Wilberforce University is trying to raise $2 million by June 30 after being placed on probation by a regional accreditation agency for financial issues.
Wilberforce ran a deficit of more than $19 million in fiscal year 2017, one reason why the school was placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission. The HLC is a regional accrediting body and is responsible for accrediting colleges in 19 states.
Some of the money raised will help “bring the university to stable financial footing,” according to the Wilberforce Unite fundraiser page.
In part, the fundraiser aims to alleviate financial pressures that got Wilberforce placed on probation in the first place, according to the campaign. Money from the fundraiser will also go toward student aid, facility enhancements and faculty and staff development, among other things.
An online donation page for the fundraiser stated 163 people had donated $184,325 as of Monday afternoon. The school is trying to raise the full $2 million by June 30.
Student housing is cited by the fundraiser as the most urgent need for donations.
In January, multiple Wilberforce students were displaced after a pipe burst and damaged rooms in Henderson Hall, Cynthia W. Roseberry, vice president for institutional advancement said at the time. All displaced students have been housed in the Ramada hotel in Xenia, Roseberry said.
The residence hall incident was the latest in a slew of issues the university has faced, including a number of lawsuits.
The school settled a $50,000 lawsuit with Moraine-based Moonlight Security in December in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. JayCee Development in Washington, D.C. sued the university in federal court for more than $3 million for unpaid construction work.
The university also continues to deal with its probation status, which the Dayton Daily News was first to report last year.
In a July 9 letter to Wilberforce president Elfred Pinkard, HLC president Barbara Gellman-Danley placed the university on probation after it failed to meet all of the commission’s criteria for accreditation including failing to have the resources to maintain its programs and a lack of “systematic and integrated planning.”
Along with mentioning Wilberforce’s $19 million deficit in FY 2017, the letter stated the university had audited net assets of around $9.4 million.
“The financial stability of the institution is at risk,” the letter stated.
Wilberforce —the oldest private historically black college in the U.S. — must undergo an evaluation by the HLC no later than December 2019 to determine whether it has fixed the problems that led it to be placed on probation. No visits for an evaluation had been scheduled as of Monday, according to the HLC’s website.
If the issues have not been solved, the commission may consider taking further action, according to the letter. If the college loses its accreditation, its students would no longer be eligible for federal financial aid.
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