United Methodist-related Hiwassee College has been temporarily restored back to its accredited status after being granted a restraining order from the U.S. District Court in Knoxville on March 17.
Hiwassee College is a two-year liberal arts institution in Madisonville, Tenn., which was stripped away of its accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) last Dec. and denied of its appeal to keep its accreditation in Feb.
The restraining order, according to the United Methodist Church News Service(UMCNS), came from Judge Thomas Varlan and was extended at a hearing on March 21.
Under the order, Hiwassee's membership and accreditation with SACS is to be reinstated until the accrediting body makes decision to change the venue to the Atlanta Federal Court based on a "forum selection clause" in the association's bylaws.
The ruling date for the change of venue is yet to be determined.
"This is good news," said the Rev. James Noseworthy, Hiwassee college president. "Until the hearing, the TRO restores Hiwassee College to status as a member of SACS, restoring our accreditation and our students' eligibility for financial aid."
The college started to take legal action on March 10 by filing a request with the Knoxville Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee seeking "preliminary and permanent injunctive relief against SACS."
The reason for the decision to remove the college from membership, according to SACS, was said to be based on their perception that the college "does not have adequate financial resources to sustain its mission."
The College contends itself to be financially sound and sufficient to sustain its mission and wants to challenge SACS' decision.
We are satisfied with this step," Noseworthy said. "Ultimately, the college is seeking permanent injunctive relief against SACS. I believe we will be successful."
In addition, Dr. Noseworthy said restored accreditation also ensures the transferability of academic credits, "no matter what," noting that the school is currently working with major colleges and universities on this matter, according to the college press release.
"Hiwassee College has always had a strong academic program that is well-respected in the world of higher education," said Noseworthy.
"The support we have received from these fine institutions demonstrates a vote of confidence in our ability to serve and sustain our mission of providing a quality, values-centered education to students."