Investing in HBCU Leadership: Southern Education Foundation Creates Three-Year Initiative to Facilitate HBCU Accreditation

Article excerpt

Knoxville College, Morris Brown College and Barber Scotia College. These institutions are just some of the recent victims of lost accreditation--and there are others. Many historically black colleges and universities HBCUs) have either teetered on the brink, suffered or closed entirely following the loss of accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The effects of lost accreditation are amplified considering the current national context in which troubling questions often arise about the contemporary relevance of HBCUs.

Lynn Walker Huntley, president of the Southern Education Foundation Inc. (SEF), bristles at questions about the relevance of HBCUs.

"Many people look at the South that gave African Americans the short end of the stick. Now they think HBCUs are no longer needed because African Americans can go to White schools," says Huntley. But she argues that HBCUs remain a vital part of the nation because "they are not the cause of problems; they are the solution."

It is a fact, however, that several HBCUs are having problems with accreditation. So in efforts to prepare HBCU administrators to successfully meet SACS accreditation requirements, Huntley and Dr. Norman C. Francis, president of Xavier University in New Orleans and SEF chairman, laid the groundwork for an innovative endeavor. "Investing in HBCU Leadership" is designed to identify and address the technical and professional development needs of HBCU executives, a pressing issue of accreditation. Huntley explains that although it's not specifically designed to address those institutions that have already lost accreditation, the program is a forward-looking "preventative effort to keep (other HBCUs) from walking down that path."

Instituted in 1867 to provide educational opportunities for formerly enslaved African Americans, the Foundation continues to work toward ensuring equal access to quality education at all levels for people of color and disadvantaged groups in the South.

STRENGTHENING TIES

The SEF initiative, which was the result of eight months of assessments and surveys of t IBCU presidents and other interested parties including donors, was right on time, especially as new SACS requirements, "Principles of Accreditation," were introduced in January 2004. That development helped further shape the direction of the HBCU leadership program.

"We are trying to provide the information, the fight resources and experts to give (HBCU leaders) a jump start," says Dr. Tjuan Dogan, SEF program officer.

The three-year HBCU leadership program is funded by the Charles Stewart Mort and the Andrew Mellon foundations, which make it possible for SEF to disburse small grants ranging from $10,000 to $20,000--for special projects at HBCUs to meet various institutional needs. For example, if one institution requires a certain software program, and another needs a consultant to address financial issues and meet the financial stability measures SACS requires--all to help them move toward a reaffirmation review--those schools can apply for SEF grants.

"In addition to our mini grants, we are also providing study awards. For instance, we have offered study awards to selected presidents, accreditation liaisons and chief financial officers to attend the SACS annual meeting in December," Dogan says. "We believe it's very important that HBCU leaders have the financial assistance to attend and receive the SACS resources first hand."

Another important element SEF considers essential for the success of its program is the collective aspect. …