Financial woes have Tougaloo College facing a reaccreditation warning, but the school — and Brown's academic partnership with it — are safe for now, according to administrators from both institutions.
The reaccreditation warning was placed on the school, with which Brown has had ties since the Civil Rights era, in June by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
"The partnership is in no danger whatsoever," said Associate Provost and Director of Institutional Diversity Valerie Wilson, the program's lead coordinator from the University. "Nobody wants to get a warning, but it's not something that cannot be fixed."
For the past 45 years, Brown has maintained a partnership with Tougaloo — a small, historically black college outside of Jackson, Miss. — engaging over the years in a student exchange between the two institutions and in various joint learning and research ventures.
Tougaloo was placed on warning after SACSCOC's regular reaffirmation visit, according to Belle Wheelan, the organization's president. The school underwent a standard reaccreditation process consisting of an internal analysis, peer review and a decision by the elected members of the Commission on Colleges. The Commission found Tougaloo to be out of compliance with several of its accreditation standards, including having adequate financial stability and control of those finances.
According to a press release from SACSCOC, "These specific standards expect an institution to provide evidence that it has a sound financial base and financial stability to support the mission of the institution and the scope of its programs, a sufficient number of qualified library staff, a recent financial history that demonstrates financial stability, control over all its financial resources, and adequate procedures for addressing written student complaints."
In June 2010, SACSCOC will evaluate Tougaloo's progress and either reaffirm accreditation, keep the school on warning, place the school on probation or remove the institution from SACSCOC membership. For now, Tougaloo remains a fully accredited institution.
Tougaloo President Beverly Hogan said the college is confident it will be reaccredited and has a strategy in place to meet the reaffirmation standards.
"I don't think there will be any problem getting reaffirmed," Hogan said. "We're working to ensure the college moves forward."
She also noted that SACSCOC's concerns with Tougaloo are financial, not academic. "We do have our financial challenges, which we're working to resolve," Hogan said. "Tougaloo has never been questioned for its institutional effectiveness."
Wilson also acknowledged that Tougaloo suffers from a lack of financial resources. "Tougaloo has always been an institution that has done substantially more with substantially less," she said.
The 900-person school has an endowment of about $4.7 million — less than a quarter of a percent of Brown's.
Evan Pulvers '10.5, who spent last fall at Tougaloo, said her experiences at the school offered an indication of the college's relative financial instability. "My understanding was that it was definitely poor. You have to pay for your own toilet paper. There was never any soap in the soap dispensers," she said. "You definitely get a sense from those kinds of things that it's not a Brown."
Wilson maintained that in the face of the recession, Tougaloo's financial situation is not uncommon. "Certainly in these economic times, when everyone is struggling, this is not unusual," she said.
Wheelan, SACSCOC's president, also said that while warnings are rare, they are not necessarily unusual. SACSCOC conducts two review cycles each year, and among the 80 to 100 reviewed in its June 2009 cycle, two schools in addition to Tougaloo — Florida Memorial University and Eastern Shore Community College — were placed on warning.