ITC placed on warning by accrediting agency

“We have measures in place and in process with our board, staff, and faculty to ensure that this warning will be short-lived,” Matthew Wesley Williams, president of Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center, wrote after the move by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. (Contributed)

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“We have measures in place and in process with our board, staff, and faculty to ensure that this warning will be short-lived,” Matthew Wesley Williams, president of Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center, wrote after the move by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. (Contributed)

Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center was recently placed on warning status by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

As a result, the school’s application for reaffirmation with one of its two accreditors was temporarily denied. ITC, though, remains accredited with SACSCOC and also with its primary accrediting agency, the Association of Theological Schools.

President Matthew Wesley Williams said the action was not unexpected.

“We knew what we inherited,” said Williams during a telephone interview. “Where we are is not where we were.”

Williams said the warning has no impact on students: They will continue to receive financial aid, degrees are fully viable and “they’re enrolling as we speak. This is a warning that gives us a period of time to respond to SACS’ concerns.”

He said the field of theological education is undergoing a period of destabilization. Free-standing institutions like ITC, he said, are trying to find their way forward by doing such things as changing academic programs and institutional models.

The time period reviewed by the accrediting body, Williams said, “was largely prior to the beginning of the implementation of a top-to bottom overhaul of the institution. We knew where their timeline stopped in terms of their assessment.”

SACSCOC is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the South.

In a message on the school’s website, Williams said ITC received the news “with sober acknowledgment and steely resolve.”

“We have measures in place and in process with our board, staff, and faculty to ensure that this warning will be short-lived,” wrote Williams, who was recently installed as the institution’s 11th president and, at 45, its youngest.

A representative for SACSCOC could not be reached for comment, but on its website, it said that the next review will be in December 2022.

According to the SACSCOC disclosure statement, ITC was placed on warning because it was determined that the school had failed to demonstrate compliance with standards in several areas, including financial resources, student outcomes and educational programs.

ITC is a consortium of five predominantly African American denominational Christian seminaries. The denominations represented include United Methodist, Christian Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal, Baptist and Church of God in Christ.

It’s not the first time ITC has been given that status.

In 2011, it was given a warning by SACSCOC.

It was placed on probation in 2013. That probation was lifted in 2015, according to SACSCOC.

Williams earned a master’s of divinity degree from ITC in 2004. Currently, ITC has 237 students, down from roughly 400 in the early 2000s, according to a previous article in The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Williams previously outlined what he called “ITC 2.0.″ It’s designed to move the historic institution, which was chartered in 1958, into the future.

A new board was seated in May 2020. The number of board members was reduced from 44 to 22, and the composition was broadened to include various areas of expertise and professional achievement. For instance, among the new board members are Robert Rumley III, a managing director and wealth adviser with William Blair’s Private Wealth Management group; and Lula Ballton, an expert in community and economic development.

Williams also revised the bylaws and overhauled the executive leadership of the institution. The school now has two consecutive years of operating surplus after years of being in the red.

Additionally, the institution has received several major grants as well as two private, anonymous donations of $500,000 each.

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