Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Edward Waters President Shares Challenging Vision for College

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Edward Waters President Shares Challenging Vision for College

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

Claudette Williams doesn't strike me as one who is tripped up by silly stuff. And that's good - considering the fact that it's the silly stuff that keeps Edward Waters College stuck in a perpetual state of fits and starts.

In the late 1990s, the college had put a lot of distance between it and a past plastered with liens for unpaid debts, back taxes, plummeting enrollments and financial scandals. Its former president, Jimmy Jenkins, saw to it that the bills were paid, and he sought out wealthy donors to help renovate the school's buildings and its reputation.

But in 2004, a silly thing caused EWC to stall on the road to progress - again.

Some genius tried to pass off Alabama A&M University's Quality Enhancement Plan as that of EWC's - and no one at the school apparently noticed or cared.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, however, did notice. It snatched the school's accreditation. Criticized it for being incompetent and dishonest. Towed it back to its 1977, nonaccredited state.

Last year, it won back its accreditation.

So now enters Williams, EWC's 28th president. Last week, she talked to the Times-Union about her vision for the 141-year-old school, which is no longer struggling with an integrity problem as much as it is with a perception problem.

The former executive vice president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C., talked about what she'd learned at that college, which was headed by Jacksonville native Johnnetta Cole, emerged from probationary status.

"I also evaluate schools for SACS, and I've been doing it for a little while," Williams said.

EWC has too many challenges ahead of it for it to keep getting pushed back by silly stuff - the main one being survival.

The Southern Regional Education Board, for example, has found that in spite of the achievement gaps that still persist, more blacks in the South are enrolling in college.

In the fall of 2005, some 1 million black students were enrolled in college - marking a 52 percent increase since 1995.

Schools like EWC have seen their share of black college enrollment in the South dip from 26 percent to 19 percent over the past decade, according to the board, which will release its fact book Monday. …

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