One day after internal documents detailing financial and infrastructural issues challenges at Saint Augustine’s University were published in the HBCU Digest, university president Everett Ward says that the school is “alive and well,” and prepared to resolve its accreditation issues this fall.
In multiple interviews with local television outlets and with Inside Higher Ed, Dr. Ward offers context into the school’s efforts to rectify its current probationary accreditation status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Colleges.
Saint Augustine’s expects to enroll between 975 and 1,000 students in the upcoming fall semester, with about 400 freshmen, Ward said. That would be consistent with 974 undergraduates listed as enrolled at the university in the fall of 2017 by the U.S. Education Department’s College Navigator site — although it would be down from 2010 and 2011, when the university enrolled about 1,500 students. The expected number of freshmen would be a substantial uptick from the 122 student deposits on the leaked July report.
The university’s enrollment picture is changing fast, according to Ward. Many students work until the last minute to line up enough funding to attend, and internal documents are updated frequently.
“That is not a document that should be judged as an affirmative number at all,” Ward said. “Even if you have a document dated July 20, that document could have been circulated at 8 a.m. on July 20, and by 5 o’clock it could be a totally different set of numbers.”
When contacted by the HBCU Digest for comment on the anonymously released documents detailing executive and consultant concern over the school’s future, Dr. Ward and SAU Board of Trustees Vice Chairman James E.C. Perry affirmed the school’s commitment to resolving its accreditation issues, but declined to provide additional details.
“It is a fact that since January, this administration, in total transparency, has made our internal and external stakeholders fully aware of all aspects of the accreditation process,” said Dr. Ward. “As we communicated then, Saint Augustine’s University remains committed to serving our students with the highest academic standards possible and being in full compliance with the regional accrediting body, The Commission on Colleges of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. As President of Saint Augustine’s University, I remain excited and extremely optimistic about the students of this university and the future and viability of this 151-year-old institution of higher learning.”
“The board of trustees fully support Dr. Ward and the administration,” Perry said. “As a board, we are committed to resolving accreditation compliance issues and remain confident that each issue will be in compliance with SACSCOC standards. The board continues to be engaged with the administration in the accreditation process and looks forward to Saint Augustine’s University being removed from probationary status.”