Saint Augustine's University: Seniors will still graduate despite accreditation appeal denial

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Friday, March 1, 2024
Saint Aug's: Seniors will still graduate despite accreditation denial
Saint Augustine's Interim President said Friday morning that seniors will still graduate and financial aid will be honored.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Saint Augustine's University community has now heard from Interim President Marcus Burgess days after the university's accreditation appeal was denied.

In a statement Friday morning, Burgess said seniors will graduate and financial aid will be honored. He also announced the school will engage in arbitration and adhere to the outlined procedures.

Burgess said he is confident SAU will stay open because the university has a clear path to move forward.

In the statement, he said:

"We are committed to upholding the high standards of academic excellence that define SAU, and we are resolute to our mission to nurture future leaders who will shape our world with their knowledge, integrity, and compassion."

Harry L. Taylor, a 1974 graduate of Saint Augustine's, was optimistic the university would weather the storm.

"I'm supportive of the students and I feel that St. Aug will stand by the students, the alumni will stand by the students," Taylor said. "I think a lot of all of us alumni will do the best that we can to give, encourage and support. For 157 years, we've been graduating students, students have attended, and I think with the strong alumni that we have, I think we can go through this."

Burgess' statement came after extended struggles for the university, including several financial mishaps.

In December of last year, SACS Board of Trustees voted to remove Saint Augustine's from membership as an accredited institution for failure to comply with core requirements. This includes governing board characteristics and financial resources, responsibilities and control.

This week, the university lost its accreditation appeal.

Representatives with Saint Augustine's said they disagreed with the board's ruling, saying they felt the decision was arbitrary, unreasonable and inconsistent with the board's policies.

SEE ALSO | Saint Augustine's students, staff left to deal with uncertain future amid accreditation worry

Financial challenges and uncertainty continue to dominate Saint Augustine's University.

"We disagree with the decision made by SACSCOC and plan to appeal to a higher authority with evidence supporting the institution's progress in resolving non-compliance," Burgess said.

He said they will move quickly to file a lawsuit against SACSCOC seeking an injunction. This will allow the university to remain accredited with SACSCOC on Probation for Good Cause until the conclusion of litigation.

Because of the decision to move into arbitration, Saint Augustine's will remain an accredited university during that time.

However, more details of the school's financial history have been uncovered.

In a tax lien obtained by ABC11, it says the IRS is owed $7.9 million from 2020 and is taking action to collect this debt. The lien prevents the school from selling lands to investors.

A recent audit also showed that $10 million is missing from Saint Augustine's financial records.

SEE ALSO | IRS hits Saint Augustine's with nearly $7.9 million lien

That tax lien halts any plans to sell off university property to deal with the mounting financial hardships at the HBCU.