Dr. Charles W. Simmons (Courtesy photo)
Sojourner-Douglas College, which faces closure on Tuesday following the loss of its accreditation, plans to file an injunction against the Middle States Commission on Higher Education on Monday, Dr. Charles W. Simmons, president of the school, told the AFRO.
The Baltimore-based school once had campuses in places such as the Bahamas and The Virgin Islands but is now located only in Maryland. It will graduate what could be its last class, numbering about 250, on Saturday.
The 42-year-old Sojourner-Douglas serves a community of older and mostly part-time, students seeking practical degrees in subjects such as business, nursing and criminal justice. The school has an emphasis on African history.
Due to budget cuts in the federal Pell Grants program and the imposition of a lifetime cap of six years on receiving the grants, Sojourner-Douglas lost about $8 million in funding over the past several years. That financial loss is what the Middle States Commission cited in withdrawing its accreditation.
While there was talk earlier this year of a deal between Sojourner-Douglas and Stratford University, a for-profit institution based in Virginia; that would have made Sojourner-Douglas part of the Stratford system, Dr. Simmons said that deal “didn’t happen.”
Instead, the school will file an injunction arguing that the Middle States Commission did not do its job.
“The agency acted capriciously and didn’t follow its own guidelines in the accreditation process,” said Simmons. The Commission did not respond to a request for comment.
Should the injunction fail, “We’ll still fight,” said Simmons. He pointed to Morris Brown College in Atlanta as a possible way for Sojourner-Douglas to survive. Morris Brown, a historically Black college, lost its accreditation in 2002 following a financial scandal. In 2014, the school sold most of its land to the city of Atlanta and Friendship Baptist Church, a historically Black church. While Morris Brown has yet to regain its accreditation, it has been graduating students. However, there were reportedly only 21 graduates this year.
Simmons will address the student body on Saturday. One of the themes he will emphasize is empowering the Black community by developing Black institutions, shopping at Black businesses and hiring Black workers.
“We will continue to inspire. Even if we go out of business, it won’t erase what we’ve done,” said Simmons.