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Federal Court Halts Move to Deny Paul Quinn College Accreditation

A federal district court in Atlanta on Thursday granted Paul Quinn College a preliminary injunction that temporarily restores accreditation to the embattled Dallas-based historically Black private college. The court ordered the injunction after attorneys for Paul Quinn sued the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Tuesday for denying an appeal by school officials to have the 137-year-old college’s accreditation fully restored.

The accreditation dispute has put Paul Quinn in the national spotlight and has brought renewed attention to the plight of historically Black institutions, a few of which have struggled to keep their doors open in recent years. On June 25, the SACS’ Commission on Colleges notified the school that it was removing it from membership in the organization, citing poor finances and subpar student outcomes. On Monday the school lost an appeal for accreditation from the commission. The following day, the Dallas-based Bickel & Brewer Storefront law firm, Paul Quinn’s attorneys, filed a lawsuit in Atlanta federal district court and a motion seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against SACS.

 â€śThe injunction allows Paul Quinn to continue serving students and the community in its full capacity, and represents another step toward securing the long-term future of this college,” according to a statement by William A. Brewer III, lead counsel for Paul Quinn.

The injunction enables the college to remain accredited during the course of its litigation against the Decatur, Ga.-based SACS. Due to the Thursday court order, Paul Quinn may continue to award degrees and distribute federal financial aid to students. Fall classes will begin as planned on Oct. 5.

Paul Quinn’s attorneys argued that SACS had violated Paul Quinn’s common law and statutory due process rights and that removing the school’s accreditation would represent “catastrophic and irreparable harm” for the institution, the oldest historically Black college in Texas. The filings documented the recent progress the school has made in its financial and administrative management. Attorneys for Paul Quinn charged that SACS violated the Higher Education Act by denying Paul Quinn the opportunity to “present new and significant financial information” relating to its accreditation appeal.

Paul Quinn President Michael J. Sorrell praised Thursday’s developments as a sign that the college will prevail in its legal challenge and pursuit of accreditation.

“This is an incredibly important day in the history of Paul Quinn College,” Sorrell said in a statement. “The message for our students, faculty, alumni and supporters is that we remain fully accredited, confident in our future, and focused on our goal of becoming one of America’s great small colleges.”

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