St. Aug's won't acquire Virginia college

jstancill@newsobserver.comMay 10, 2013 

— St. Augustine’s University announced Friday that it would not move ahead with plans to acquire St. Paul’s College, a financially troubled school in Virginia.

In a statement sent to the media Friday afternoon, St. Aug President Dianne Boardley Suber said after months of consideration, university officials decided the deal would not have been fiscally responsible.

“This was a very difficult decision to make,” Suber’s statement said. “We explored several options in an effort to make the acquisition viable for Saint Augustine’s University. However, after completing our due diligence, we concluded that the acquisition of Saint Paul’s College, at this time, would significantly challenge the fiscal stability of Saint Augustine’s University.”

The future of St. Paul’s, a private, historically black college in Lawrenceville, Va., is in doubt. Last June, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges stripped the college of accreditation. The removal was based largely on the college’s weak financial condition, but the commission also cited the college’s administrative and educational services and the fact that too few faculty had doctoral degrees.

Without accreditation, a college usually cannot survive because it is barred from receiving federal funds. St. Paul’s had announced it would cancel most operations last fall.

But a judge later issued a preliminary injunction, allowing the college to keep its accreditation on a probationary basis and hold classes this academic year.

A statement by the accrediting body earlier this year said it agreed to the judge’s order “so as to protect the rights and interests of both parties during the legal proceedings.”

According to the college’s website, a graduation ceremony is scheduled for Saturday. The college had also apparently begun recruiting students for the fall. It advertised an open house for prospective students last month.

Efforts to reach the president of St. Paul’s were unsuccessful Friday.

Though St. Aug’s said it would not go through with the acquisition, the university’s board of trustees agreed to hear a presentation by St. Paul’s officials at a meeting May 31. St. Paul’s asked for the opportunity to persuade St. Aug’s to reverse the decision.

St. Paul’s, founded in 1888, is one of three historically black colleges founded by the Episcopal Church. The other two are St. Aug’s and Voorhees College in South Carolina.

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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