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Hiwassee College's accreditation hearing set for Monday

Last updated: 12:10 PM, 04/01/2009
 

Author: Tommy Millsaps
Source: The Monroe County Advocate

A hearing on Hiwassee College's lawsuit seeking to stop
the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
from removing the college's accreditation is scheduled for
1:30 p.m. Monday in federal court in Knoxville.

Judge Thomas A. Varlan on Thursday awarded Hiwassee
College a temporary restraining order that restored the
school's SACS accreditation until Monday's hearing.
"This is good news," said Hiwassee College President Dr.
James Noseworthy.

The Hiwassee College president said the court's action
restores students' eligibility for financial aid and the
transferability of their academic credits at least for now.
The college is hoping the court will issue a permanent
injunction against SACS' decision to strip the school of its
accreditation.

The loss of accreditation could cost the school $3 to $4
million in government grant funding and finanical aid for
students annually, Noseworthy said.

He said the judge's ruling Thursday is a good sign and the
school feels confident it will ultimately prevail in court.
The college is asking for a community show of support
when its court battle renews against SACS on Monday.

"We want to fill the courtroom in Knoxville," Noseworthy
said in a letter to the school's supporters sent out Friday.
"It holds 200 people. Our attorneys would love to have the
courtroom filled with students, faculty, staff, trustees,
alumni, civic leaders, church members and other
supporters."

In December, SACS voted to strip the school of its
accreditation based on the opinion that Hiwassee does not
have adequate financial resources to sustain its programs
into the future.

Hiwassee strongly disputes SACS' claim, saying the
college is in better shape financially than it has been in
years.

The school appealed SACS' decision in February but lost
the appeal.

On March 10, Hiwassee filed court papers asking for a
judge to overturn SACS' move to strip the school of its
accreditation.

Noseworthy said Hiwassee's first choice is to retain its
SACS accreditation but the school is still having
discussions about possible partnerships with other
accrediting bodies should it lose its SACS case.

Would the loss of any and all accreditation sound the
death knell for Hiwassee, which has served the region
since 1849?

Noseworthy, who knew the school's financial situation was
being monitored closely by SACS when he came to
Hiwassee, said the school would fight to remain open.
"I do not believe I was elected president to close the
institution," he said.

Noseworthy said the school has received strong support
from the Holston Conference and the community and is
asking for more community support.

Noseworthy said Hiwassee College employs about 100
people and the school has a tremendous impact on the
local economy.

Through programs such as Upward Bound and others,
Noseworthy said the college has a profound impact on
education throughout the community, not just college
students attending the school.

The school is working with colleges and universities to
make sure Hiwassee students' credits will be accepted
when they transfer to other institutions.

Noseworthy said several schools have already said they
will except Hiwassee students' credits and Hiwassee
continues to talk with other institutions in hopes of
adding more to that list.

Tommy Millsaps can be reached at 337-7101 or
mcanews4@xtn.net.


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