Bennett College, one of only two historical black college and universities (HBCUs) strictly for women, has until Feb. 1 to raise $5 million or lose its accreditation. In December, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) announced that due to Bennett’s inability to stabilize its finances, its membership would be revoked.
The SACSCOC stated that the Greensboro, N.C. institution had exhausted its two-year probation period and was not able to demonstrate sound financial resources and a stable financial base.
Bennett officials released a statement noting the college’s significant progress to address financial stability including generating a surplus of $461,038 and increasing fundraising from $3.37 million to $4.25 million over a three-year period. Enrollment has also slightly increased.
“We strongly believe in the mission of Bennett College,” said Bennett President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins. “The growth and development of our students motivates us to continue our transformative work. We are particularly excited about members of our freshwomen class. Our new students came in this fall with an average GPA of 3.2, and we are determined to do everything we can to graduate phenomenal women leaders.”
As time is running out to raise funds, some celebrities are stepping in to lend support. Jussie Smollett, known most notably for his role on the television series Empire, and his brother, actor and chef Jake Smollet, posted a photo to social media wearing t-shirts with the phrase Stand with Bennett. In social media posts, Jussie asked his nearly six million Instagram and Twitter followers to take action.
At our peak in the 1930s we had 121 HBCUs, now we’re down to 101. Don’t let us be down to 100 if Bennett College, an institution who has made the education of black women a priority since 1926, closes its doors. We must continue the legacy of #BennettCollege Please Click or share @bennett_college and Donate today using the link in their bio and share using #standwithbennett love and respect ✊🏿🙏🏿 #HBCU
Legendary actor John Amos — known for his roles on Good Times, Roots and The Mary Tyler Moore Show — has a sister who is a Bennett graduate. Amos supported the movement with multiple social media posts.
In December, SACSCOC renewed Johnson C. Smith University’s accreditation after the institution was placed on probation in 2017. Two other state institutions, Belmont Abbey College (Belmont) and Saint Augustine’s University (Raleigh), were also removed from probation.
“People care about Bennett,” said Dawkins. They are asking what they can do. We need your donations and connections for unrestricted funding. This is a call to action for those willing to stand with Bennett.”
Bennett College was founded in 1873 as a coeducational ministry school for newly emancipated slaves in the basement of the Warnersville Methodist Episcopal Church (now known as St. Matthews United Methodist Church). The nearly 150-year-old, private, liberal arts college was coed until 1926 and currently enrolls just under 500 students.