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Saint Paul’s to resume classes with court ruling

SoVaNow.com / September 05, 2012
Saint Paul’s College, reversing an earlier decision, announced yesterday it will resume fall classes starting September 24. The change came when the school learned that its accreditation with Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) was temporarily reinstated.

Registration for both new and returning students will begin Friday, Sept. 21, and end Friday, Sept. 28.

At this time, school officials do not know if any of the nearly 200 Saint Paul’s students who transferred away from the school after the SACS decision will choose to return.

Just two weeks ago, Saint Paul’s Board of Trustees announced it was suspending all classes except those for returning students in the Adult Accelerated Degree Completion Program (ADCP). Classes for those students began Aug. 13.

At that time, Kimberly Tetlow, vice president for Institutional Advancement said the decision to discontinue day classes was “a difficult one to make, but we felt it was in the best interest of our students.” The school chose to help students transfer, because they did not want to jeopardize the students’ opportunity to graduate from an accredited college.

On Aug. 29, a federal district court Judge in Atlanta issued a preliminary injunction that reinstates Saint Paul’s accreditation while it pursues a legal challenge against SACS which, in June, revoked the school’s accreditation. SACS and Saint Paul’s College jointly agreed to the issuance of the order.

“The reinstatement of accreditation allows students to continue their course work and to continue flourishing in the Saint Paul’s environment. This reinstatement also allows Saint Paul’s to continue improvements to its operations while avoiding disaster that would have occurred without this reinstatement,” said Dr. Claude Flythe, president and CEO of Saint Paul’s College.

SACS’ initial decision to revoke the school’s accreditation was based on a review of Saint Paul’s, which highlighted continuing deficiencies in several of its accreditation standards, especially in the area of financial stability. These deficiencies were first identified in 2010, and the school was given two years to rectify the problems.

By 2011, Saint Paul’s hired a new president and CEO Eddie N. Moore Jr., a former president of Virginia State, and two time SACS trustee, and launched an aggressive fund raising campaign. Saint Paul’s raised near $5 million in six months.

Moore worked miracles, said Board Chairman, Dr. Oliver W. Spencer, Jr. said of the fundraising efforts.

Spencer expressed his pleasure with the decision of the federal district court: “I know I speak for the Board as well as our vast alumni network in saying that we are pleased that our accreditation has been preserved and that Saint Paul’s can continue to serve an important role in Southside Virginia’s economic revitalization.”

The next step for Saint Paul’s, according to Dr. Belle Wheelan, President of SACSCOC, is to show that either SACS did not follow its own procedures when denying the reaffirmation of the school’s accreditation, or that the actions of the accreditation committee and SACS Board were arbitrary and capricious.

Ashley L. Taylor Jr., counsel for Saint Paul’s and a partner with Troutman Sanders LLP in Richmond, said, “Our pleadings in this case explain how SACS failed to consider certain critical information.” Taylor said that with the injunction in place, Saint Paul’s could pursue all steps necessary to regain its accreditation with SACS.

For now, Vanessa Minter has asked that all persons interested in enrolling at Saint Paul’s College contact the Office of the Registrar for additional information at (434) 848-1801.

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