Paine College hopes ruling sparks resolution in accreditation dispute

Paine College leaders said Friday a court ruling validates its position in its ongoing fight to retain its accreditation and now hopes to settle the dispute for good.

The Augusta college sued the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges in 2016 when it attempted to revoke Paine’s accreditation, citing concerns about its finances and an enrollment decline. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Thrash on Friday handed down a split decision and gave Paine 30 days to seek an appeal that will allow to college to maintain its accreditation until the lawsuit is adjudicated.

Paine leaders considered Thrash’s ruling a victory as the college celebrates Founder’s Day this weekend. One key leader said he hopes Paine can strike an agreement with the commission to keep its accreditation, saying the college’s finances have improved and enrollment is up.

“It’s time for all parties to look at what’s in the best interest of our students and resolve this,” DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Michael Thurmond, the college’s board chairman-elect, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond. AJC FILE PHOTO.

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The college’s enrollment dropped to 425 students when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution visited the campus in late 2017 as part of its three-part series on the future of Historically Black Colleges & Universities. The college’s president, Jerry Hardee, said late last year that Paine had about 500 students.

Paine was granted “candidacy status” in November by the Texas-based Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) accrediting commission. Paine describes itself as a “church-related, liberal arts institution.” The college would still like to be accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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