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Barber-Scotia College is at best about a decade away from accreditation

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Barber-Scotia College

As Concord and Barber-Scotia College work to plan the future of the college, the hope was to work the college back to its former academic status, including accreditation. But that plan looks to be about a decade away, at best. 

CONCORD — Barber-Scotia College is, at a minimum, eight years away from accreditation, despite public comments from college officials stating it is only a few years away.

The college, which was first a female seminary in 1867, lost its accreditation in 2004 with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) for reportedly awarding degrees to students who didn’t fulfill all degree requirements. According to the Presbyterian News Service, the college chose not to appeal the decision due to financial concerns — it could have cost the already struggling college about $15,000.

After the loss of accreditation, the college’s president at the time, Gloria Bromell-Tinubu, stated that the college would work toward accreditation with SACS or another institution.

Since then, the college has not obtained accreditation status.

Recently, representatives of the college have said publicly that Barber-Scotia is only one to two years away from accreditation, but that does not appear to be the case.

The Independent Tribune reached out to Barber-Scotia College for an interview regarding its accreditation interest and sent a list of questions about the college’s current student enrollment and course offerings, but did not receive a reply.

Concord-Barber-Scotia collaboration

In an effort to revitalize the college, Barber-Scotia and the city of Concord agreed to collaborate to forge a path for the future with an agreement in February.

The collaboration states that one of the major goals is to keep the college’s education mission, recognizing it as a higher education institution. To keep the city involved, the collaboration agreement welcomes the city to non-closed meetings with the college that discuss reaccreditation.

The college is also welcome to public meetings discussing the Logan Community and the college. At those public meetings, representatives of the college have said that the college is only a couple years away from receiving accreditation. Representatives have also mentioned that the college is pursuing accreditation from the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).

The question of accreditation

The Independent Tribune contacted ABHE and asked if Barber-Scotia College is currently an applicant or is anywhere in the accreditation process. A person with ABHE’s accreditation department stated that the college had called to inquire about accreditation but had not started the process as of July.

The ABHE employee confirmed that the process takes an average of eight to 10 years before a school receives accreditation. Meaning, if Barber-Scotia started the process right now, it would take about a decade. And that timeframe is fairly consistent with most accreditation processes in other organizations.

The college did not respond to questions about whether it is pursuing accreditation through other agencies.

While researching the topic, the Independent Tribune spoke with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) about the accreditation process and learned that if a purported accreditation agency gives a quick timeframe for accreditation, the organization could be an accreditation mill.

According to the DOE, an accreditation mill is a fake agency that offers its accreditation for a fee without an in-depth review of the school’s programs or teachers. The fake agency also doesn’t investigate the quality of the school’s education courses or departments.

The ability to grant degrees

While Barber-Scotia is not an accredited college, it is allowed to grant degrees to students.

Accreditation is optional, but licensure for degree activity is required.

In order for the college to be legally allowed to award degrees, it either needs a license or a license exemption.

The UNC board of governors is granted the authority by the state to give licenses to post-secondary education institutions to grant degrees. That also includes nonpublic institutions like Barber-Scotia.

While it is required by law for all nonpublic post-secondary institutions to have a license, there are four categories of exemptions for institutes:

Barber-Scotia College falls in the fourth category: to be an institution that has operated in the state under the same name or series of names prior to July 1, 1972.

Barber-Scotia was first chartered in 1867, putting it well before the 1972 date. While the Independent Tribune could not find where the college was listed as exempt, a UNC board of governors representative confirmed the status this week.

However, the exemption states that an institution needs to have continuously conducted post-secondary degree activity since the 1972 date. In the spring semester of the 2015-16 school year, the college closed. It is unclear if the college would have needed to apply for the exemption again when it reopened the following fall.

The benefit of accreditation

One of the major benefits of a college having accreditation is students’ ability to receive federal financial aid.

When the college lost its accreditation in 2004, more than 90% of its reported 600 students received some sort of federal aid, but then lost it. Without accreditation, students can’t apply for any federal aid. According to the DOE, the college had about 600 enrolled students in 2004, but in 2005, that number dropped to 91. The last documented report of enrolled students was in 2009, with 120 students. In the 2016-17 school year when the college reopened, the school said it enrolled about a dozen students.

According to the college’s website, the tuition is $14,500 — the site did not state if that amount is annual or by semester. Room and board is another $7,500, and that does not include books and other materials needed for classes.

Assuming those amounts are annual, a student will pay upward of $22,000 a year to attend, and only have access to private grants and loans. Private loans tend to have less favorable terms and conditions compared with federal aid, like higher interest rates, and private loans cannot be subsidized, meaning students will also accrue interest while in school.

The college does state that it recently created the Cozart-McLean Scholarships to cover the tuition. But Barber-Scotia representatives did not respond to questions about how many students can be awarded this scholarship nor how many students so far have received it.

Accreditation also helps students who want to go on to postgraduate degree work. Students from unaccredited colleges and universities often have difficulty or are completely unable to transfer credits to postgraduate programs.

The city approved $215,000 in funding for the Barber-Scotia Property Task Force to work with Nexsen Pruet LLC on this project.

During the pandemic, the city and Nexsen Pruet conducted community feedback groups with local leaders and put out a community survey for ideas about the college’s future. Those results were made public in June. It showed 72.5% of respondents thought education should be a main component of any revitalization effort.

Since the city is welcomed to meetings about the college’s accreditation, it looks like the city hopes the college will obtain accreditation.

This story is the first in a series that will look into the future plans and current state of Barber-Scotia College.

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