Methodist-Related College to Appeal Loss of Accreditation

Hiwassee College, a two-year liberal arts institution related to the United Methodist Church, said it plans to appeal a pending decision to remove its accreditation. The college was notified on Dec. 6 that it’s membership from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) may be revoked.

According to the Rev. James Noseworthy, Hiwassee College president for the past 22 months, Hiwassee plans to file the appeal once official notification is made in January. Also, since Hiwassee will appeal the decision, the SACS action will be suspended until the appeals process is cleared in March 2005.

"When official notification is received, the college will appeal the decision through the official SACS appeal process and take any other actions necessary," said Noseworthy. "We have made tremendous progress as an institution over the last several years and believe the SACS action is unjust."

Noseworthy told the United Methodist News Service (UMNS) that SACS decided to revoke membership because of “fiscal concerns first raised by the association in 2000, when the college was placed on warning.”

"Hiwassee College has dealt with fiscal challenges for several years," Noseworthy said. "There is no easily identifiable single event which led to our current challenge. All of my predecessors endeavored to do what they believed was best for the college.”

According to the UMNS, “college officials have worked extensively with SACS officials to address these concerns, meeting financial goals and developing long-term fiscal strategies.”

Noseworthy agreed, saying, "The decision is extremely disappointing in light of all the progress we have made. We are better off financially than we have ever been in many years. In the past year alone, we increased our endowment by $1.5 million and improved our operating assets by $200,000. We have the grounds to build a very strong appeals case."

"Hiwassee’s academic program is of the highest quality," Noseworthy added. "There is no issue with Hiwassee’s academic program or the integrity of the faculty or current college leadership. As we anticipate the start of the appeals process, the college remains fully accredited and students remain fully eligible for all financial aid."

Ken Yamada, a staff executive at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry told the UMNS that he is deeply “disappointed” over SACS’ decision.

"One hundred and fifty five years of the history of Hiwassee College proves its unique and distinct accomplishments nurturing the powerful and dynamic leaders for the church and the world,” said Yamada, who added that his “division will provide President Noseworthy and Hiwassee College all assistance necessary in the appeal and join him in exploring viable options.”

SACS is the accrediting body for institutions of higher education that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degrees in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

On Dec. 7, SACS placed a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)-related college on probation for violating the agency’s standards. The Louisiana College in Pineville, La., said the school was placed on probation because of leadership issues; SACS maintains that a member college must not be controlled by members of any one group.

"The committee concluded, based upon extensive interviews with members of the board of trustees, senior staff and faculty that a significant portion of the board of trustees of Louisiana College are influenced if not controlled by the agenda of the Louisiana Inerrancy Fellowship and the Louisiana Baptist Convention," the SACS report read.

According to a statement released by Louisiana College, interim school President John Traylor, said the school will work to get off probation.

"It is my opinion that SACS is calling on the institution to recognize the seriousness of the accrediting standards. Trustees, administration and faculty must take the steps necessary to move the college into full compliance, lest we lose membership in SACS," the statement read.

"The entire college community -- trustees, administration, faculty -- have committed themselves to the actions necessary to bring Louisiana College into compliance with the standards of accreditation."