection in order to raise necessary funds. A judge ruled that they could sell the collection, but that a large percentage of the money must be put into a special account that goes to maintaining the collection. This prevents the university from using the funds to help with its serious financial problems. For the rich and powerful in a state like Tennessee, preservation of art is far more valuable than helping to preserve an important black university. The state government of Tennessee should be ashamed of its actions.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.