HBCU Bennett College is poised to maintain accreditation status after debt scare
According to Essence, Bennett College, one of the last historically Black women’s colleges, is on the road to recovery after almost losing its status as a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges in late December. The problems with Bennett College’s finances began earnestly with the financial crisis of 2008, when the university had been in debt for the past 12 years. This eventually led its accreditor, SACS, to vote them out of membership, citing that their probation could not be extended for another year. Their only option was to appeal the decision of the board, which they did last month, and now they are awaiting a hearing in February to decide if their accreditation will stand.
However, the Greensboro, North Carolina university did manage to raise $8 million this past Monday, well over the $5 million amount originally cited by Bennett president Phyllis Dawkins, thanks to a social media campaign headed by the Smollett family, which includes actor Jussie Smollett, several large donations from backers and support from High Point University, also located in North Carolina.
The lack of state funding or lack of funds is a common theme with HBCUs, and they are often woefully underfunded in comparison to other universities in their states. Other HBCUs such as Spelman and Morehouse also got behind Bennett College, helping to boost the visibility of their shared cause.
According to Marybeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, the history of discrimination in public and private funding against HBCUs like Bennett College is long. “If you’ve been underfunded for the majority of your existence you are not going to have the same funding as other colleges,” Gasman told CBS News.