Georgetown College put on probation by accreditation association

A regional accreditation association has put Georgetown College on one year of probation because of the school’s non-compliance with financial standards.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges announced this week that Georgetown College “had failed to demonstrate compliance” with requirements on financial resources and stability.

“These standards expect an institution to provide evidence that (it) has a sound financial base and demonstrated financial stability,” according to a statement released by the association.

In a letter posted on the college website, Georgetown President Dwaine Greene wrote that the college suffered “huge enrollment declines” in 2012 and 2013 that led to budget deficits. In 2014, facing a $4 million budget deficit, the college cut faculty and dropped some majors.

At that time, the accreditation association put the college on a two-year warning. That two-year warning period ended last week.

In the meantime, a “strategic renewal plan” was put in place by the college administration and that has continued since, Greene said in the letter.

That renewal plan has borne some fruit. It appears the freshman class entering in August will be the largest in five years, college spokesman Jim Allison said.

“We expect to have in the neighborhood of 350 new students,” Allison said. Some of the new students might include transfers from St. Catharine College, the Catholic school in Washington County that will close July 1 because of financial problems.

Georgetown College anticipates a fall enrollment of “slightly over” 1,000 undergraduates and nearly 400 in its master’s in education program for teacher preparation, Allison said. At one time, the college had an undergraduate enrollment as high as 1,300, he said.

In addition, the school’s board of trustees approved a $31 million balanced budget in April. Fundraising has seen an increase, too, through grants and alumni giving.

Greene noted in his letter that the accreditation association “affirmed both that the college has demonstrated significant recent accomplishments in addressing its budget challenges while maintaining academic quality, and that evidence suggests it is reasonable to conclude that the college will remedy all issues within the 12-month period.”

“These are wonderful signs of the successful renewal under way,” Greene wrote.

“Being on probation is good news,” Allison said, “because the bad news would have been losing accreditation. So this gives … another year to monitor what we are doing and how we are addressing the concerns financially. So the belief is that all of these things we are doing will improve us sufficiently so that this sanction will be taken away.”

Prior to the college’s next review by the accreditation association in June 2017, a committee will conduct an on-site evaluation of Georgetown’s compliance.

Georgetown College cut its ties with the Kentucky Baptist Convention in 2005. Under previous agreements dating to 1942, the convention had the right to elect Georgetown’s trustees in return for providing financial support.

The accreditation association also put Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro on probation for six months for reasons similar to Georgetown College’s probation.