Troubled College Sees Signs of Turnaround
Historically Black Knoxville College is experiencing a reversal of fortunes, officials say. A year ago, the college was down to about 130 students, couldn’t pay its faculty or electric bills and was drowning in debt.
Today, enrollment is surging — more than 400 students have been accepted for the fall semester from more than 700 applicants. The faculty is being paid, the lights are back on and the college’s debts have been cut by about two-thirds, down more than $2 million.
“Oh, let me tell you it’s the best problem in the world,” Will Minter, an Oak Ridge National Laboratory official helping as a development strategist and fundraiser for the college, says of enrollment growth. “I’m happy to have one where we’re overloaded.”
The turnaround began after the school’s trustees ousted former President Barbara Hatton in August and asked Dr. Robert H. Harvey, an alumni and longtime math professor retired from the National Science Foundation, to step in as interim president.
We are miles ahead of where we were a year ago,” says Ronald Damper, a Chicago businessman and chairman of the college’s board of trustees.
“We’ve had outstanding success in getting assistance from a number of people to get us to this point,” he says. “The community has embraced the college.”
The Knoxville College Alumni Association is in the middle of a $1 million fundraising effort, while the college is in a $2.5 million “Road to Success” campaign.
The goals aren’t large compared to what most colleges raise, but the combined amount is more than the annual budget of the small college, which was founded on a hill overlooking Knoxville in 1875.
Harvey, 83, is hopeful the college can eventually regain accreditation. “By 2008, I would expect the college to be re-accredited. I don’t think that is unreasonable,” he says.
The college lost its accreditation in 1997 with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. More than an issue of pride, losing accreditation means students cannot obtain federal financial aid.
At this juncture, “I don’t know if I can say ‘happy,”‘ he says. “I’m satisfied with the progress we’ve made.”
— Associated Press
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