What's next for Paine College after accreditation?

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Monday, Feb. 11, 2019

AUGUSTA,Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Paine College President Jerry Hardee says the school is considering filing a claim for damages against the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and appealing a judge's ruling on five of their claims.

This comes after a judge's ruling, in favor of Paine College,  maintained the historically black college's accreditation with the agency on Friday.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS, recommended Paine lose it's membership with their agency in 2016.

Paine College sued and a judge put a restraining order in place to maintain the college's accreditation during the legal proceedings.

In October 2018, Judge Thomas Thrash ruled in favor of SACS on 5 of the 6 claims from Paine College, but Paine College says there was one claim that was still not ruled on by a judge.

"According, to his order and the way that the preliminary injunction was written the restraining order would stay in place as long as that one claim remained unajudicated," said Paine College President Dr. Jerry Hardee. "A clerk in his office indicated that since he ruled on the first five, the 6th one did not matter and thus Paine was disaccrediated. We did not agree with that, but SACS agreed with the clerk and therefore changed their website, announced to the Department of Education that Paine was no longer accredited which essentially shut down all of our avenues for recieving federal funding."

Among the people most affected by this were Paine College students.

Senior Terrance Rodger says it was an emotional rollercoaster.

"Everything that you love and aspired to protect and keep together, in a blink of an eye it felt like it was falling a part all over again," said Rodgers. "That moment was really hard especially for a graduating senior. Knowing that if I walk out these doors, I don't know what's going to happen to those after me. I really didn't know what was going to happen to me. It was a very hard time."

On Friday, Judge Thomas W. Thrash ruled the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools acted presumptively regarding his order.

"Ecstatic. Tired from talking about it so much, but it's a tiredness that I wish I had every single week if we have these types of things to celebrate," said Dr. Hardee.

Paine College President Jerry Hardee says despite the legal win for the college, irrepairable damage has been done to Paine College.

"There was a period from Oct. 11 to Oct 30 that SACS claims Paine was not accredited and if you lose your accrediation for one day you lose the ability to draw down Federal funds and institutions like Paine cannot survive without federal funding because over 90 percent of our student recieve federal funding in order to go to school," said Hardee. "I had four or five town hall meetings where I am convincing students that they were going to be alright. That we had enough funds to carry them to the extent that we could get back into our files again."

President Hardee says more than a half million dollars per month was denied to Paine during that process.

"There are students who said I am going to transfer. Who asked for transcripts and those sorts of things," said Dr.Hardee. "Many of our supporters said we have stuck by you, but now that you don't have accrediation we will not support you."

President Hardee says the period of time where Paine was considered not accredited affected students ability to transfer schools.

The Associate Vice President for Enrollment Services at Augusta University, Dr. David Barron, told News 12 in a statement

The following information came from Dr. David Barron, associate vice president for Enrollment Services at Augusta University:

As far as their credits transferring to Augusta University, as long as the college is regionally accredited we can accept their credits during the time period they are/were regionally accredited. For Paine College, the recent ruling from the judge retroactively asserts SACS accreditation back to October so there was no break in accreditation. That means all appropriate credits can transfer without issue.

So far, this year 3 students have transferred from Paine College in the 2018-2019 school year, according to Augusta University.