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Wilberforce University at risk of losing accreditation

WILBERFORCE, Ohio – A small, historically black university in Ohio could lose its accreditation due to problems including low enrollment and financial deficits.

The Higher Learning Commission sent a “show cause order” to Wilberforce University this past week requiring the school to show why its accreditation shouldn’t be withdrawn.

Loss of accreditation could result in students lacking eligibility for federal financial aid and having problems transferring credits, according to the commission.

The commission said Wilberforce must respond to the letter by Dec. 15, and a commission team will visit the campus in February.

The agency’s letter to interim President Wilma Mishoe said Wilberforce ended the 2013 fiscal year with a $9.7 million deficit, and the projected operating loss for the fiscal year ending June 30 is expected to be more than $700,000.

Also, Wilberforce’s proposed operating budget for 2014 was based on a 500-student enrollment, while the actual enrollment was about 377, the commission said.

The enrolled freshman class for fall 2013 was reported to be 97 students, but later decreased to 70, and Wilberforce is unlikely to reach a projected 200-student enrollment this fall, the letter said.

“We are committed to addressing the areas of concern and ensuring that Wilberforce is compliant with all Higher Learning Commission accreditation standards,” Mishoe said in a statement Friday.

The commission also said the campus shows significant deterioration.

“The University has not demonstrated its ability to make adequate and realistic plans for the future,” the letter said.

Mishoe said that Wilberforce has seen great advancement the past year and is continuing to make changes.

“Wilberforce University takes its mission to drive diversified education, business, entrepreneurship and innovation across the nation, very seriously,” Mishoe said.

The school founded in 1856 is in the city of Wilberforce, about a 30-minute drive east of Dayton. The Rev. Jesse Jackson took part in the school’s commencement services in May.

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