Episcopal Church’s Support for HBCUs Cited in Turnaround by Saint Augustine’s University

The Episcopal Church’s longtime support for historically black colleges and universities was credited this week in a major success story in Raleigh, North Carolina. Saint Augustine’s University, a school the church helped establish more than 150 years ago, announced that its accrediting agency had taken the institution off probation, indicating that it finally had turned the corner on its financial struggles and enrollment decline.

Saint Augustine’s President Everett Ward sounded euphoric at a press conference Dec. 11 to present the good news.

“By God’s grace, I am here today and can report to you that we have saved Saint Augustine’s University,” Ward said, according to the News & Observer. In a subsequent press release, Ward touted a “turnaround strategy” that drew support from alumni, faculty students and community partners.

“I would like to especially highlight and thank the Episcopal Church for its unwavering support,” Ward said in the press release. “From Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s letters and encouragement, to the church’s HBCU committee and their consultants’ foundational, administrative, and advisory support, and to all who offered gifts of prayer as well as financial contributions.”

The Episcopal Church at one point supported 11 HBCUs in Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. By 1976, only three remained, and in 2013, one of those three, Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia, also folded.

The two survivors are Saint Augustine’s and the much smaller Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina. The Episcopal Church has invested millions of dollars in the two schools in recent years while also providing administrative guidance and fundraising support. Voorhees’ accreditation was not in doubt, but in 2016, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ accrediting board placed Saint Augustine’s on probation because of concerns about its financial security.

When the board met last weekend, the stakes were high for Saint Augustine’s. Losing accreditation could have dealt a devastating and potentially fatal blow to the school. Instead, the board decided to renew Saint Augustine’s accreditation for 10 years.

“It’s really a wonderful time, not only for Saint Aug’s, but the church can be very proud that one of its institutions will continue to provide quality education for students and support for their families and continue to exist for the years to come,” the Rev. Martini Shaw told Episcopal News Service by phone after the announcement.

The Episcopal Church at one point supported 11 HBCUs in Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. By 1976, only three remained, and in 2013, one of those three, Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia, also folded.

The two survivors are Saint Augustine’s and the much smaller Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina. The Episcopal Church has invested millions of dollars in the two schools in recent years while also providing administrative guidance and fundraising support. Voorhees’ accreditation was not in doubt, but in 2016, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ accrediting board placed Saint Augustine’s on probation because of concerns about its financial security.

When the board met last weekend, the stakes were high for Saint Augustine’s. Losing accreditation could have dealt a devastating and potentially fatal blow to the school. Instead, the board decided to renew Saint Augustine’s accreditation for 10 years.

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Source: Episcopal News Service