Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A New Dawn for Knoxville College? the Future of Knoxville College, a Historically Black Liberal Arts College in Tennessee, Remains Uncertain

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A New Dawn for Knoxville College? the Future of Knoxville College, a Historically Black Liberal Arts College in Tennessee, Remains Uncertain

Article excerpt

After Knoxville College (KC) lost its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 1997, the college has struggled financially, and student enrollment began to decline to the point that only 11 students were enrolled at the time of the school's closing in May 2015.

Today, many campus buildings are boarded up, a science building underwent emergency toxic chemical cleanup, and the college has yet to resume classes and enroll new students since the end of the 2014-2015 academic year.

The school's website states that the college is "not enrolling or recruiting new students at this time."

It is a sore sight for KC alumni who come back to celebrate their beloved institution.

"People who come back for the first time in 30, 40, 50 years, they're devastated by the looks," says Robert J. Booker, a KC alumnus and former executive director of the Beck Center in Knoxville during an interview with WATE 6. "Knoxville College has contributed mightily to the economy of our city, the cultural well-being of our city, so it really has been a great asset over the years."

Booker graduated in 1962 as an English major and French minor and says that the school had between 600 and 700 students when he was enrolled there nearly six decades ago.


Knoxville College lost its accreditation for violations mostly relating to finances, according to Dr. Pamela Cravey, a SACS spokesperson. SACS recorded citations related to student financial aid, financial resources, governing board and planning and evaluation of education programs, Cravey explains.

A 2014 attempt to reaccredit the school through the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools proved unsuccessful, and the college remains on "conditional authorization" under the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC), says Julie M. Woodruff, the lead attorney at THEC.

Conditional authorization means that school leaders can only work to meet THEC's minimum requirements before readmitting students. This includes showing that the school's finances are in order and that facilities are in accordance with local ordinances, Woodruff says.

Before the school shut its door, community officials and residents described the campus as vibrant. Now, residents and a city council representative say that the campus is "dilapidated" as a result of non-compliance with the City of Knoxville to repair a majority of campus buildings in 2016.

Last May , Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation recommended that Knoxville College's Stewart Science Hall become a government Superfund because of chemical contamination and public safety concerns. Several fires abandoned campus buildings within the last year, leaving many residents in the neighboring area concerned.

As of February, city officials deemed the last two remaining buildings of the Mechanicsville campus--the Alumni Library and historic McMillan Chapel--unsafe for Knoxville College officials to operate from.

Woodruff adds that, because of the length of time and the reasons for Knoxville College's conditional authorization, the school was "asked to file a new initial authorization application ... as well as any applications for programs that they wanted to offer."

When the college submitted the applications this year, THEC requested additional information and explanation in late April, to which the college has not yet responded. "There is no particular deadline for this," Woodruff says. "They need to get us the information for us to move forward."

Until the institution responds to letters requested by THEC and is approved for authorization, Knoxville College cannot enroll, recruit or instruct students. College administrators and some alumni remain hopeful that the school's doors will eventually reopen.

Unstable leadership

Within the last seven years, leadership at the school has been sporadic as the board fired presidents, sometimes within months of making hires. …

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