Student Questions Regarding the Colleges’ Accreditation Answered

(Questions from the Student Meeting on Sunday, September 18th and the Community/Alumni/Press Meeting on Monday, September 19th)

1. Is the College accredited?

Yes. Paine College remains fully accredited, although on probation, with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). This status will remain until further notice.

2. What will happen if we lose our accreditation?

The College will continue to maintain accreditation, either through SACS or through an alternate accrediting body, most likely the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS).

See “What is TRACS?” under question #10.

3. Do students need to continue to go to class?

Yes. All students are expected to continue to attend classes, as scheduled, until further notice from President Sullivan.

4. Where do I stand as a graduating senior?

The College’s accreditation status through December 2016 is unchanged. Seniors who expect to graduate in December should apply now to graduate and, assuming that you’ve earned the proper number of credits, expect to graduate in December.

5. What happens after December for seniors who expect to graduate in May of 2017?

While the College pursues a lawsuit against SACS, the College remains fully accredited. While no one can predict how long it will take for the case to work its way through the federal court system, we feel certain that the case will still be ongoing through May of next year. That being said, seniors who expect to graduate in May of 2017 should graduate, as planned, assuming sufficient credits have been earned.

6. What caused us to be in this situation?

Questionable financial decisions were made by prior administrations. As a result, the Colleges’ financial condition has been severely compromised. The current administration and the board are taking necessary steps to improve the financial condition of the College, to include extensive cost-cutting measures and reduction in staffing.

7. Did SACSCOC consider the predicament of students?

No. This is purely a business decision on SACS’ part. SACS believes that Paine College is financial unstable and, therefore, should not be a member of its organization. There was little or no concern for Paine’s students in making the decision to remove the College from membership.

8. The whole thing is technically about money?

Yes. SACS alleges that the College has not satisfied deficiencies in three areas: financial resources and stability; financial stability; and control of sponsored research/external funds. The College has been on probation with SACS since 2014.

9. Who will represent us in the legal proceedings that are ongoing?

The College has engaged Gus H. Small, Brent W. Herrin, and Benjamin S. Klehr, attorneys with the law firm Cohen Pollock Merlin & Small, P.C. in Atlanta, Georgia, as its counsel in this matter.

10. What is TRACS?

TRACS provides academic accreditation to many of America's finest Christian institutions of higher learning. TRACS is authorized to pre-accredit and accredit institutions offering certificates; diplomas; and associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degrees; including institutions that offer distance education and/or correspondence education.

TRACS is recognized by both the United States Department of Education (USDOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as a national institutional accrediting agency for Christian postsecondary institutions, colleges, universities, and seminaries.

TRACS is also a member of the American Council on Education (ACE). ACE has over 1,700 organizations that collectively promote, protect, and advocate for students, faculty and administrators in higher education. ACE is the most visible and influential higher education association in the nation and is at the center of federal policy debates concerning issues related to higher education legislation across the country.

Finally, TRACS is also a member of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE). INQAAHE is a world-wide association of over 200 organizations active in the theory and practice of quality assurance in higher education.

11. Is TRACS only for religious schools?

Yes. TRACS is a national institutional accrediting agency for Christian postsecondary institutions, colleges, universities, and seminaries. Paine would qualify for accreditation by TRACS as it is affiliated with the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME).

12. If accredited by TRACS, how will other schools view us?

Currently, 66 colleges and universities across the U.S. are accredited through TRACS. Paine is seeking “Candidacy,” or pre-accreditation, status. This status would indicate that: 1) our institution appears to have the potential to achieve accreditation within the prescribed three- to five-year period with TRACS, and 2) our institution is in basic compliance with the Standards and Criteria of TRACS accreditation and provides sound instruction and student services.

13. What are the stages of application for TRACS?

After achieving Candidacy status with TRACS, the College would then seek full accreditation. Accreditation would indicate that Paine has provided evidence that it is in substantive compliance with TRACS’ Standards and Criteria, has been peer evaluated after completing a self-study, and in the professional judgment of the on-site evaluation team and the Accreditation Commission, the institution provides quality instruction, student services, adequate facilities, etc.

14. Will TRACS accredit us in the spring?

No. The full accreditation process through TRACS could take as long as five years; although, it is our goal to earn “Candidacy” status with TRACS as soon as possible.

15. What happens if TRACS turns us down?

We are confident that the College’s academic programs are strong enough and the College’s financial state is more than sufficient to meet the requirements of accreditation by TRACS.

Under the worst possible scenario, should the College decide to close, the College would make a good faith effort to assist affected students, faculty, administrative and support staff so that they experience a minimal amount of disruption in the pursuit of their course of study or professional careers. The College would do this by implementing a Teach-Out Program to assist students who have not completed their programs of study, to include advisement by faculty or professional counselors regarding suitable options, including transfer to comparable programs.

A Teach-Out Agreement would be drafted between Paine and other institutions – nearby institutions; HBCUs; etc. -- that would provide for the equitable treatment of students and a reasonable opportunity for students to complete their program of study elsewhere.

16. What does it mean for my degree that only 66 schools are accredited by TRACS while over 800 are accredited by SACS?

TRACS is a national institutional accrediting agency for Christian postsecondary institutions, colleges, universities, and seminaries. Paine would qualify for accreditation by TRACS as it is affiliated with the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME).

Many colleges and universities that are accredited by SACSCOC are public institutions and, therefore, not church-affiliated. These institutions would not qualify for accreditation by TRACS.

TRACS is a wholly legitimate accrediting agency that is authorized by the United States Department of Education (USDOE), the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and the American Council on Education (ACE) to pre-accredit and accredit institutions offering certificates, diplomas, and associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degrees.

17. What if I want to transfer to another school?

Please see the Vice President for Academic Affairs to request a transfer to another college. Academic Affairs is collaborating with other colleges to ensure that they’ll accept our students who wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree elsewhere in light of the College’s accreditation status. Be reminded, though, that Paine College remains fully accredited and will remain fully accredited as it pursues a legal remedy of the matter concerning its accreditation with SACSCOC.

18. Who do you recommend that students talk to if they are interested in transferring to another school?

While we’d first want to remind you that Paine is fully accredited and will remain fully accredited as it pursues a legal remedy of the matter concerning its accreditation with SACSCOC, if you wish to transfer, we’ll do everything that we can to ensure a smooth transition. Please see the Vice President for Academic Affairs to request a transfer to another college. You may visit the office in Suite 117 of Haygood-Holsey Hall or call their office at (706)396-8102.

19. When will students get refunds?

A date certain has not been determined by the Business Office for the issuance of refunds.

20. When was the initial batch sent to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) for financial aid reimbursement? What is the anticipated turn-around time on this batch?

The first batch was submitted on September 7, 2016. DOE has 30-days to process each batch. A status report on the first batch will be provided by DOE the week of September 26th. The administrative offices (Financial Aid, Business Office, and the Registrar) are currently preparing the second batch for submission on October 7, 2016.

21. I was told that students’ loans would be forgiven if Paine loses its accreditation. Is that correct?

No. This is absolutely incorrect. Any loans that you and/or a member(s) of your family have secured in order to finance your college education is a legitimate debt with an entity (federal government, bank, finance company, etc.) that will expect to be fully repaid, regardless of Paine’s accreditation status. The College’s accreditation status has no effect, none whatsoever, on any outstanding indebtedness that you have.

22. I need two courses for graduation that are not being offered this semester. I told my former Chair who is no longer here, but they are not on the schedule for this semester. How do I make sure that they are offered next semester?

Please see Dr. Cheryl Evans-Jones, Vice President of Academic Affairs, in Haygood-Holsey Hall to share your concerns, as a senior seeking to graduate, about courses required for graduation that are NOT currently offered. Ask when the courses will be offered or if there is an opportunity to take those required courses online, through independent study, or at another institution.

23. What about student-athletes?

The College must have a pre-determined number of students fielded for each sport, per the rules and regulations of the NCAA. If the College does not maintain a minimum number of student-athletes, Paine College will be in violation of NCAA rules. Therefore, student-athletes wishing to transfer mid-semester will be encouraged to continue their studies here at Paine, at least until Spring semester 2017. At this time, the Athletics Director and the College will make effort to assist those student-athletes who wish to study and play sports at another institution of higher learning.

24. How does a College’s accreditation status have an impact on my ability to obtain financial aid?

Federal (and often state) financial aid is available only to students who enroll at a college, university, or other institution of higher learning that has been accredited by an accreditation organization that has been reviewed and approved by the United States Department of Education (USDE).

The USDE keeps watch to ensure that all federal student financial aid funds are being used for effective and worthwhile academic institutions and programs that are giving students the quality education they deserve. The USDE is concerned with factors such as a college or university's financial well-being, standards of student admission and practices of student recruitment, and student learning achievement outcomes. At this time, Paine College has been placed on Heightened Cash Management Two by the USDE. Students are still able to qualify and receive financial aid, but Paine College will be reimbursed as opposed to drawing down approved funds in advance.

Updated: September 27, 2016