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As freshmen move in, questions linger about how long St. Aug’s will remain open

August 9, 2018

As students moved in to start their college careers Wednesday, there was an undercurrent of concern at St. Augustine’s University.

If Dr. Everett Ward is worried, he’s not showing it. As president of St. Augustine’s University, he’s focused on the start of a new semester as freshman move in.

Freshmen are ready to get started at the school, but some are questioning whether they’ll be able to finish their college careers at the university.

“We are going for our fourth monitoring report. We are in a probationary status, but we are very confident that St. Augustine’s will maintain its accreditation,” Ward said.

SACS is the accrediting body that St. Augustine’s must answer to. Ward acknowledges they’ve faced years of financial and enrollment challenges, but said the numbers are looking up.

“Our goal is to be around the average of 1,000 students and, guess what, we’re on target,” he said.

In recent years, university enrollment numbers hovered just below the 1,000 student goal. The lowest enrollment reported in the last four years was in 2015, when the university had a total of 810 students.

In 2016, the university saw an increase to 944 students and another jump in 2017 brought it to 974 students.

“We set ourselves an early goal last year to raise $2 million in one of our special categories. We raised $2.3 million,” Ward said of the school’s financial situation.

Still, the probationary status stands, which is a glaring reality for the more than 80 percent of students who receive Pell Grants. Losing accreditation would mean losing those funds.

“That’s why we are working so hard as administration, as alumni to make certain that we do not lose that accreditation,” Ward said.

SACS will be at the university in the fall. Ward says they’ll present their numbers to the commission in December, which is when the decision about accreditation will be made.

According to the Center for Education Statistics, the number of HBCU students increased 47 percent between 1976 and 2010, but decreased by 11 percent between 2010 and 2016.

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