CHRISTIAN NEWS

Seven Christian Colleges Run into Accreditation Issues

Seven Christian colleges were among 13 institutions losing their accreditation, receiving sanctions or warnings or losing their membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

6/26/2014

Seven Christian colleges – including one led by a former Muslim – were among 13 southern United States institutions of higher learning losing their accreditation, receiving sanctions or warnings or losing their membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at the June meeting of the accrediting group’s board of trustees.
 
Is accreditation important? “To ensure that your degree will be recognized as legitimate by employers, the program in which you enroll must be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation,” advises the website Online MBA. “Both organizations keep a comprehensive list of all accrediting agencies on their websites. The lists include regional, national and programmatic accreditation agencies, and the recognized agencies have approved more than 7,000 institutions in the United States.”
 
The Southern Association of Colleges is one of six accreditation agencies representing different U.S. regions: New England, North Central, Middle, Southern, Western and Northwest. 
 
In the SAC trustees’ strongest action, accreditation was revoked at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Georgia, where Dr. Ergun Caner was appointed president in December. 
 
“The college commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has voted to strip Brewton-Parker College of its accreditation, putting the institution's eligibility for federal financial aid -- and perhaps its future – at risk,” reported the website Inside Higher Ed.
 
 “Caner, the first former Muslim to lead an evangelical seminary,” reported Ruth Moon of Christianity Today magazine, “served as head of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary for five years.”
 
“The following institution was removed from membership,” stated a news release from the southern colleges accrediting association, “Brewton-Parker College, Mount Vernon, Georgia, for failure to comply with Core Requirement 2.11.1 (Financial resources), Comprehensive Standard 3.10.1 (Financial stability), Comprehensive Standard 3.10.3 (Control of finances) and Federal Requirement 4.7 (Title IV program responsibilities) of the Principles of Accreditation. (Because the institution had been on Probation for two years, the institution was ineligible for continued accreditation for good cause.)”
 
In a strong statement on the college’s website, Peter Lumpkins, Vice President of Communications said  the school is appealing the decision – and was confident it would be overturned with a restoration of full accreditation: 
 
“Brewton-Parker College, a Christian college affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention, received the news today that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Committee on Colleges (SACSCOC) voted to remove the college from membership. The action by the Executive  Committee on Thursday followed a formal interview by the college’s key leaders in San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday afternoon.
 
The statement said President Caner relayed the  news to the board of trustees by email first, and then shared the news in a meeting for all staff,  faculty and administration.  
 
“Of course we are disappointed in the decision of the Executive Committee of SACS COC taken today,” Dr. Caner said. “{Brewton-Parker College has been accredited by SACS for over fifty years (since 1962) and today is another step in the arduous journey that we have traveled since 2009.” 
 
“We have taken immediate steps to challenge this ruling and stay the loss of accreditation.  First, we must remain focused and avoid thinking our case is lost. Brewton-Parker College remains  accredited but on probation today. 
 
“Second, Brewton-Parker College has 10 days to file an appeal with  SACS at their headquarters. And, since we believe that we have surpassed all the recommendations  given by SACS in the June 2013 meeting, and since the four recommendations were financial in nature,  our right to an appeal in August of this year will be exercised after we receive the official notification from SACS. We remain confident this most recent ruling will be reversed then, and all parties shall be satisfied with the conclusion.”
 
He added, “I want to assure our faculty, staff, alumni and students that we are  pursuing all legal means and will take every legal step available to us to maintain our status.”
 
Dr. Caner is no stranger to controversy.  He was born in Sweden in 1966, the son of a Turkish national and a Swede. The family immigrated to the Ohio in 1969, then was split by divorce in 1978. His father obtained a court order that the boy be raised Muslim, but his mother successfully fought that provision, winning a court order that his religious instruction should be "according to the desires of each parent" whenever he was in their shared custody. 
 
He became Southern Baptist as a teen and in 2002 gained national attention by publishing a bestselling book, Unveiling Islam, which described being raised as a devout Sunni under his father's tutelage. He became a popular speaker at evangelical schools and churches. After teaching at Criswell College for two years, Jerry Falwell of Liberty University asked Caner to join the faculty in Lynchburg, Virginia. Caner quickly became a popular professor. In February 2005, Falwell announced that Caner was to be the first former Muslim to become the President and Dean of an evangelical seminary, making Caner head of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Under Caner's leadership, Liberty Seminary’s enrollment tripled.
 
He left Liberty Baptist in 2010 amid controversy that he was “self-contradictory” in public statements about his background. Christian and Muslim bloggers accused him of misstating portions of his life story, including claims that he had grown up in Turkey, when he came to Ohio from Sweden at age three. 
 
He then served as a vice president at Arlington Baptist Theological Seminary, where detractors posted videos of his public testimony on YouTube. In a press release announcing Caner's appointment in December, Brewton-Parker trustees said they chose Caner because "he has endured relentless and pagan attacks like a warrior. We need a warrior as our next president."
 
In other action by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, a total of 13 colleges and universities were informed of “negative actions,” which included warnings of possible probation. 
 
SACS placed four institutions on probation – Louisiana College, Newberry College, Paine College and South Carolina State University. Other schools were merely warned.
 
South Carolina State, one of numerous public historically black institutions facing financial difficulties, was cited by SACS for governing board conflicts of interest and board/administration structure as well as financial stability and controls.
 
The Christian schools cited were:
 
Allen University, founded as an African Methodist Episcopal institution in Columbia, South Carolina is a private, coeducational historically Black university with about 600 students. It was cited “for twelve months for failure to comply with Core Requirement 2.2 (Governing board), Core Requirement 2.11.1 (Financial resources), Comprehensive Standard 3.2.2.2, (Governing board control: fiscal stability of the institution), Comprehensive Standard, 3.10.1 (Financial stability), Comprehensive Standard 3.10.3 (Control of finances), Comprehensive Standard 3.10.4 (Control of sponsored research/external funds), Federal Requirement 4.1(Student achievement), and Federal Requirement 4.7 (Title IV program responsibilities) of the Principles of Accreditation.”
 
Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, was chartered in 1829, the first Baptist college west of the Allegheny Mountains. It was cited for failure to comply with financial standards. 
Kentucky Wesleyan College, a Methodist school in Owensboro, Kentucky, was cited for financial standards issues.
 
Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana, which was placed on probation for a year, has been in and out of trouble in recent years amid a series of governance and other issues dating back a decade. Affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, it serves approximately 1,300 students. 
 
Newberry College, a co-educational, private liberal-arts college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Newberry, South Carolina. The college has 1,042 students. It was cited for financial standards issues.
 
Paine College, a Methodist school in Augusta, Georgia  was cited “for failure to comply with Core Requirement 2.2 (Governing board), Core Requirement 2.11.1 (Financial resources), Comprehensive Standard 3.2.2.2 (Governing board control: fiscal stability of the institution), Comprehensive Standard 3.2.2.3 (Governing board control: institutional policy), Comprehensive Standard 3.2.8 (Qualified administrative/academic officers), Comprehensive Standard 3.10.1 (Financial stability), Comprehensive Standard 3.10.3 (Control of finances), Comprehensive Standard 3.10.4 (Control of sponsored research/external funds), Comprehensive Standard 3.11.2 (Institutional environment), and Federal Requirements 4.7 (Title IV program responsibilities) of the Principles of Accreditation. The Committee authorized a special committee to visit the institution.” 
 
 
Publication date: June 26, 2014

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