Paine College looks toward city funds to survive pandemic hardships

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 6:44 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The history is in its halls.

“It contributes to a heck of a lot to this community,” Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett said.

Lockett would know about its rich cultural impact Paine College gives. In fact, the former commissioner is also an alumnus.

“I was blessed end up at Paine,” he said.

But like its buildings awaiting repair, some argue the legacy needs it, too.

“It may be struggling, but Fredrick Douglass said if there’s no struggle, there’s no progress,” Commissioner Bill Fennoy said.

Paine College says the pandemic hit the institution hard when it was already in a harder situation.

School officials say layoffs and furloughs will come, but the date and that number of staff are not yet official.

“It became very clear what they need in order to strengthen and grow and flourish. And what they’re not currently getting and how the federal government can help,” Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate said.

Ossoff announced Thursday he wants legislation to reduce debt for colleges like Paine and expand healthcare, education, and engineering programs here.

Meanwhile, the city of Augusta says its investing, too, with $1.4 million in CARES Act funds.

These actions are not without pushback. Some leaders are concerned about sending that amount of money and how it’ll be used.

College officials said it’ll go to laptops, virtual learning tools, training, and resident hall improvements.

It comes after approval of a $1 million PPP loan back in May.

“It got into the trouble with accreditation. It wasn’t because of the education it was providing, it was because of the finances,” Lockett said.

The college lost its accreditation through one agency but gained it through another. Still, the legal battles remain while overall student enrollment is down.

But many hope the college’s future is much like its prestigious past.

“Paine has a history of turning out great students and we need to preserve their students and their legacy,” Lockett said.

In order for Paine College to get city money, Augusta’s law department must first approve a spending list for the school.

Last fall, there were 415 students enrolled. Paine officials say those numbers have dropped even further due to the pandemic. They’re working to get us those updated totals.

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