Sojourner-Douglass loses federal appeal, weighs options

Sojourner-Douglass College officials said Friday they are weighing their options after a federal judge ruled in favor of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which revoked the school's accreditation.

The school sued the commission in 2015, alleging the organization discriminated against the predominantly black college, but a federal judge later ruled in favor of the commission. This week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling.

"I am disappointed with the decision," Charles W. Simmons, former president of the Baltimore-based college, said Friday.

A Middle States Commission spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

In issuing its decision, the court looked at the "procedural fairness" of the commission, and found "no reversible error," the ruling said.

The Internal Revenue Service had filed $5 million in tax liens against Sojourner-Douglass and enrollment had dipped from 1,300 students to about 850 before it lost its accreditation in July 2015, forcing students to scramble to transfer to other programs.

Without accreditation, Sojourner-Douglass could not receive federal funding and could not afford to reopen.

Simmons and an attorney representing Sojourner-Douglass said that administrators are considering the next steps.

"We are considering our options," said attorney John Morris. "The administration of the school remains committed to providing educational opportunities and expanding them to the adult population in East Baltimore."

Sojourner-Douglass has partnered with Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black university in Daytona Beach, Fla., to create Global Education Service Inc. to offer online courses to students in Maryland. Simmons said about 40 students locally have been accepted, and that the semester begins May 15.

"We're going to continue to move forward," Simmons said. "We're not deterred. We're not defeated. Our mission is still the same."

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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