On Saturday, Wilberforce University hosted its 163rd commencement on campus, honoring graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Graduate, Adult and Continuing Education, College of Professional Studies and an honorary degree for Michael L. Lomax, who serves as president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, the largest private provider of scholarships to black students.
But for all its jubilation and fanfare, there was a black cloud looming overhead: the school must raise $2 million by June 30 after it was placed on probation by a regional accrediting body due to ongoing financial difficulties.
The Dayton Daily News reports that Wilberforce—the oldest private historically black college in the country—ran a deficit of more than $19 million in fiscal year 2017, one of the contributing factors as to why the school was placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a regional accreditation agency that is responsible for the accreditation of colleges in 19 states. Another factor is that in January, males students were forced to relocate to a neighboring hotel after a pipe burst in a residence hall.
Prior to that, the school was sued for more than $3 million in federal court by a development company for unpaid construction work and settled a $50,000 lawsuit with Moonlight Security in December.
Wilberforce also hopes to provide financial support for students, expansion of academic programs and offer competitive salaries to faculty and staff should its $2 million fundraising campaign, “Wilberforce Unite,” be successful.
“We are very clear about the position of Wilberforce and the narrative that has been developed,” President Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard told the Xenia Daily Gazette. “We recognize that we’ve had some challenges.”
Wilberforce was placed on probation last June due to “significant financial decline,” a lack of “systematic and integrated planning” and for being “out of compliance with the criteria for accreditation,” as it pertains to teaching, learning, planning, availability of resources and institutional effectiveness.
“The reason why were giving this special attention is because we want to establish a culture of philanthropy,” Pinkard said. “We want to make sure that all of our constituents, those who care about Wilberforce, are getting into the habit of giving on an annual basis. We decided to apply a little bit more rigor and discipline to the practice of fund-raising.”
The university is accepting donations both online and by mail at the following address to the school’s office of Institutional Advancement:
1055 N. Bickett Rd.
P.O. Box 1001
Wilberforce, Ohio 45384
And to those interested in including Wilberforce in estate plans, please call 937-708-5701.
Wilberforce has until December of this year to undergo an evaluation by the HLC. If it’s determined that its problems that led to being placed on probation aren’t rectified, the commission could lose its accreditation, which would prohibit its student body from receiving financial aid.