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Saint Augustine's Plans Lawsuit After Denied Accreditation Appeal

Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, North Carolina, plans to seek an injunction following its lost appeal to retain accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

The commission’s appeals committee, on Feb. 27, upheld a decision to revoke accreditation for the historically Black university and deny an extension of “Probation for Good Cause” until December 2025. The HBCU’s accreditation was terminated in December 2023, as it struggled with financial management issues.

Dr. Marcus H. BurgessDr. Marcus H. Burgess“We disagree with the decision made by SACSCOC and plan to appeal to a higher authority with evidence supporting the institution’s progress in resolving non-compliance,” said Dr. Marcus H. Burgess, interim president of Saint Augustine’s.

Saint Augustine’s argued in its appeal that significant steps were made to correct areas of non-compliance with SACS-COC standards and that the university had the capacity to remedy areas of non-compliance within the next 12 months.

In February, the university launched the Falcon Pride Initiative Fundraising Campaign, aimed at rallying support — upward of $5 million — from internal stakeholders, alumni, friends, neighbors, and the HBCU community to demonstrate financial solvency for preserving its accreditation.

“We fully dedicate ourselves to maintaining our accreditation and fostering an environment of academic excellence and opportunity for our students,” said Burgess.

The appeals committee responded, noting requirements and standards outlined in the "Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement," including governing board characteristics, financial resources, financial documents, financial responsibility, control of finances, and federal and state responsibilities.

Saint Augustine’s, established in 1867, has come under fire in recent years accused of financial mismanagement that includes allegations of delinquencies in insurance premium payments, inaccurate student accounts, and delays in payroll.

WRAL News reported financial issues showed up in a FY 2021 audit documents it obtained from a Saint Augustine’s source, including “over $10 million of cash disbursements that were unsupportable,” unapproved, and not recorded in the general ledger. The news outlet also noted a $7.9 million lien from the IRS against Saint Augustine's for unpaid taxes dating back to 2020, among several other contractor complaints filed against the university for alleged non-payments and outstanding debts.

Burgess said the university will move quickly to file a lawsuit against SACSCOC seeking an injunction that, if granted, will allow it to remain accredited with SACSCOC on Probation for Good Cause until the litigation process concludes. The institution may submit a dispute, within 10 calendar days of the decision, regarding the accreditation termination to arbitration prior to other legal action pursuant to 20 USC 1099b(e).

Saint Augustine’s issued a statement Feb. 27, which reads, in part, “the university will continue to strengthen its financial processes and fiscal resources. SAU looks forward to making the case for full compliance with all of the SACSCOC standards.”

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