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Louisiana College probation lifted by SACS

PINEVILLE, La. (BP) — The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges has removed Louisiana College from probation.

SACSCOC placed the Baptist-affiliated college on probation in June 2014, citing issues related to trustee governance, institutional integrity, personnel policies and audit findings that pertain to some financial control matters and student financial aid.

Rick Brewer, president of Louisiana College, noted in announcing the end of SACSCOC probation Dec. 8, “Due to the hard work of former interim president Dr. Argile Smith and his senior administrative team, SACSCOC removed every citation but one.”

Throughout the 18-month period since June 2014, Louisiana College maintained its accreditation but remained on probation most recently because the SACSCOC board of trustees determined that the college had failed to demonstrate compliance with SACSCOC Comprehensive Standard 3.2.4 (External influence) of the “Principles of Accreditation.” The cited standard, which the college now meets, requires an accredited institution to ensure that its governing board is free from undue external influence from political, religious or other external bodies and protects the institution from such influence.

Brewer, who became Louisiana College’s ninth president in April after his trustee election in March, voiced gratitude to his administrative team “for their diligence in closely examining this remaining matter and for helping to establish safeguards to ensure compliance with SACSCOC Comprehensive Standard 3.2.4.”

Brewer said he also is grateful “for our board of trustees who, in their September meeting, adopted a new bylaw that details how to respond to, and report, undue external influence.”

Brewer said he intends for Louisiana College “always to be found in compliance with every accreditation standard.”

In a Dec. 8 news conference at the college, Brewer said, “Moving forward, LC remains steadfast in being mission-driven and vision-focused as we build on the solid foundation of a Christ-centered comprehensive liberal arts education, with a vision for preparing graduates and transforming lives.

“Embedded in the fiber and fabric of the college is our commitment to a broad-based strategic plan for academic enhancement, faith integration and student learning,” Brewer said. “The framework for all this is our passion for being relational, relevant and rigorous.”

LC trustee chairman Randy Harper, in a statement sent to the college, stated, “This is fantastic news, and it’s a great day for Louisiana College.”

Harper, in reference to Brewer’s leadership, said it is “confirmation that we found God’s man for the tasks at hand and ahead for LC. The probationary sanction has been weighing on the college, but today, God showed us great favor. Now we can focus on even more things for the college’s future. Our best days are still ahead of us.”

Harper, pastor of Bellaire Baptist Church in Bossier City, La., added, “When we were searching for our next president, we sought someone who knew higher-level academia inside and out, who knew how to work with a faculty, who had established new degree programs, and who knew how to work with SACSCOC and accreditation issues. We also sought someone who believed in the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. Clearly, God gave us exactly the right man.”

LC trustees, who are appointed by the Louisiana Baptist Convention, unanimously elected Brewer to succeed Joe Aguillard, the college’s president from 2005-14.

Before coming to Louisiana College, Brewer had served 28 years at Charleston Southern University in North Charleston, which is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Brewer most recently was Charleston Southern’s vice president for student affairs and athletics.

Bob Agee, former president of Oklahoma Baptist University and an accreditation consultant who has assisted LC with accreditation matters and ongoing trustee training, sent an email statement, noting: “Louisiana College has a long rich history of providing high quality Christian higher education. Dr. Brewer and the board of trustees are to be commended for their diligence and hard work in assuring that LC meets the highest possible standards and expectations of our accrediting bodies. LC is now poised for some of the best days of growth, progress, and achievement in its illustrious history.”

Clarence Fields, mayor of Pineville, La., where the college is located, congratulated Brewer in a question-and-answer session after the news conference, saying that the college’s announcement is “important to our community and our state.”

Rick Ranson, a 1975 alumnus of LC and a vice president at the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, thanked LC employees and students for “persistence” and for “remaining faithful to the school.”

Ranson said “hallelujah” to the assessment that LC’s best days are still to come and then looked at Brewer and said, “Thank you for bringing me back home.”

David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said in a statement to Baptist Press, “Dr. Brewer and his team have done a wonderful job addressing the SACS concerns. We are grateful for the decision and excited about the future of Louisiana College.”

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  • Norm Miller