Update (February 4, 2019): Bennett College has reached its fundraising goal.
The historically Black women’s college surpassed the $5 million goal set by administrators, reports The Greensboro News & Record. The school was in danger of closing had that amount not been raised.
Bennett President Phyllis Worthy Dawkins shared the good news on Monday during an on-campus ceremony.
Currently, $8.2 million has been given to the school, exceeding its goal by more than 60 percent. Bennett could have even more money going into its coffers as that figure doesn’t include money given during the ceremony. The school’s deadline to raise the $5 million was last Friday.
“We’ve raised enough to produce additional resources. That’s what we did — and more,” Dawkins said. “We should be in good shape."
Bennett officials will meet with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) for a formal appeal hearing on February 18, according to WXII.
The association placed the school on probation due to its lack of funds, a move that led to the recent round of fundraising. The SACSCOC will announce its decision on February 25.
Dawkins said she's determined to prevent a similar crisis in the future.
The president said she plans on building “an endowment, growing scholarship dollars, re-engineering the institution, changing our business model [and] looking at market-driven majors" as a priority in the months to come.
Original: Bennett College, a historically Black women’s college, could lose its accreditation if it doesn't fix its finances.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) has given Bennett until February 1 to prove it is financially stable. If the school isn't able to do this, it could be removed from the organization and could even be forced to close, according to the Greensboro News & Record.
Bennett College is located in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was founded in 1873 as a co-ed school for formerly enslaved Black people, according to its website.
In 1926, the school decided to focus solely on educating Black female students. Bennett is known for its involvement in the civil rights movement. It came to national attention as one of the few places in North Carolina willing to host Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the activist's speech at Bennett influenced many of its students at the time to become activists themselves.
Bennett students, also known as Bennett Belles, participated in sit-ins with students from nearby North Carolina A&T University. Contrary to popular belief, Bennett, not Spelman College, is Morehouse College’s official sister school.
“The Bennett and Morehouse relationship isn’t as strong as it should be,” Morehouse senior Arius Williams told The Undefeated. “I think we should support our sister school as much as we can right now because we can’t afford to let another HBCU close.”
The school was placed on probation in 2016 due to low enrollment and years of budgetary deficits. The college's financial issues have been attributed in part to the Great Recession and changes to the federal parental loan program. Enrollment dropped by 50 percent between 2010 and 2016.
Despite bleak recent years, the college is slowly improving.
Bennett experienced a 15 percent hike in enrollment for fall 2018 and will finish the school year with a $461,000 budget surplus. The school received $4.25 million in donations this year, and its most recent audit was successful. There are currently 470 students enrolled.
Bennett College president Phyllis Worthy Dawkins hopes to raise $5 million to appease SACSCOC by the deadline, reports WFMY.
“While we did not get the news we wanted today from SACSCOC officials, I remain optimistic that Bennett will make the necessary strides to demonstrate we deserve to remain accredited,” Dawkins said.
The president also said she believes the Bennett community will help the school pull through.
“People care about Bennett. They are asking what they can do. We need your donations and connections for unrestricted funding," she said. "This is a call to action for those willing to stand with Bennett.”
The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) issued a statement giving Bennett a vote of confidence.
“At UNCF, not only do we stand by our member institutions, but we are also committed to supporting our members with the tools and resources to further enhance their sustainability and success,” UNCF President Dr. Michael Lomax said.
Lomax added, “The fact that Bennett College has made significant improvements since being placed on accreditation probation two years ago is a testament to this Institution’s willingness and diligence to do everything it can to meet the standards set forth by its accrediting body.”
Bennett’s other supporters advocated for the troubled institution on social media. Many tweeted under #StandWithBennett:
this is the perfect time for us HBCU students to stand together & let our voices be heard. gotta show them why we go so hard behind HBCUs...especially ones dedicated to uplifting and empowering black women. #StandWithBennett 💙— Future Mayor of DC✨ (@crystina__) December 12, 2018
@SpelmanCollege We must stand & support our SISTERS at Bennett College. Spelman & Bennet College are two legendary HBCU’s for BLACK WOMEN!— Zar (@Zarreahhh_) December 12, 2018
Our HBCU’s must be preserved. Our excellence, brilliance, & voices must not go unnoticed. Stand With Your Sisters🗣#StandWithBennett
My grandmother, Mrs. Addie Moore, was a former Bennett Belle. Not only was she a Belle, she was Miss Bennett College c/o 1958. This is why I #StandwithBennett. Bennett is apart of my history, as well as yours! We MUST protect our HBCUs and their legacies. I love you MeMaw. 💙🔔 pic.twitter.com/OlMjSqukYT— ss (@youngakeno) December 12, 2018
It is in these sweet wisdom filled walls where I learned what true love really is .. Thank You Bennett For Saving Me .. because of all you’ve done for me I will #STANDWITHBENNETT and fight to save you 💙🔔 pic.twitter.com/EyN5Hd9N3C— 𝔐𝔦𝔠𝔞𝔦𝔞𝔥🦋 (@AllEyesOn_CAI) December 12, 2018
I’m trying so hard to fight back tears— jiia (@_jia___) December 12, 2018
Bennett is where my heart is I’m the fourth person in my family to attend Bennett
She was the only place I wanted to attend The only college I applied to bc I knew this is where I’m supposed to be
This breaks my heart 💙🔔#StandWithBennett
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