Sojourner-Douglass College loses bid to restore accreditation

Financially troubled Sojourner-Douglass College faces a legal setback.

A federal judge has denied a request for an injunction to temporarily restore the accreditation of troubled Sojourner-Douglass College.

U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander ruled Thursday against restoring Sojourner-Douglass' accreditation while the Baltimore-based college's lawsuit against the Middle States Commission on Higher Education moves forward.

The financially troubled college remains closed.

"Had we gotten the injunction, we would have started classes in either winter or spring or late fall," said Charles W. Simmons, president of the Baltimore-based college.

Simmons said he has some staff still working and others on call. Former students and prospective students continue to inquire about when classes might resume, he said.

Without accreditation, Sojourner-Douglass is not allowed to receive the federal funding that it needed to stay open. About 80 percent of the college's students used federal financial aid to pay their tuition.

Sojourner-Douglass served predominantly black students and adult students before it was shut down following its loss of accreditation June 30. At its peak, it enrolled 1,400 students at several campuses in Maryland and the Bahamas and had about 100 employees, Simmons said.

But the school faced financial difficulties — including a $5 million lien from the Internal Revenue Service. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education cited the financial woes when it moved last year to revoke accreditation and again this year when the college appealed.

The college sued the commission the day before the accreditation was revoked, claiming racial discrimination, breach of contract, violation of due process and negligence.

In addition to denying the request for an injunction, Hollander dismissed two counts in the lawsuit — racial discrimination and breach of contract. She gave the college 17 days to revise the lawsuit.

John H. Morris Jr., the college's attorney, couldn't say yet whether the college would revise the suit.

While Thursday's rulings are "clearly a setback," Morris said the college is committed to fighting to restore its accreditation and reopen.

"There's still a lot of fight left in the school," he said.

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