Sojourner-Douglass College in Baltimore could close in June, when it is set to lose its accreditation in a rare move spurred by the private, nonprofit institution's persistent financial troubles.
The East Baltimore college, which has an enrollment of about 1,100 students, would be ineligible to receive any federal financial aid if it loses its accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Most colleges and universities that lose their accreditation close, but sometimes they are absorbed by another institution.
Charles W. Simmons, the college's president and founder, could not be reached for comment Tuesday about whether the school plans to appeal the commission's Nov. 20 decision. The college is required to tell its students of the commission's action within 30 days, issue transcripts for students who want to transfer and find a place for permanent disposition of student records, according to the commission.
The school fell into trouble with the accreditation agency in 2011, when the commission found it had inadequate financial resources, student learning outcomes and goal-setting. The school had fixed its student learning outcomes and goal-setting by the following year, the agency found, but its finances remained unstable. The Internal Revenue Service has filed more than $5 million in tax liens against the school this year.
In March, the accreditation agency requested a "show cause" from the school by September on why it should keep its accreditation. Simmons said in March that officials had been working with investors "that would bring resources to the table that would help us turn it around." Sojourner-Douglass officials, students and alumni hoped the college could join the University System of Maryland, but the system's officials said it had no plans to absorb the institution.
While a rare move, another Baltimore college also recently lost its accreditation. In 2011, Baltimore International College, the downtown culinary and hospitality school, lost its accreditation and was ultimately taken over by Stratford University.
Baltimore City Community College was placed on probation by the Middle States Commission in 2011 but had its accreditation reaffirmed a year later. BCCC again was warned this year that its accreditation could be in jeopardy over concerns about its focus, goals and effectiveness.
Sojourner-Douglass, which has six satellite campuses in the U.S. including in Annapolis and Owings Mills, is primarily for non-traditional students. It was founded as the Homestead-Montebello Center of Antioch College in 1972.
Theo Jones, 25, a Sojourner-Douglass student who completed his nursing program this month and will graduate June 27 — three days before the school's accreditation is to be withdrawn — wasn't surprised by the news.
"There were rumors lingering for a long time," he said. "The general consensus was that something was going to happen, but nobody knew what."
Jones blamed school leadership's "mismanagement of money" as the reason the school faces such financial difficulties.
"There's just no way you can have that many students paying that much money every semester and not have enough money to keep the school open," he said.
Jones said he'd learned about the accreditation loss from a friend and later saw the letter announcing it hung in the admissions department. But no official communication has gone out to the campus' students, he said — another blow to his perception of the school's leadership.
"We're not even clear on it," he said. "Nobody's addressed the school as a whole."
Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this article.