United Methodist College denied accreditation appeal

Hiwassee College, a two-year, United Methodist-related, liberal arts institution in Madisonville, Tenn,. was denied by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) its appeal to keep its accreditation.

Last December, the SACS, a regional accrediting agency, issued the college a notification of a decision to withdraw it from membership with an official notification pending.

With the receipt of the official notification, the college quickly took action to appeal the decision through the official SACS appeal process. And after consideration of a SACS-appointed committee in Atlata, it was announced by SACS that the removal of the college's accreditation was effective as of Feb. 25.

Hiwassee College President James Noseworthy said the college will continue to “pursue all avenues to sustain its vital mission” and is “extremely disappointed in the appeals decision.”

"The college has faithfully served its mission for over 155 years. We are fiscally stronger today than we were in 2000 when this cycle of review began."

According to the president, SACS action is in response to fiscal concerns first raised by the association in 2000, when the college was placed on warning status. Since then, college administrators have worked closely with SACS officials to address these concerns, meeting financial goals and developing long-term fiscal strategies.

Contending in the appeal that its financial resources are sound and capable of sustainability, the college claimed the commission's decision to be both unreasonable and violated procedure.

According to Noseworthy, the college has enhanced the quality of its academic program during the past 21 months and within the past year has increased its end-of-year unrestricted net assets by $262,415.82. A five-year Title III Grant provides the college with $1.8 million in operating funds to improve teaching though the use of technology on campus and integrating technology into classrooms.

“The quality of academics is not the issue. As a mission-driven college, Hiwassee has always lived ‘on the edge’ financially, but the picture painted by SACS is not indicative of our fiscal progress,” Noseworthy said.

“We have always been on the edge financially. We have never been a rich school. We work primarily with lower-income students and financial aid,” he said, adding that 40 percent of its students receive some type of financial aid.

"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," he said.

He has assured the United Methodist Church that the church-related institution takes its "relationship and mission seriously,” remains focused on its “central task and mission of 155 years” and provides “quality, value-centered education” for the young men and young women the school is proud to have as its students.

“We are not giving in,” Noseworthy said. “The board of trustees is 100 percent committed to preserving the college and its mission. We have several options available to us and are leaving no stone unturned.”

The president says the college is pursuing partnerships with other institutions of higher education and other accrediting options, in addition to legal and political options.

“We covet the support of the community, alumni, friends and the United Methodist Church as we aggressively pursue our options,” Noseworthy said. “We continue to solicit funds and recruit students.”

Meanwhile, the spring semester is in session at Hiwassee College and graduation scheduled for May 7.