Oglethorpe's accreditation reaffirmed

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirmed Oglethorpe University's accreditation for 10 years, saying the college has fixed its financial problems.

Tuesday's decision means the private liberal arts college sheds the "warning" status it had for the past two years because of budget concerns.  Warning status is the lesser of two sanctions institutions face when non-compliant.

"Oglethorpe presented enough evidence that the commission feels they are now in compliance," said Belle Wheelan, president of the group's Commission on Colleges.

Accreditation shows that a college meets widely accepted standards and allows its students to be eligible for federal financial aid. Oglethorpe was fully accredited while in warning status.

Oglethorpe President Larry Schall said the SACS ruling reflects the improvements the college has made.

The college ended its 2006 and 2007 fiscal year with its annual budget in deficit. But the college ended the 2009 fiscal year with a nearly $1.5 million surplus and Schall predicted similar results this year. The college's operating budget is about $20 million.

"It's nice to have them affirm what we know -- Oglethorpe is an exceptional school and very healthy," said Schall, president since 2005. "We are very happy."

The college improved its finances over a couple of years. Officials cut spending by about $2.2 million by not filling open positions, outsourcing several services and other changes. The college also increased revenue by about $2.2 million, with most of that money generated by growing student enrollment. Current enrollment is about 1,100 students -- a record for the college.

Schall said enrollment will reach about 1,500 students in about five to seven years. Interest in Oglethorpe continues to grow, as admission applications have increased from 1,000 to 5,000.

The Brookhaven college, founded in 1835, sits on Peachtree Road just north of Buckhead and is home to the Georgia Shakespeare theater company. The college has earned national attention for its Center on Civic Engagement.